TV Makes Gains, Newspapers Still Decline

In a year of changes, newspaper reporters and editors may be experiencing the most change as roles are reshaped.Overall, there were some bright spots for the media business in 2011, according to the Pew Research Center’s State of the New Media 2012. Local and national TV News saw some gains, but declines continued for newspapers.

The greatest change seems to affect newspapers. Surviving editorial staff members in newspaper newsrooms saw their role changing.

“The contemporary newsroom has fewer articles to produce after trims in the physical size of paper and reduction of the space devoted to news,” the report stressed. “But the remaining editors and reporters are also being stretched further by the need to generate content suitable for smartphones and tablets as well as establishing a social media presence. This is all in addition to putting out the print paper daily and feeding breaking news to websites.”

What follows are excerpts from the Key Findings of the report.


Of all media sectors, newspapers suffered the most in 2011. While new measurements made exact yearly comparisons difficult, [Pew survey] chapter co-author Rick Edmonds estimates that weekday circulation fell about 4 percent and Sundays fell 1percent for the six-month period ending September 30. Newspapers’ digital audiences are growing. Newspaper websites are popular and total audience reach is staying steady.

In 2011, print advertising revenues were down approximately $2.1 billion, or 9.2 percent. Although online advertising was up approximately $207 million (6.8 percent) compared with 2010, those gains do not come close to making up for the losses in print.

Network TV News:

All television news viewership increased in 2011, but it was most evident on the networks, whose audiences grew for the first time in a decade. Average evening news viewership across the three networks increased 4.5 percent, or 972,700 viewers over 2011, according to PEJ analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.

An average of 22.5 million people watched ABC, CBS or NBC News each night in 2011. The PBS NewsHour’s average viewership was nearly unchanged, remaining at 1.1 million viewers nightly during the 2010-11 season.

Networks overall saw a decrease in total revenue in 2011. The market research firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson, which looks at networks overall, not just news divisions, estimated that network ad revenue decreased 3.7 percent in 2011.

Local TV News:

After years of decline, local television news showed new signs of life in 2011. Viewership increased in both the morning (1.4 percent) and late evening (3 percent) — the first gains in five years. 

Local TV stations make the vast majority of their revenue from on-air advertising. This revenue declined in 2011, largely due to a predictable decrease in political ads in a non-election year. The estimated on-air ad revenue totaled $18.1 billion.

Stations continued to hire in 2011, and analysts believe total employment in local TV news has returned to the record level set before the recession.

Cable News:

A year of major news events, including international disaster and unrest as well as domestic politics, helped break the cable news ratings slide. Total viewership rose 1 percent in 2011, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The boost behind that overall growth came at CNN, which was up 16 percent in prime-time to a median of 654,000 viewers. And MSNBC was up 20 percent during the daytime. Fox News Channel was the only one of the three main news channels to experience a second straight year of declines. It ended 2011 down 3 percent in prime time and 2 percent in daytime. Fox remained the clear leader overall, with a median prime-time audience of 1.9 million, making 2011 its 10th straight year of ratings dominance.

Cable channels were projected to spend more on the news in 2011, increasing their budgets by 5 percent to $1.7 billion, according to SNL Kagan. All of the channels were projected to spend more than they had the year before.


More than nine out of 10 Americans (93 percent) say they use or own an AM/FM radio, and the device is second only to television as the medium most prevalent in people’s lives, according to Arbitron’s data. But digital options are beginning to have an impact, especially in mobile realms.

Radio revenue saw gains in 2011, but lost much of the momentum seen in the previous year. Revenue was up 1 percent over 2010 levels, at $17.4 billion, according to data from the Radio Advertising Bureau.


Circulation for six leading news magazines studied was basically flat, after an 8.9 percent decline in 2010. For print magazines, the number of ad pages sold across the industry overall was down in 2011 (3.1 percent), after a flat 2010 (down 0.1 percent) and a steep decline in 2009 (25.6 percent), according to data by the Publishers Information Bureau.

New magazine launches were also on the rise. In all, 239 new magazines were launched in 2011, according to, up from 193 magazines in 2010. Only 152 magazines folded during the year, a sharp improvement over the 176 that shuttered in 2011 and the 596 that died the year before.

Links to part 1 and 2 of our analysis of the Pew media report can be found below.

•  Part 1: Dancing With Big Technology

•  Part 2: Major Media Trends