PEJ: News Orgs Still Struggle With Digital Revenue
Digital devices are boosting the consumption of news but the 2012 State of the News Media report finds that the revenue picture remains cloudy
By George Winslow -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/19/2012 12:01:00 AM
But news organizations are still struggling to make money off these digital distribution platforms, in part because tech giants are capturing a significant portion of the money being spent, with five tech companies grabbing 68% of all digital ad revenue, the study reports, citing researcher from eMarketer.
In addition, growing digital consumption and increases in digital revenue are still not making up for loses in traditional revenue. The PEJ study found increased audiences for online, network TV, local TV, audio, and cable TV, with magazines remaining fairly constant and newspapers seeing declines. But it also concluded that rising audiences for network TV and local TV did not translate into increased revenue.
In fact, revenue declined for both network TV (down 3.7%) and local TV (down 6.7%). PEJ noted that on-air ad revenue for local TV grew in 2011 but was still 10% lower than it was in 2007 and that on-air ads still accounted for 85% of the total revenue.
"Our analysis suggests that news is becoming more important and pervasive part of people's lives," PEJ director Tom Rosenstiel noted in a statement announcing Pew's ninth annual look at the state of the news media. "But it remains unclear who will benefit economically from this growing appetite for news."
The new study contains extensive data on the spread of digital media and consumption of news on digital devices, including new national surveys on how news is consumed on different devices and the impact of social media.
Both the surveys and outside data cited in the report found that digital delivery and the growing popularity of smart phones and tablets was driving increased consumption of news.
Citing data from the mobile analytics firm Localytics the study argues that people were using "mobile devices for news more often and for longer sessions" and that mobile users "may be getting more news more often."
Overall monthly unique users at the top news sites grew by 17% in 2011, according to data cited from Nielsen Online. Most of these major news sites (17 of 25) are still run by legacy news organizations.
Growing digital consumption has also boosted both online and mobile ad markets. The study notes that online advertising grew by 23% in 2011. One segment of the online ad pie, display advertising grew by 24% bounce in 2011 to $12.4 billion, according to data from eMarketer cited in the report.
Unfortunately, the study also notes that "five of the big tech companies, now account for about half of all display ad revenue, with Facebook one of the big news players [and that] these very same companies account for 68% of online advertising."
Similar issues are apparent in the mobile ad space, where search has displaced text message ads as the biggest segment. "News companies are essentially cut off from this growing revenue stream, which amounted to $653 million or 45% of the mobile ad market," the study notes.
In terms of device ownership, the new Pew surveys found computer or laptop ownership relatively stable (77% of all adults), but showed rapid increases in smart phone ownership (44%) and tablets (18%). About 31% own both a smartphone and a tablet and 13% of all Americans own a computer, smartphone and tablet.
While computers remain the primary digital platform, with 70% getting news from the desktop or laptop, the growing popularity of smart phones and tablets has also translated in significant consumption of news content.
The survey also found that news is "a substantial part of what people do on each of these [mobile] devices," with 51% of smart phone owners and 56% of tablet owners using them to access the news. A significant number (23%) now access news via at least two digital devices.
In what is obviously good news for news organizations, the Pew surveys also found that the most common way for people to get news on a digital device is to go directly to the news organizations app or website. About one third of computer and smartphone users get their news this way "very often," as do 38% of tablet owners.
Very importantly, the brand or reputation of an organization played a key role in digital consumption. "Brand matters on every device," the PEJ study concluded, "and it seems to matter the most on the tablet."
While the survey found significant increases in the usage of social media to access news, it concluded that "social media recommendations are not nearly as significant a driver of news as brand and search."
Only 9% "very often" follow recommendations from Facebook or Twitter for their news. In contrast, 36% very often go directly to news websites or apps, 32% very often use search and 29% very often access news via news organizing web site or app.
Among the social media sites, 7% got news from Facebook very often compared to only 3% who do so from Twitter.
Far higher levels of engagement with social media were, however, found in the 6% of the sample that get news on both their smartphones and tablet devices.
As expected, usage of tablets and smart phones to access news tends to skew younger and more affluent, though the largest demo for accessing news on digital devices is the 30 to 49 age group.
The surveys were based on telephone interviews conducted in January of 2012 among 3,016 adults over the age of 18.
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