By Tom Rosenstiel and Amy Mitchell of the Project for Excellence in Journalism
By several measures, the state of the American news media improved in 2010.
After two dreadful years, most sectors of the industry saw revenue begin to recover. With some notable exceptions, cutbacks in newsrooms eased. And while still more talk than action, some experiments with new revenue models began to show signs of blossoming.
Among the major sectors, only newspapers suffered continued revenue declines last year—an unmistakable sign that the structural economic problems facing newspapers are more severe than those of other media. When the final tallies are in, we estimate 1,000 to 1,500 more newsroom jobs will have been lost—meaning newspaper newsrooms are 30% smaller than in 2000.
Beneath all this, however, a more fundamental challenge to journalism became clearer in the last year. The biggest issue ahead may not be lack of audience or even lack of new revenue experiments. It may be that in the digital realm the news industry is no longer in control of its own future.
News organizations — old and new — still produce most of the content audiences consume. But each technological advance has added a new layer of complexity—and a new set of players—in connecting that content to consumers and advertisers.
In the digital space, the organizations that produce the news increasingly rely on independent networks to sell their ads. They depend on aggregators (such as Google) and social networks (such as Facebook) to bring them a substantial portion of their audience. And now, as news consumption becomes more mobile, news companies must follow the rules of device makers (such as Apple) and software developers (Google again) to deliver their content. Each new platform often requires a new software program. And the new players take a share of the revenue and in many cases also control the audience data.
That data may be the most important commodity of all. In a media world where consumers decide what news they want to get and how they want to get it, the future will belong to those who understand the public’s changing behavior and can target content and advertising to snugly fit the interests of each user. That knowledge — and the expertise in gathering it — increasingly resides with technology companies outside journalism.
In the 20th century, the news media thrived by being the intermediary others needed to reach customers. In the 21st, increasingly there is a new intermediary: Software programmers, content aggregators and device makers control access to the public. The news industry, late to adapt and culturally more tied to content creation than engineering, finds itself more a follower than leader shaping its business.
Meanwhile, the pace of change continues to accelerate. Mobile has already become an important factor in news. A new survey released with this year’s report, produced with Pew Internet and American Life Project in association with the Knight Foundation, finds that nearly half of all Americans (47%) now get some form of local news on a mobile device. What they turn to most there is news that serves immediate needs – weather, information about restaurants and other local businesses, and traffic. And the move to mobile is only likely to grow. By January 2011, 7% of Americans reported owning some kind of electronic tablet. That was nearly double the number just four months earlier.
The migration to the web also continued to gather speed. In 2010 every news platform saw audiences either stall or decline — except for the web. Cable news, one of the growth sectors of the last decade, is now shrinking, too. For the first time in at least a dozen years, the median audience declined at all three cable news channels.
For the first time, too, more people said they got news from the web than newspapers. The internet now trails only television among American adults as a destination for news, and the trend line shows the gap closing. Financially the tipping point also has come. When the final tally is in, online ad revenue in 2010 is projected to surpass print newspaper ad revenue for the first time. The problem for news is that by far the largest share of that online ad revenue goes to non-news sources, particularly to aggregators.
In the past, much of the experimentation in new journalism occurred locally, often financed by charitable grants, usually at small scale. Larger national online-only news organizations focused more on aggregation than original reporting. In 2010, however, some of the biggest new media institutions began to develop original newsgathering in a significant way. Yahoo added several dozen reporters across news, sports and finance. AOL had 900 journalists, 500 of them at its local Patch news operation (it then let go 200 people from the content team after the merger with Huffingtonpost). By the end of 2011, Bloomberg expects to have 150 journalists and analysts for its new Washington operation, Bloomberg Government. News Corp. has hired from 100 or 150, depending on the press reports, for its new tablet newspaper, The Daily, though not all may be journalists. Together these hires come close to matching the jobs in 2010 we estimate were lost in newspapers, the first time we have seen this kind of substitution.
A report in this year’s study also finds that new community media sites are beginning to put as much energy into securing new revenue streams — and refining audiences to do so — as creating content. Many also say they are doing more to curate user content.
Traditional newsrooms, meanwhile, are different places than they were before the recession. They are smaller, their aspirations have narrowed and their journalists are stretched thinner. But their leaders also say they are more adaptive, younger and more engaged in multimedia presentation, aggregation, blogging and user content. In some ways, new media and old, slowly and sometimes grudgingly, are coming to resemble each other.
