News in­dus­try turn­ing from print to mo­bile: study


The news in­dus­try is strug­gling with a shift to mo­bile, get­ting scant rev­enues as more read­ers turn to smartphones and tablets for in­for­ma­tion, a re­search re­port showed Wed­nes­day.

Those are among the find­ings of the lat­est Pew Re­search Cen­ter’s “State of the News Me­dia” re­port re­leased Wed­nes­day, high­light­ing an on­go­ing shift in the U.S. me­dia in­dus­try land­scape.

The re­port found 39 of the top 50 dig­i­tal news web­sites had more traf­fic from mo­bile de­vices than from desk­top com­put­ers in early 2015, although re­searchers said peo­ple gen­er­ally spend more time read­ing news on PCs.

Over­all, the news me­dia is see­ing much of the same trend as it has over the past few years — de­clines in print cir­cu­la­tion and ad­ver­tis­ing, and a rise in dig­i­tal news, al­beit with limited rev­enues, Pew found.

Among the bright spots for the in­dus­try was tele­vi­sion news, where some seg­ments man­aged to gain view­ers.

Pew said broad­cast net­work news­casts boosted view­er­ship by 5 per­cent last year, but ca­ble news chan­nels had an­other dif­fi­cult year — with prime- time view­er­ship down 8 per­cent across the three ma­jor news chan­nels.

Bad News for Print

For news­pa­pers,

it was more bad news: daily and Sun­day cir­cu­la­tion fell an­other 3 per­cent in 2014.

Ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue dropped 4 per­cent to US$19.9 bil­lion — less than half of what it was a decade ago.

That was only partly off­set by a 1 per­cent rise in cir­cu­la­tion rev­enue, which sug­gests ris­ing prices for print edi­tions and sub­scrip­tions.

Pew said that for “le­gacy” me­dia like news­pa­pers, data is not avail­able to sep­a­rate the dig­i­tal-only seg­ments at each or­ga­ni­za­tion.

But the re­port said dig­i­tal rev­enues “re­main largely on the wish list” for news or­ga­ni­za­tions, and of­fered no break­down on mo­bile ad rev­enues for news prop­er­ties.

The news me­dia, how­ever, is un­likely to get much from mo­bile ads since five firms — Ap­ple, Face­book, Google, Pan­dora and Twit­ter — took in two-thirds of mo­bile ad rev­enue, the re­port said.

Dig­i­tal ad rev­enue across all me­dia grew to US$50.7 bil­lion in 2014, ac­cord­ing to eMar­keter fig­ures cited by Pew.

Mo­bile ad spend­ing now ac­counts for 37 per­cent of all dig­i­tal ad spend­ing, with Face­book get­ting 24 per­cent of all dis­play ad rev­enue and 37 per­cent of mo­bile dis­play.

Dig­i­tal ‘bumps’

The Pew re­searchers found the dig­i­tal side of the news in­dus­try is con­tin­u­ing to grow, but un­evenly.

Large cap­i­tal in­jec­tions were re­ported by Vice News — which raised a re­ported US$500 mil­lion last year — and Vox Me­dia, which pub­lishes and The Verge and is val­ued at some US$380 mil­lion af­ter its US$46.5 mil­lion fund­ing round.

Mean­while Buz­zFeed, which has been ex­pand­ing with its own new cap­i­tal, had to deal with “eth­i­cal ques­tions sur­round­ing the re­moval of posts that spoke neg­a­tively of key ad­ver­tis­ers,” the Pew re­port said.

And long­time tech jour­nal­ism out­let Gi­gaom shut down in March when it was un­able to pay its cred­i­tors.

Pew said the num­ber of en­tries in dig­i­tal news are now “so nu­mer- ous and var­ied that they are dif­fi­cult to keep track of” and that “the pace of tech­no­log­i­cal evo­lu­tion and the mul­ti­plic­ity of choices ... show no sign of slow­ing down.”

The re­searchers said the top “dig­i­tal news en­tity” was Ya­hooABC News, with more than 127 mil­lion users, in­clud­ing 93 mil­lion who ac­cess from a mo­bile de­vice.

The oth­ers in the top 10, in or­der, were CNN, NBC News, Huff­in­g­ton Post, CBS News, USA To­day, Buz­zFeed, The New York Times, Fox News and Mail On­line. Each of the top 10 had more users on mo­bile than desk­top.

For large news­pa­pers, dig­i­tal au­di­ence num­bers far out­pace cir­cu­la­tion: The New York Times, for ex­am­ple, had an av­er­age week- day print cir­cu­la­tion of less than 650,000, while its web­site and apps at­tracted nearly 54 mil­lion vis­i­tors in Jan­uary 2015.

But Pew said on­line vis­its av­er­aged just 4.6 min­utes for the Times, in­dica­tive of the “fly-by” na­ture of on­line news.

News­pa­pers have done lit­tle to al­le­vi­ate their fi­nan­cial woes.

Over­all ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enues fell to US$20 bil­lion last year, down from a peak of US$47 bil­lion in 2005. But dig­i­tal has failed to make up more than US$3.5 bil­lion of the to­tal.

News­room em­ploy­ment was down an­other 3 per­cent in 2013, the lat­est year for which data was avail­able, Pew said, af­ter a 6 per­cent drop in 2012.

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