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From Pew Research:
Eight years after the Great Recession sent the U.S. newspaper industry into a tailspin, the pressures facing America’s newsrooms have intensified to nothing less than a reorganization of the industry itself. In 2015, the newspaper sector had perhaps the worst year since the recession and its immediate aftermath, according to Pew Research Center’s 2016 State of the News Media report, which analyzes the status of the organizations that produce the news and make it available to the public day in and day out.
Average weekday newspaper circulation, print and digital combined, fell another 7% in 2015, the greatest decline since 2010. Sunday circulation fell 4%. While digital circulation crept up slightly (2% for weekday), it accounts for only 22% of total circulation. And any digital subscription gains or traffic increases have still not translated into game-changing revenue solutions. In 2015, total advertising revenue among publicly traded companies declined nearly 8%, including losses not just in print but in digital as well.
- There is money being made on the web, but news organizations have not been the primary beneficiaries. Total digital ad spending grew another 20% in 2015 to about $60 billion, a higher growth rate than in 2013 and 2014. But compared with a year ago, even more of the digital ad revenue pie – 65% – is now swallowed up by just five tech companies. None of these are journalism organizations, though several – including Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Twitter – integrate news into their offerings. Increasingly, the data suggest that the impact these technology companies are having on the business of journalism goes far beyond the financial side to the very core elements of the news industry itself.
- Podcast programming and listenership grew again in 2015, though listening is still limited to a minority of the American public. A growing minority of Americans are listening to podcasts, according to survey data from Edison Research. As of 2016, 21% of Americans ages 12 and older say they listened to a podcast in the past month, reflecting steady incremental growth since 2013, when this share was 12%. That percentage rises to 36% when it comes to those who ever listened to a podcast. However, roughly half of the country is not even familiar with the term “podcasting,” and podcasts bring in a fraction of revenue compared with other news genres.
- For newspapers, smaller budgets have continued to lead to smaller newsrooms. The newspaper industry supports nearly 33,000 full-time newsroom employees. But the latest newspaper newsroom employment figures (from 2014) show 10% declines, greater than in any year since 2009, leaving a workforce that is 20,000 positions smaller than 20 years prior.
- Television-based news sectors face serious challenges, but cable and network TV both saw growth in 2015. Network TV grew ad revenue by 6% in the evening and 14% in the morning. Cable news channels were projected to increase their revenues by 10% and experience profit gains as well. While “cord cutting” may threaten the pay TV model in the long run, more viewers turned to cable news channels in 2015 than in 2014, causing a ratings bump not seen in several years. Local TV ad revenue, which follows a cyclical pattern tied to election-year ad spending, was down compared with the election year of 2014, but slightly higher than in both the last non-election year (2013) and the last presidential primary year (2011).
- Audiences are continuing to turn to digital sources for their news, and the momentum is driven by users on their mobile devices rather than on their desktops. In a new analysis of digital traffic to 110 print, broadcast and digital news outlets, the vast majority (99) attracted more visitors from mobile devices than from desktops, up from 71 during the same time period in 2014. The mobile increase was particularly striking among the print outlets studied: Among the 50 highest circulating daily newspapers, the number whose digital traffic was mobile-majority increased by more than half in 2015 to 44. Among the cohort of 12 news magazines tracked by Pew Research Center for which there was trendable comScore data, the number whose traffic was mobile-majority more than doubled from four to nine in 2015.
- The Hispanic news media market is in a state of flux. Hispanic print weeklies saw some circulation growth, but the major Hispanic dailies all declined, and the largest TV network’s news programs lost both audience and revenue. After many mainstream English-language news organizations crowded into the Hispanic market over the past decade, often by launching separate Hispanic-oriented outlets, they hit hurdles in 2014, including the closing of both NBCLatino.com and CNN Latino. In 2015, MundoFox’s news division shuttered when Fox sold its stake in the venture.
- African American-oriented news media – one of the long-standing minority news genres in the U.S. – showed little substantive change in 2015. The number of black newspapers remained steady at roughly 200, though there is evidence of further audience decline. In U.S. newsrooms overall, the portion of full-time daily newspaper jobs filled by blacks showed no change from 2014, while in broadcast, the percentage of television newsroom jobs filled by blacks remained steady at about 5%. Nonetheless, concerns about newsroom diversity figured prominently in media headlines throughout 2015.
- 2015 saw new developments and experiments in the original reporting and storytelling in the digital realm. Several news outlets including The New York Times and The Des Moines Register are experimenting with virtual reality journalism that can let consumers “experience” the news themselves; others like The Washington Post and Quartz have built “chatbots,” which provide personalized, interactive headlines through texts or mobile messaging services like Facebook Messenger; ProPublica has delved into the big data space, including a deep examination of how criminal profile algorithms are biased; and Univision Digital launched Univision Beta, in collaboration with MIT – experimenting with new ways to tell stories, especially on social and messaging platforms such as their new hub for their online election reporting, Destino 2016.
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