The result is a news ecology full of experimentation and excitement, but also one that is uneven, has uncertain financial underpinning and some clear holes in coverage. Even in Seattle, one of the most vibrant places for new media, “some vitally important stories are less likely to be covered,” said Diane Douglas who runs a local civic group and considers the decentralization of media voices a healthy change. “It’s very frightening to think of those gaps and all the more insidious because you don’t know what you don’t know.” Some also worry that with lower pay, more demands for speed, less training, and more volunteer work, there is a general devaluing and even what scholar Robert Picard has called a “de-skilling” of the profession.
Among the features in this, the eighth edition of the State of the News Media produced by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, is a report on how American newspapers fare relative to those in other countries, two reports on the status of community media, a survey on mobile and paid content in local news, and a report on African American media. The chapters this year have also been reorganized and streamlined: each is made up now of a Summary Essay and a longer, separate By the Numbers section where all the statistical information is more easily searchable and interactive.
Each year, this report also identifies key trends. In addition to the growing significance of third-party players in shaping the future of news, six stand out entering 2011:
The news industry is turning to executives from outside. The trend has a scattered history. The complex revenue equation of news — that it was better to serve the audience even to the irritation of advertisers that paid most of the bills — tended to trip up outsiders. It spelled the end, for instance, of Mark Willes at Times Mirror when he let advertisers dictate content. With the old revenue model broken, more companies are again looking to outsiders for leadership. One reason is new owners. Seven of the top 25 newspapers in America are now owned by hedge funds, which had virtually no role a few years ago. The age of publicly traded newspaper companies is winding down. And some of the new executives are blunt in their assessments. John Paton, the new head of Journal Register newspapers told a trade group in December: “We have had nearly 15 years to figure out the web and, as an industry, we newspaper people are no good at it.” A question is how much time these private equity owners will give struggling news operations to turn around. One of these publishers told PEJ privately that he believed he had two years.
Less progress has been made charging for news than predicted, but there are some signs of willingness to pay. The leading study on the subject finds that so far only about three dozen newspapers have moved to some kind of paid content on their websites. Of those, only 1% of users opted to pay. And some papers that moved large portions of content to subscription gave up the effort. A new survey released for this report suggests that under certain circumstances the prospects for charging for content could improve. If their local newspaper would otherwise perish, 23% of Americans said they would pay $5 a month for an online version. To date, however, even among early adopters only 10% of those who have downloaded local news apps paid for them (this doesn’t include apps for non-local news or other content). At the moment, the only news producers successfully charging for most of their content online are those selling financial information to elite audiences — the Financial Times is one, the Wall Street Journal is another, Bloomberg is a third — which means they are not a model that will likely work for general interest news.
If anything, the metrics of online news have become more confused, not less. Many believe that the economics of the web, and particularly online news, cannot really progress until the industry settles on how to measure audience. There is no consensus on what is the most useful measure of online traffic. Different rating agencies do not even agree on how to define a “unique visitor.” Does that denote different people or does the same person visiting a site from different computers get counted more than once? The numbers from one top rating agency, comScore, are in some cases double and even triple those of another, Nielsen. More audience research data exist about each user than ever before. Yet in addition to confusion about what it means, it is almost impossible get a full sense of consumer behavior — across sites, platforms, and devices. That leaves potential advertisers at a loss about how to connect the dots. In March 2011, three advertising trade groups, supported by other media associations, announced an initiative to improve and standardize confusing digital media metrics called Making Measurement Make Sense, but the task will not be easy.
Local news remains the vast untapped territory. Most traditional American media —and much of U.S. ad revenue – are local. The dynamics of that market online are still largely undefined. The potential, though, is clear. Already 40% of all online ad spending is local, up from 30% just a year earlier. But the market at the local level is different than nationally and requires different strategies, both in content creation and economics. Unlike national, at the local level, display advertising — the kind that news organizations rely on — is bigger than search, market researchers estimate. And the greatest local growth area last year was in highly targeted display ads that many innovators see as key to the future. Even Google, the king of search, sees display as “our next big business,” as Eric Schmidt, its CEO, told the New York Times in September.
