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The State of the News Media: It’s Not as Bad as You Might Think



As this past week has shown us, news is still an integral part of life on this planet. As the drama in Japan unfolded, CNN’s viewership jumped up 172% and Fox news saw a 47% increase in viewers. At the same time, Twitter and Facebook exploded with information from both traditional news sources and the man on the street. We may toss out the Wednesday LA Times unread but when a major event happens, we all turn to the news for information and answers.

The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism has an extensive report called State of the Media 2011. Going in to it, you may think it will be all gloom and doom, but there are bright spots and hope for the future, if the media will simply learn to embrace change.

The report has this to say:

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.

Print circulation is still dropping and this week notwithstanding, cable news viewership has slipped 13.7%. But then there’s online, which rose 17% last year and that number will continue to climb. The report also shows a rise in advertising dollars everywhere except in print newspapers.

The future for news is online, but despite the fact that 23% of people said they’d be willing to pay a small amount for a digital newspaper even less people actually do. The problem may not be with the consumer, though. Very few newspapers have even attempted using a paywall and even fewer are offering exclusive news for the price. To make matters worse, one of the “major trends” from the State of the Media report is the fact that online metrics have become more confusing, not less.

For the marketer, there’s one trend in this report that really stands out: Local news remains the vast untapped territory.

The authors of the report felt that local and hyperlocal news have the potential to be profitable if someone can figure out how to properly leverage the concept.

Already 40% of all online ad spending is local, up from 30% just a year earlier.  . . 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.

Overall, the State of the Media 2011 isn’t as dark as it may seem. People need news. They want to know about rescue efforts in Japan and if traffic is backed up on the 405. People may have given up watching two hours of Fox news programming at night, but they’re still accessing Fox news on their phones while they watch Celebrity Apprentice.

For news to survive, real news written and produced by real journalist, they’re going to have to face the fact that people want it faster, shorter and on demand. The days of spending Sunday morning reading the New York Times from front to back are rapidly fading, but millions will read the front page story as long as they can do it on their phone while they wait in line for coffee.

What do you think about the state of the media in 2011?

  • http://www.motivating-minutes.blogspot.com D R @ Motivating Minutes

    Very interesting article. So I guess the moral is say goodbye to the neighborhood newspaper, hello to the neighborhood blog?

  • http://allys.biz Recruitment Consultants UAE Dubai Abu Dhabi

    Cynthia – Very interesting post. I know were entering the technical era, but I just believe at some point were are going to digress and go back to one on one human interaction. All these gadgets, codes, social media profiles and everything else is stopping one on one human interaction.

    I recently took a course that talked about mobile marketing and these QR codes. I guess they are thinking it is going to replace the phone books. Good luck to them. Great Post! – Chad

  • Alison

    I am in my early 30′s and work in technology… but I still love buying a newspaper on Sunday (only Sunday – because my life is too hectic.) Likewise, I love reading books and comic books. Until technology can fully mimic that tactile experience, I cannot imagine going totally online. That said, Monday through Saturday… all of the news I consume is free and electronic.