More on Pew Report: A Look at Traditional Media Trends

Is traditional AM-FM radio's solid ride about to get bumpy? See what the annual State of the News Media report says.Last week we looked at top-line trends in our blog about the Pew Research Center’s comprehensive State of the News Media. As a follow-up, here’s a closer look at what was happening with trends at traditional media — newspapers, local television and what used to be called radio but now is categorized as audio.

Three quick insights offered by the study: Newspapers continue in a free fall but the rate of descent slowed last year. Cheaper to produce, local TV stations are adding minutes to morning news. And, web streaming on digital devices is starting to give over-the-air radio a run for the money.

Here are excerpts from the Pew annual report. which was released last month:

Newspapers: Chopping through the jungle

“In a year when most other media businesses rallied, advertising revenues at newspaper organizations continued to fall – roughly 6.3 percent for the year. That compares to a drop of 26 percent in 2009,” the report stated.

“Print circulation also continued to decline, 5 percent daily and 4.5 percent Sunday year-to-year for the six-month period ending September 30. Losses in 2009 had been double that.” Newspaper operators continue in their hunt for a profitable digital business model, report authors say, adding: “But the path is hardly a well-marked four-lane highway, and the effort often seems comparable to chopping through the jungle with a machete.

The report outlines six trends affecting print operations, one of which mentions The Oregonian:

“During 2010 a number of the most ambitious metro papers – among them the Boston Globe, The Oregonian, the Seattle Times and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — began rebuilding hyperlocal coverage. There is a new formula typically relying on some professional news staff, editing and coordinating, but with most of the content coming from volunteer or semi-professional writers based in the communities they cover.”

Local TV: Morning news grows

“A year ago, the state of local television appeared grim. Revenue was in free fall and audiences were down sharply. Today, the medium has recovered on both fronts. But the long-term prognosis may depend on how aggressively and successfully local stations pursue digital options for both programming and sales,” the report noted.

“After a couple of difficult years, finally there was some good news for local television. Thanks to the economic recovery and a busy election year, revenues rose sharply in 2010,” the report continues. “As more stations continued to add newscasts in new time slots, the overall audience for local TV news actually held steady and new delivery platforms, including mobile, raised hope for the future.”

“The makeup of the typical TV newsroom also continued to change. Local stations were able to hire again in 2010 after the average number of news staffers hit a seven-year low the year before. But stations are shedding high-priced anchor talent and moving to make more use of multitasking solo journalists.”

“One big story in 2010 was the growth of early morning news on local television. The number of markets with newscasts starting at 4:30 a.m. more than doubled from the year before, and the audience for these early newscasts has grown exponentially.”

Audio: Questions about radio’s future

Radio has been a stable performer during the past decade but change is in the air.

“Large majorities of Americans continue to listen to AM/FM radio each week, more than nine out of ten adults. Yet they take the medium for granted. In surveys, most Americans point to newer technologies, which they actually spend less time with, as having more “impact” on their lives,” says the report.

“And when they use those new technologies, they are heading to new places. On the web, for instance, Americans for the first time report listening more to online-only outlets like Pandora or Slacker Radio than they do to streams from AM/FM stations.”

“Perhaps even more ominously for traditional radio, online listening has even seeped into what the industry has seen as perhaps its safest (and most captive) audience – those listening in their cars,” the section on audio observed.

There’s much more on many other topics in the State of the New Media 2011 report. Some of the trends we’ve seen locally. Others we will watch to see how the Portland market follows, or doesn’t follow the trends.