The nature of local news content is also in many ways undefined. While local has been the area of greatest ferment for nonprofit startups, no one has yet cracked the code for how to produce local news effectively at a sustainable level. The first major concept in more traditional venues, the push toward so-called “hyperlocalism,” proved ill-conceived, expensive and insufficiently supported by ads. Yahoo’s four-year old local news and advertising consortium has shown some success for certain participants but less for others. There are some prominent local news aggregators such as Topix and Examiner.com, and now AOL has entered the field with local reporting through Patch. Whether national networks will overtake small local startups or local app networks will mix news with a variety of other local information, the terrain here remains in flux.
The new conventional wisdom is that the economic model for news will be made up of many smaller and more complex revenue sources than before. The old news economic model was fairly simple. Broadcast television depended on advertising. Newspapers on circulation revenue and a few basic advertising categories. Cable was split half from advertising and half from cable subscription fees. Online, most believe there will be many different kinds of revenue. This is because no one revenue source looks large enough and because money is divided among so many players. In the biggest new revenue experiment of 2010, the discount sales coupon business led by Groupon, revenue can be split three ways when newspapers are involved. On the iPad, Apple gets 30% of the subscription revenue and owns the audience data. On the Android system, Google takes 10%. News companies are trying to push back. One new effort involves online publishers starting their own ad exchanges, rather than having middlemen to do it for them. NBC, CBS and Forbes are among those launching their own, tired of sharing revenue and having third parties take their audience data.
The bailout of the auto industry helped with the media’s modest recovery in 2010. One overlooked dimension in the year past: a key source of renewed revenue in news in 2010 was the recovery in the auto industry, aided by the decision to lend federal money to save U.S. carmakers. Auto advertising jumped 77% in local television, 22% in radio and 17% in magazines. The other benefactor of the news industry, say experts, was the U.S. Supreme Court: Its Citizens United decision allowing corporations and unions to buy political ads for candidates helped boost political advertising spent on local television to an estimated $2.2 billion, a new high for a midterm campaign year.
Keep reading to see the report’s key findings.
People are spending more time with news than ever before, according to Pew Research Center survey data, but when it comes to the platform of choice, the web is gaining ground rapidly while other sectors are losing. In 2010, digital was the only media sector seeing audience growth. And cable news joined the ranks of older media suffering audience decline.
Source: Nielsen Media Research, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, Audit Bureau of Circulations. 1
Digital: In December 2010, 41% of Americans cited the internet as the place where they got “most of their news about national and international issues,” up 17% from a year earlier. When it came to any kind of news, 46% of people now say they get news online at least three times a week, surpassing newspapers (40%) for the first time. Only local TV news is a more popular platform in America now (50%). The new wild card in digital is mobile. A new survey released as part of the State of the News Media find finds that 47% of Americans now say they get some kind of local news on mobile devices such as cellphones or other wireless devices (such as iPads). As of January 2011, just 7% of Americans owned electronic tablets, according to our new survey, but that is nearly double from four months prior; and 6% of American adults have e-readers.
Cable News: That activity may explain one other change in the sociology of news consumption in 2010. The audience for cable news in the last year declined substantially. In aggregate, the median viewership fell 13.7% across the entire day in 2010. Prime-time median viewership fell even more, 16% to an average of 3.2 million, according to PEJ’s analysis of Nielsen Market Research data. Daytime fell 12%.
And for the first time in the dozen years we’ve monitored this segment, every channel was losing. CNN suffered most. Its median prime-time viewership fell 37% to 564,000 viewers, and MSNBC beat it in total viewers during prime time for the first time. But Fox fell, too, 11%, and MSNBC declined 5%.
Network News: If the losses were new to cable, they were not for network broadcast news. Audiences for almost every network news program fell again in 2010. Evening news audiences fell by 752,000 viewers, or 3.4%, from 2009 and have been on a downward trend for three decades. Network evening news is, however, still an extraordinarily powerful source of information in America. Some 21.6 million people on average watched one of the three programs each night. That is roughly four times the combined number watching each cable news channel’s highest-rated program. In the morning, an average of 12.4 million people tuned in each day over the year, 3% fewer than in 2009. That is the sixth consecutive year of losses. The PBS NewsHour averaged 1.1 million viewers nightly during the 2009-10 season, basically unchanged from the year before.
Newspapers: Print circulation also continued to decline in 2010. Weekday circulation fell 5% and Sunday fell 4.5% year-to-year for the six-month period ending September 30. There is some good news in those numbers, however. The losses in 2009 were double that. Online audience, though imprecisely measured, did grow some, and many papers can claim their overall audience is bigger than ever, but the data suggest that it did not fully compensate for print losses industrywide. One survey, by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, finds the total audience that reads newspapers, in print and online, at least three times a week dropped by six percentage points over the last two years. By this count, 40% of Americans report reading a newspaper in any form, down from 46% in 2008 and 52% in 2006. The number of those who reported reading “yesterday” print and online now sits at 37%, down two percentage points from 2008.
