Thursday, March 20, 2008

State of the News Media

I’ve spent the past few days sifting through the just-released 2008 State of the News Media Report. I rifled through the executive summary on Monday for my Media Management class. I read the Online section (all 25,000 words) on Tuesday for my Online Journalism class, and today I’m tackling the Newspaper section. It’s only 21,000 words. Hey, I like to keep busy! The fifth annual compendium of original and compiled research by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, late of Columbia and more recently funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, shows some interesting trends in the U.S. news business, several of which may be relevant to the media in Canada as well.

Reflecting the recent anxiety over competition from online media, this year’s report is titled “The Web: Alarming, Appealing and a Challenge to Journalistic Values.” It finds that things in the news business again got worse in 2007, but the problems different than predicted. The mainstream media are not losing their audience, they’re just going online increasingly for news. Big Media is dominating Internet journalism even more than it dominates Old Media, but it just can’t get new online customers to pay. Some analysts predict it will take the media 10 years to realign its business model. But as bad as the outlook is, it could be worse, according to PEJ head Tom Rosenstiel. "Monetizing the audience is a revenue problem, and that can be sorted out,” he said. “The good news is that the audience is still there."

"Had the audience just completely vanished, splintered into a million little pieces and decided that whatever The New York Times had to offer was not of interest, the prospects for sorting out an economic future for journalism would be much bleaker.”

While audiences for local and network nightly newscasts dropped 5%, the good news was that ratings for cable news were up 9%. Advertising remained strong at the all-news networks, with revenue up 21% at Fox News, 7% at CNN and 10% at MSNBC .

Other highlights:

  • Newspaper circulation continues to decline, just as it does across Canada. Of course, I am a noted skeptic when it comes to this statistic, because I think it says little about the economic viability of newspapers, which make by far most of their money from advertising, not circulation sales.
  • The most recent numbers for employment show that the newspaper work force actually went up, but that was in 2006. With all the layoffs that have been made in the past year, I suspect the trend line for 2007 will be downward.
  • Recent grads report that he number of jobs in Online journalism continued to increase, but if you scroll down to the bottom of this page, you’ll see that by far the most jobs are still writing fro print. That table on job skills is interesting. The kids figure spelling will drop from 4th to 13th in importance in five years. Maybe that’s why they don’t bother learning it.
  • Online news consumption took a leap in 2007 after being flat to down in 2006. My students figure it’s all the primaries.
  • Here’s one I can’t figure out. It seems local TV is finally taking the internet seriously, and that must mean they think they can make money off it. But take a look at the second graphic (first table) on this page. It shows that local TV websites tend to be profitable in Markets 1-50, but not in Markets 51-150. Then in Markets 151+, they tend to be quite profitable. What gives? The only explanation we could come up with in class yesterday was that local TV websites in smaller markets are bigger fish in a smaller pond, or perhaps more a part of the community. It later occurred to m that in some smaller markets maybe it is the only advertising alternative to the monopoly daily, which gouges on ad rate due to its market dominance. Sounds like a research opportunity to ME!
  • The Big are getting Bigger online. According to AC Nielsen, the top three news websites – AOL, MSNBC, and CNN – are pulling ahead of the pack in terms of popularity for online news. It’s near the end of this page.

    Lotsa good stuff in this for everyone, and their website is fairly easy to navigate. Just click on your medium of choice and go from there.

No comments: