Media Health Report: Changed But Stabilizing?

The iPad and other digital devices are surging as the preferred source of news, leaving the newspaper world in a search for new business models.

Despite continuing rapid changes in some media industrial sectors in 2010, the media world as a whole appears a bit more stable than it has been in recent years. Whether a temporary or longer-term trend, that appears to be the hopeful note found in the annual State of the News Media report released last month by the Pew Research Center.

The report is a gold mine of data and trend analysis produced each year by Pew’s Project For Excellence in Journalism. This year’s study contains a series of special reports, such as a survey on how people use mobile technology to get local news; a report comparing the U.S. newspaper industry with the rest of the world’s and two reports on community news websites.

“By several measures, the state of the American news media improved in 2010. After two dreadful years, most sectors of the industry saw revenue begin to recover. With some notable exceptions, cutbacks in newsrooms eased,” study authors note in the overview.

“And while still more talk than action, some experiments with new revenue models began to show signs of blossoming,” they said.

Putting aside the rich data dump, here’s a look at some top line trends also noted in the report:

  • Newspapers remain most troubled:“Among the major sectors, only newspapers suffered continued revenue declines last year – an unmistakable sign that the structural economic problems facing newspapers are more severe than those of other media.”
  • Key is understanding changing behavior: “…The future will belong to those who understand the public’s changing behavior and can target content and advertising to snugly fit the interests of each user. That knowledge – and the expertise in gathering it – increasingly resides with technology.”
  • Local news is going mobile.Nearly half of all American adults (47 percent) report that they get at least some local news and information on their cell phone or tablet computer, Pew posted in a special survey. They are more likely to search for information about the weather and restaurants than look for news.
  • The new news intermediaries: “In the 20th century, the news media thrived by being the intermediary others needed to reach customers. In the 21st, increasingly there is a new intermediary: Software programmers, content aggregators and device makers control access to the public.”
  • New media hires offsetting print employment losses: ogether these hires [at online news services] come close to matching the jobs in 2010 we estimate were lost in newspapers, the first time we have seen this kind of substitution.”

Conceding that the newsroom is a far different place than a decade ago, the report says traditional and new media are converging. Reporters and editors “are more adaptive, younger and more engaged in multimedia presentation, aggregation, blogging and user content, the report stated “In some ways, new media and old, slowly and sometimes grudgingly, are coming to resemble each other,” the authors concluded in the report overview. See the entire 2011 State of the Media report.