Magazines: Circulation for the six news magazines in our report fell 8.9%. By far the largest portion of that, subscriptions, fell 8.6%, but that number is controlled, based on how much magazines want to spend to “buy” readers. Newsstand sales, which is a smaller component, dropped 17.7%. Circulation for the magazine industry as a whole dropped 1.5%.
Audio: Of all the traditional media, the audience for AM/FM radio has remained among the most stable. In all, 93% of Americans listened to AM/FM radio at some point during the week in 2010, according to data from Arbitron, and this has dropped only three percentage points in the last decade. News may have suffered more. According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 16% of Americans say they get most of their national and international news from radio, down 6% from 2009. And 34% of Americans said they got some news on the radio “yesterday,” down from 43% in 2000. NPR, by contrast, has flourished as commercial all-news radio programming has become scarcer. NPR’s audience grew 3% in 2010, according to NPR internal data, to 27.2 million a week. That is up 58% since 2000.
But the biggest change in radio listening may be just ahead. A good deal of radio listening occurs in cars, and we are on the brink of internet radio being widely available there for the first time. Toyota is including Pandora in its multimedia system in all new models in mid-2011. Pandora also signed a deal with Pioneer that would put its online radio service in at least six other car manufacturers by the end of 2011. People may be ready. More than quarter of Americans (27%) said they were “very interested” in online radio in the car in 2010; this is up 17 percentage points from 2009.
Local TV News: The one traditional media platform that possibly could claim some good news on audience was local TV. At network affiliates, viewership continued to decline in all the traditional time slots (i.e. 5-7AM, 5-7PM, 11-11:30PM), across all sweeps periods, this year an average of 1.5%. Fox affiliate newscasts lost viewers in both their basic timeslots – local morning newscasts lost 1% and prime-time news lost 4.9%. But stations of all types added audience at the new early timeslot of 4:30 a.m.; stations in 69 cities had news that early, up from 28 a year earlier. And 7 p.m. audiences, where some stations are adding news, are also growing. Finally, there is some evidence that viewership gains at independent stations offering news may now compensate for the loss of audience at network affiliates, meaning that the overall audience for local news, because of more news being available, has roughly held steady.
Every sector of the news media we study saw revenues grow above the levels of a dismal 2009 except for one: Newspaper revenues fell again, a sign that its structural problems of the print newspaper are more severe than any other media sector.
Source: SNL Kagan, eMarketer, Kantar Media, Radio Advertising Bureau, Publishers Information Bureau, National Newspaper Association, BIA/Kelsey.2
Newspapers We estimate that advertising revenues at newspaper organizations fell by 6.4% in 2010 from the year before. That compares to a drop of 26% in 2009. We estimate print newspaper ad revenue at $22.8 billion, with roughly $3 billion more for online. (After our report was published, the Newspaper Association of America released its final tally and put the drop at 6.3%.) Going back, that means newspaper ad revenue is down 48% in four years. Circulation revenue, though the final estimates are not yet calculated, is expected to be flat or down marginally, after falling 10% from 2003 to 2009. Contrary to what those who have already written print’s obituary may think, newspapers generally are still operating in the black. Typical profit margins hovered around 5%, according to our analysis. That is less than a quarter of what they were in the 1990s. With revenues declining, it means that newspapers are surviving largely by managing costs. Though difficult to measure, our analysis suggests that about half the fall-off in ad revenue now is due to declines in the size of the print audience delivered to advertisers. Not only is the total number of ads decreasing, but with such smaller audiences, newspapers are not able to charge to as high a rate.
Digital: The economics of the web hit a milestone in 2010. For the first time, more money was spent on online advertising than on print newspaper advertising. Online advertising overall grew 13.9% to $25.8 billion in 2010, according to data from eMarketer. A challenge for news organizations is that much of this online ad spending, 48%, is in search advertising, little of which finances news. Banner ads, where news organizations currently get most of their online ad revenue, make up less than half that — or 23% of all online ad spending. There was, though, in 2010 some development in more sophisticated banner ads that might attract greater advertising.
