- In 2012, a continued erosion of news reporting resources converged with growing opportunities for those in politics, government agencies, companies and others to take their messages directly to the public.
- Signs of the shrinking reporting power are documented throughout this year’s report. Estimates for newspaper newsroom cutbacks in 2012 put the industry down 30% since its peak in 2000 and below 40,000 full-time professional employees for the first time since 1978.
- In local TV, our special content report reveals, sports, weather and traffic now account on average for 40% of the content produced on the newscasts studied while story lengths shrink.
- A growing list of media outlets, such as Forbes magazine, use technology by a company called Narrative Science to produce content by way of algorithm, no human reporting necessary. And some of the newer nonprofit entrants into the industry, such as the Chicago News Cooperative, have, after launching with much fanfare, shut their doors.This adds up to a news industry that is more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands. And findings from our new public opinion survey released in this report reveal that the public is taking notice. Nearly one-third of the respondents (31%) have deserted a news outlet because it no longer provides the news and information they had grown accustomed to.At the same time, newsmakers and others with information they want to put into the public arena have become more adept at using digital technology and social media to do so on their own, without any filter by the traditional media. They are also seeing more success in getting their message into the traditional media narrative.
The growth of paid digital content experiments may have a significant impact on both news revenue and content. After years of an almost theological debate about whether digital content should be free, the newspaper industry may have reached a tipping point in 2012. Indeed, 450 of the nation’s 1,380 dailies have started or announced plans for some kind of paid content subscription or pay wall plan, in many cases opting for the metered model that allows a certain number of free visits before requiring users to pay. (The trend has also spread beyond newspapers, as highlighted by popular blogger Andrew Sullivan’s recent decision to attach a fee to his site, The Dish.) With digital ad revenue growing at an anemic 3% a year in the newspaper industry, digital subscriptions are seen as an increasingly vital component of any new business model for journalism—though, in most cases, they fall far short of actually replacing the revenue lost in advertising. Thanks in good part to its two-year-old digital subscription program, The New York Times reports that its circulation revenue now exceeds its advertising revenue, a sea change from the traditional revenue split of as much as 80% advertising dollars to 20% circulation dollars. Going forward, many news executives believe that a new business model will emerge in which the mix between advertising and circulation revenue will be close to equal, most likely with a third leg of new revenues that are not tied directly to the news product. The rise of digital paid content could also have a positive impact on the quality of journalism as news organizations strive to produce unique and high-quality content that the public believes is worth paying for. That goal is in keeping with the philosophy of Clark Gilbert, the chief executive of the Deseret News Publishing Company and digital innovator. A staunch advocate of news organizations focusing editorial muscle in key areas where they can bring real value and distinction, Gilbert told the Pew Research Center that in the digital age, news outlets have to be differentiated. “Invest where you can be the best in the world,” he explained…