PEJ: News Orgs Still Struggle With Digital Revenue - Broadcasting & Cable

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
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The growing popularity of accessing news on
mobile devices, online and social media is increasing the consumption and
demand for news content, according to the newly released 2012 State of the News
Media report by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence
(PEJ) in Journalism.

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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