Mobile ad spending still amounts to just 3% of total online ad spending ($743 million), but it increased an impressive 79% in 2010. User fees have not seen this kind of growth yet. Fewer news organizations than expected moved to paid content models in 2010, and consumers paying for news apps are still rare. Just 10% of those who use an app for local news had paid for it, according to new survey data released in this report.
Cable News: Despite declining audiences, revenues for each of the cable news channels were projected to increase in 2010 a total of 10.7% across the three networks: Fox grew 17% to $1.5 billion, CNN and HLN 5% to $1.2 billion, and MSNBC was up 7% to $383 million. Ad revenue was up 8.4%. Cable derives half its revenue from subscription fees, which are set in long-term contracts and thus are somewhat recession-proof. Less than 1% of households, research suggests, dropped cable subscriptions in 2010, despite a difficult economy. And in the targeted world of cable, demographics are critical. SNL Kagan estimates that the financial channel CNBC, though its audiences are small, would generate $723 million in revenue, up 7% over 2009 and nearly double the amount brought in by MSNBC and rivaling the broadcast revenues of NBC TV news (all three are owned by NBC Universal).
Network News: PEJ estimates that the three networks news divisions each saw ad revenue growth between 5% and 7% in 2010, benefiting from a more robust ad environment than 2009, even though declining audiences put pressure on how much programs can charge. NBC, thanks to its multiplatform structure developed some years ago, continues to be in the strongest position. In early 2011, CBS looked to cable for new leadership, tapping Bloomberg TV executive David Rhodes to become president of CBS News. ABC News was projected to make a profit in 2010, thanks largely to cutbacks of 25% in staffing.
Local TV News: Among traditional media, local TV may have had the best year financially. Revenue rose 17%, exceeding projections, thanks in part to a 77% increase in auto advertising and a record $2.2 billion in political advertising for the midterm elections. Local stations also brought in $1.34 billion from online and mobile advertising in 2010, up 8% from the year before, according to Borrell Associates. Nonetheless, when adjusted for inflation, average station revenue has still dropped by almost half in just the past nine years.
Audio: Traditional radio also regained its financial footing in 2010. Revenue grew 6%, after a drop of 18% a year earlier. But its ventures into newer media aren’t fairing as well. HD Radio, once the hope of traditional broadcasters to gain new audience and advertisers, looks to be failing. Only 31% of Americans had even heard of it, and the number of stations converting to HD has dropped sharply. Satellite radio, out of bankruptcy now, picked up with revenue growth of 12%.
Magazines: In print magazines the number of ad pages sold across the industry overall was flat in 2010 (-0.1%), after steep declines in 2008 (11.7%) and in 2009 (25.6%). News magazines fared slightly better with an increase in ad pages of 1.4%. Much of that growth came from niche publications, while general-interest publications have had a harder time, according to Publishers Information Bureau. The year no doubt would have been tougher had ad pages not increased in the automotive category by 16.9%. But 2010 is probably earmarked as much as anything by the sale of Newsweek for a dollar and the assumption of debt by audio magnate Sidney Harman. Newsweek, according to its sales prospectus, lost $85 million (before pension credit) in 2008 and 2009 combined and was on track to lose $22 million in 2010.
In general, traditional American newsrooms are substantially smaller than they were a decade ago, although in 2010 the cutbacks eased off. What is occurring now, however, is investment in new quarters. Online publications such as AOL’s Patch and Yahoo are growing. So is Bloomberg Government (at bgov.com), a new spate of products covering government aimed at audiences no longer served by the mainstream press. In a sense, resources are shifting both to the net, and particularly to destinations aimed at niche and elite audiences that will pay this content. Specialized audiences can also attract elite advertising.
Cable: For the first time, Fox surpassed CNN in total dollars spent on the news. The market researcher SNL Kagan projected Fox would spend $686 million in 2010 to CNN/HLN’s $672 million. CNN, however, still maintained a bigger news infrastructure than its competitors, with 47 bureaus, domestic and foreign, in 2010. Fox, which spends more of its money on hosts, had 17 bureaus or offices. MSNBC, which uses NBC News bureaus, had access to 21 editorial offices, according to information from the channels.
Network News: The network news divisions already much smaller and more mobile than just a few years ago, continued to adjust their news division strategies. At ABC, outgoing news president David Westin cut the staff by 25%, or close to 400 people, before stepping down at the end of 2010, trying to move the news division toward one-person mobile journalists. CBS started the year with some layoffs, too, but generally held steady, and in early 2011 named a new management team to run its news division. NBC, after several years of cutbacks, also held steady in 2010, but went through major ownership change. It remains to be seen how its new owner, Comcast, will regard the news division, which includes MSNBC TV, CNBC, CNBC International and NBC News.
