Dial M for Media | Bleader

Dial M for Media

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Good news: "After two dreadful years, most sectors of the industry saw revenue begin to recover. With some notable exceptions, cutbacks in newsrooms eased. And while still more talk than action, some experiments with new revenue models began to show signs of blossoming."

Bad news: "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. When the final tallies are in, we estimate 1,000 to 1,500 more newsroom jobs will have been lost—meaning newspaper newsrooms are 30% smaller than in 2000."

So begins the State of the News Media 2011 report from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, released Monday.

Good news and bad news aside, the "more fundamental challenge," says Pew, may be that in "the digital realm" — aka the future — "the news industry is no longer in control of its own destiny. News organizations — old and new — still produce most of the content audiences consume. But each technological advance has added a new layer of complexity—and a new set of players—in connecting that content to consumers and advertisers.

"In the digital space, the organizations that produce the news increasingly rely on independent networks to sell their ads. They depend on aggregators (such as Google) and social networks (such as Facebook) to bring them a substantial portion of their audience. And now, as news consumption becomes more mobile, news companies must follow the rules of device makers (such as Apple) and software developers (Google again) to deliver their content. Each new platform often requires a new software program. And the new players take a share of the revenue and in many cases also control the audience data."

In other words, it's someone else's world now, and the MSM merely live in it.

Here's a link to the complete report.

One piece of the Pew report focuses on the public's use of cellphones and tablets to get information that a few years ago might have reached them via old media — newspapers, radio, TV. "How mobile devices are changing community information environments" was produced by Pew in collaboration with the Knight Foundation. It tells us that 84 percent of American adults own a cell phone and/or tablet (almost all owners of tablets also own cell phones), a number that's been stable for several years. And 47 percent of American adults — more than half the owners of mobile devices — use them to get information. However, at this stage, only 11 percent of adults — the high tech vanguard — have an app on their mobile devices to help them acquire this information.

According to thia study, 42 percent of the owners of these mobile devices use them for weather updates, 37 percent for information "about restaurants or other local businesses," 30 percent for general local news." And data-producing apps "are just beginning to take hold among mobile device owners."

For now, says the study, "mobile devices are mainly a supplemental platform for local news and information, not a primary source." But because the supplemental is expected to become the primary and the vanguard the majority, news media want to know if they can stay in business by focusing on local news and selling the apps that put that news in the palm of the public's hand. Maybe, says Pew. The survey asked, "If the only way to get full access to your local newspaper online on your computer, cell phone or other device was to pay a . . . monthly subscription fee, would you pay it or not?"

Something, perhaps, but not much. (Five percent of the people responding said they already pay for local online news.) Half the sample was asked if they'd pay $5 a month, and 23 percent said yes. The other half was asked if they'd pay $10; 18 percent said yes. In short, roughly three-quarters of the respondents said they wouldn't pay anything at all for local news even if that meant they wouldn't get it.

On the other hand, 36 percent of all adults pay for local news content now — roughly six out of seven of them by paying for a print version of their local paper. Just 1 percent pay for a news-providing app. Which suggests — if we read those numbers optimistically — that the potential market for a news app could be a lot larger than the response to the above question made it out to be.

Here's a link to the report on mobile devices.

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