Dismal State Of News Media In 2013

Posted on 3/21/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

In its annual study of the State of News Media the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism found that employment at U.S. newspapers in 2012 was down 30% from its peak in 2000 and below 40,000 full-time professional employees for the first time since 1978.

The revenue peak for advertising in print newspapers was $48,670,000,000 in 2000 according to the Newspaper Association of America. Revenue volume stayed relatively flat through 2006, but since then has dropped to $20,692,000,000 for 2011, the lowest figure since 1984. Not only has there been a decline in the number of reporters and photographers working, but a decline in the pages devoted to editorial content as well.

One of the fallouts of this decline is that increasingly the only thing readers are given is the PR position of the person or organization that has something to promote. There is less and less space or resources for the kind of investigative journalism that uncovers stories, digs deep into emerging ones, interprets and provides context. News organizations are less equipped to question what is being handed them, and interest groups are better equipped and have more technological tools than ever to take their position direct to consumers.

In a companion public opinion survey Pew discovered that 31% of respondents have deserted the traditional news outlets and are getting more of the news they consume from the Internet, friends and social media. Men have left the traditional outlets at somewhat higher rates than women. Those leaving tend to also be more highly educated and higher-income earners and have normally been among the heaviest news consumers according to past Pew Research data.

Finding Revenue Online

After years of giving online news away and hoping that advertising would cover costs, print industry leaders are now accepting that they need a new model.  Of the nation’s 1,380 dailies, 450 have started or announced plans for some kind of paid content subscription or pay wall plan. In the traditional model advertising covered 80% of the costs and subscriptions the other 20%. In the current Internet model advertising is covering about 3% of costs.

The New York Times has had a digital subscription program for two years and reports that its circulation revenue now exceeds its advertising revenue. Many news executives believe that a new business model will emerge in which the mix between advertising and circulation revenue will be close to equal.

Local TV is also suffering. Sports, weather and traffic now account on average for 40% of the content produced on the newscasts studied. Much of this information is easily available online through other sources. The lengths of news stories and the depth of coverage is declining. Regular local TV viewership among adults under 30 fell from 42% in 2006 to just 28% in 2012,

Looking Ahead

Traditional information sources may be shrinking, but other new players are producing content that could advance citizens’ knowledge about public issues. These may be the new opportunities. They are covering subject areas that formerly were covered more regularly and deeply by beat reporters at traditional news outlets—areas such as health, science and education. The Kaiser Family Foundation was an early entrant with Kaiser Health News. Now others, such as Insidescience.org, supported by the American Institute of Physics and others, and the Food and Environment Reporting Network with funding from nonprofit foundations are beginning to emerge. In the last year, more news outlets have begun to carry this content with direct attribution to the source. The Washington Post, for example, regularly carries articles bylined by Kaiser Health News and NBC.com runs Insidescience.org stories with a lead-in identifying the source. These new sources, however, will be promoting a point of view.

For more about the Pew report on the State of News Media go here.

Copyright © 2013 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of www.selling-stock.com, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


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