Newspapers: In newspapers, the bloodletting seemed to have eased somewhat. After losing close to a third of its editorial ranks in the previous decade, and 11,000 in just three years, the nation’s newspapers trimmed only marginally in 2010. We estimate losses of about 1,100 to 1,500 people, or 3% to 4%. By recent standards, that is an improvement, although it leaves the largest newsrooms in the most American cities bruised and necessarily less ambitious than they were a decade ago.
Online: After years of building largely in the realm of curation and aggregation, online news entities invested in news gathering. By one count, even before acquiring Huffington Post (which has an editorial staff of 70 to 80, of which an estimated 18 produce content and the rest aggregate and curate), AOL had hired 900 employees over the summer 2010 (it then let go 200 people from the content team after the merger with Huffington Post). Bloomberg’s new Washington operation, Bloomberg Government, expects to number 150 journalists and analysts by the end of 2011, doubling Bloomberg’s Washington bureau and making it the biggest in the capital. The Bloomberg Government model melds journalists and expert analysts to produce an editorial product that combines news, data, analysis and analytic tools. The universe of local new media is becoming more robust as well. With 14 full-time journalists, Texas Tribune, the new nonprofit-funded operation in Austin, now makes up a third of the Texas Statehouse reporting corps and obviously the largest contingent. That, however, partly reflects the decline in traditional media. Tribune Editor Evan Smith says the number of reporters covering the statehouse has shrunk by two-thirds in the 20 years he has been in the state.
Four events stand out in the changing media landscape this year.
NBC: In January 2011, Comcast, the nation’s largest cable TV company, finally completed taking control of NBC Universal, cementing one of the largest media mergers in recent history. In the works for more than a year, the deal gave Comcast 51% control of NBCU for a cost of $14 billion. That leaves General Electric with a 49% stake after its purchase of French company Vivendi’s 20% share of the company. Under Comcast’s management now are NBCU’s broadcast, cable and online news brands, along with its entertainment divisions, theme parks and unconsolidated investments. NBC president Jeff Zucker is gone, replaced by Steve Burke, Comcast’s chief operating officer. Comcast has publicly talked about maintaining the integrity of NBC News. It denied having any part in the decision to dismiss MSNBC’s liberal prime-time host, Keith Olbermann. But there are signs that some of the brand issues left over from GE’s stewardship may be a concern going forward. One internal memo from MSNBC.com talked about rebranding the website for fear that the site’s general news orientation would be confused with the point-of-view programming on its corresponding cable channel.
Newsweek: On Nov. 12, 2010, Newsweek magazine and The Daily Beast web publication agreed to merge operations into a new company — the Newsweek Daily Beast Company. Daily Beast editor-in-chief Tina Brown became the editor of both entities. The merger was the second transition in just a few months for the beleaguered Newsweek. Four months earlier, Newsweek’s longtime owner, the Washington Post Company, had sold the magazine to audio magnate Sidney Harman for $1 and the assumption Newsweek’s extensive debt. After searching for months to find a new editor for Newsweek, Harman decided to pursue a multimedia partner for the weekly news magazine. Brown, a high-profile editor with successful stints at Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, said: “I see Newsweek and the Daily Beast as a marriage between Newsweek’s journalistic depth and the vibrant versatility The Daily Beast has reached on the web.” The first issue of the revamped Newsweek magazine is scheduled for spring 2011.
AOL: In February 2011, one of the web’s oldest companies, AOL, purchased one of the youngest, Arianna Huffington’s brainchild, the Huffington Post for $315 million. AOL is already a major player in online news, AOL News is the third- or fourth-most-visited news site on the web (depending on the measurement company) and HuffingtonPost.com is No. 8. While HuffingtonPost’s revenue is relatively small, around $31 million in 2010, relative to AOL’s $2.4 billion, AOL gets to roll a top-10 news destination into its wider content, and more importantly advertising, network. Huffingtonpost.com benefits from becoming part of a larger network, using AOL’s network to reach more consumers and attract larger and more diverse advertisers.
Philadelphia: On Oct. 8, 2010, a collection of 32 financial institutions called Philadelphia Media Network took control of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and the website Philly.com, ending an acrimonious 20-month bankruptcy battle for control for the Philadelphia region’s dominant news source. The new company replaced Philadelphia Media Holdings, a local investors group led by Brian P. Tierney, which bought the newspapers and the website for $515 million from McClatchy in 2006. When the company declared bankruptcy in early 2009, it owed senior lenders about $318 million. Eventually, there were two auctions for the company, one in April 2010 and another in September 2010. Both ended with the company’s senior lenders winning with a bid of about $139 million. Greg Osberg, a former publisher of Newsweek, became president and chief executive officer. Osberg immediately reduced the company’s staff by 5% and removed a number of top managers, including Inquirer editor William K. Marimow. Over the next few months, Osberg instituted content, design and product changes that he said were “designed to make us more competitive in the new media landscape.”
- The cable figure is based on PEJ’s analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. It represents the combined median total day viewership (individuals 2 and older) of CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. The online figure is based on a December 2010 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press. The network figure is based on PEJ’s analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. It represents the mean evening news viewership (individuals 2 and older) of NBC, CBS and ABC. The local TV figure is based on PEJ’s analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. It represents the average morning news (5-7AM E.T.), early evening news (5-7PM E.T.) and late evening news (11-11:30PM E.T.) combined viewership (individuals over the age of 2) for ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates (for the three sweeps measured, May, July, November). The magazine figure is based PEJ’s analysis of circulation data provided by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. It represents the average circulation full year of 2010, compared to 2009, for six news magazines studied by PEJ: Time, Newsweek, The Economist, The Atlantic, The Week, and the New Yorker. The newspaper figure is based on circulation data provided by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. It represents average circulation for 400 U.S. newspapers during a six-month period ending September 30, 2010, compared to the same period a year earlier. The radio figures are based on a December 2010 survey conducted the Pew Research Center for the People & The Press. ↩
- Cable figures are based on estimated combined ad revenues for CNN/HLN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC for 2009 and 2010, provided by SNL Kagan, a division of SNL Financial LLC. Online figures are total online display ad revenues, from January to September 2010, compared with the same period in 2009, provided by eMarketer. Network figures are based on revenue estimates for network television ads from January to September 2010, compared with the same period in 2008, provided by Kantar Media. Radio figures are based on AM/FM advertising revenues from January 2009 to January 2010, compared with the same period in 2008-2009, provided by the Radio Advertising Bureau. Magazine figures are based on ad pages sold – not revenue – provided by the Publishers Information Bureau for six news magazines: Time, Newsweek, The Economist, The Atlantic, The Week, and The New Yorker. Newspaper estimates for print and online ad revenue combined are derived by Rick Edmonds of the Poynter Institute based on data provided by the National Newspaper Association. After our report was published, the Newspaper Association of America released its final tally and put the drop at 6.3%. Local TV figures are based on revenue estimates for local and national spot advertising on local TV from January to December 2010, compared with the same period in 2009, provided by BIA/Kelsey. ↩
Woes go Beyond Audience, Economics: Journalism Losing Control of Future
March 14, 2011—The state of the U.S. news media improved in 2010, at least in comparison with a dismal 2009. Newspapers were the only major media sector to see continued ad revenue declines, down 6.4%. (After our report was published, the Newspaper Association of America released its final tally and put the drop at 6.3%.) But as online news consumption continues to grow—it surpassed print newspapers in ad revenue and audience for the first time in 2010—a more fundamental challenge to journalism also became clearer. The news industry in the digital realm is no longer in control of its own future, according to the State of the News Media report from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Online, news organizations increasingly depend on independent networks to sell their ads, on aggregators and social networks to deliver a substantial portion of their audience, and now, as news consumption becomes more mobile, on device makers (such as Apple) and software developers (Google) to distribute their content. And the new players take a share of the revenue and in many cases, also control the audience data.
“In a world where consumers decide what news they want and how they want to get it, the future belongs to those who understand the audience best, and who can leverage that knowledge with advertisers,” said PEJ Director Tom Rosenstiel. “Increasingly that knowledge exists outside of news companies.”
These are some of the conclusions in the eighth annual State of the News Media report, which takes a comprehensive look at the health and status of the American news media. This year’s study includes detailed looks at the eight major sectors of media. The special reports this year include a survey about the role of mobile technology in news consumption and the willingness of people to pay for their local newspaper online, a look at emerging economic models in community news and a study of how the U.S. newspaper business is faring compared with other nations.
The Who Owns the News Media database allows users to compare companies by various indicators, explore each media sector and read profiles of individual companies. And in the Year in the News Interactive, users can explore PEJ’s comprehensive content analysis of media performance based on 52,613 stories from 2010.
Among the study’s key findings:
- Mobile has already become an important factor in news. Nearly half of all Americans (47%) now get some form of local news on a mobile device, according to a new survey in this year’s report, produced by PEJ with Pew Internet and American Life Project in partnership with the Knight Foundation. As of January 2011, 7% of Americans reported owning some kind of electronic tablet, nearly double the number four months earlier. But the movement to mobile doesn’t guarantee a revenue source. To date, even among early adaptors, only 10% of those who have downloaded local news apps paid for them.
- Online outpaces newspapers. Fully 46% of people now say they get news online at least three times a week, surpassing newspapers (40%) for the first time. Only local TV news is a more popular platform in America now (50%). In another milestone, more money was spent on online advertising than on newspaper advertising in 2010: Online advertising overall grew 13.9% to $25.8 billion in 2010, according to data from eMarketer. While eMarketer does not offer a print ad revenue figure, we estimate the newspaper took in $22.8 billion in print ad revenue in 2010. (We estimate online ad revenue at newspapers to be about $3 billion.)
- Online news hires may have matched newspaper cuts for the first time. Large national online-only news operations began to get into the creation of original reporting in a significant way in 2010. AOL hired nearly 1,000 employees, over half of whom went to the new local news venture Patch.com. Bloomberg Government expects to number 150 journalists and analysts by the end of 2011, doubling Bloomberg’s Washington bureau and Yahoo added several dozen reporters across news, sports and finance. These hiring increases appeared to have compensated for the 1,000 to 1,500 job losses the study estimates the newspaper industry suffered in 2010.
- More grim news for newspapers. The newspaper sector endured another year of revenue and audience declines. Advertising revenues fell by roughly 6.4% in 2010 from the year before. Weekday circulation fell 5% and Sunday fell 4.5%. Seven of the top 25 newspapers in the United States are now owned by hedge funds, which had virtually no role in the industry a few years ago. Many of these new owners are turning to other outsiders to turn the business around. One potential silver lining is the finding that 23% of Americans said they would pay $5 a month for an online version of their local paper if the print version were to perish.
- Every media sector is losing audience now except online. For the first time in at least a dozen years, the median audience declined at all three cable news channels. CNN suffered most with median prime-time viewership, falling 37% in 2010; Fox lost 11%, and MSNBC 5%. In aggregate, the median viewership fell 13.7% across the entire day in 2010. Prime-time median viewership fell even more, 16% to an average of 3.2 million, according to PEJ’s original analysis of Nielsen Market Research data. Daytime fell 12%.
- Local TV wins 2010 revenue race. Among traditional media, local TV may have had the best year financially. Revenue rose 17%, exceeding projections, thanks in part to a 77% increase in auto advertising and a record $2.2 billion in political advertising for the midterm elections. And, to boost audience, local TV has added newscasts at 4:30 AM in 69 cities; more than double the startups in that time slot a year ago. Nonetheless, when adjusted for inflation, average station revenue has still dropped by almost half in the past nine years.
- AM FM radio listening may be on the brink of a major change—and decline. Radio has remained among the most stable media platforms, largely because AM and FM remained the primary listening format in automobiles. That may be about to change. Toyota is about to put online radio in all its models and Pandora has made an agreement with Pioneer that would include its online radio service in the cars of at least six additional auto manufacturers by the end of 2011. Meanwhile, Audio’s foray into HD radio seems to be failing. Only 31% of Americans have even heard of it and the number of stations converting to HD dropped substantially in 2010.
- Auto industry bailout added to media’s modest recovery. One overlooked dimension in the year past: a key source of renewed news revenue in 2010 was the recovering auto industry, thanks in part to the federal bailout for Detroit. In 2010, auto advertising jumped 77% in local television, 22% in radio and 17% in magazines. The other benefactor of the news industry, say experts, was the U.S. Supreme Court: Its Citizens United decision allowing corporations and union to buy political ads for candidates helped boost political advertising spent on local television to an estimated $2.2 billion, a new high for a midterm campaign year.
The report is the work of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, a nonpolitical, nonpartisan research institute. The study is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and was produced with the help of a number of collaborators, including Rick Edmonds of the Poynter Institute, Deborah Potter of Newslab and a host of industry readers.
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