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Pew Releases Its State of the News Media Report

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Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, couch potatoes, and news junkies: Pew’s State of the News Media 2011 has been released, and I’m happy to report that the state of our news media is…as expected.

Viewership of traditional media—from network to cable news, newspapers to magazines—all declined. Online news, on the other hand, saw significant gains in viewership and revenue.

The takeaway? Now’s probably a good time to scratch your plans to launch a broadcast news network. But if you’re looking to start a news aggregation website that aggregates the best curated aggregation of other news aggregators on the Internet, the iron is hot! Strike!

Key stats from the report:

  • Digital: 41% of Americans cited the internet as the place where they got “most of their news about national and international issues,” up 17% from a year earlier.
  • Cable News: Viewership fell 13.7% across the entire day in 2010. Prime-time median viewership fell even more, 16% to an average of 3.2 million.
  • Network News: Evening news audiences fell by 752,000 viewers, or 3.4%, from 2009 and have been on a downward trend for three decades.
  • Newspapers: Print circulation also continued to decline in 2010. Weekday circulation fell 5% and Sunday fell 4.5% year-to-year for the six-month period ending September 30.
  • Magazines: Circulation for the six news magazines in our report fell 8.9%.
  • Audio: Of all the traditional media, the audience for AM/FM radio has remained among the most stable. In all, 93% of Americans listened to AM/FM radio at some point during the week in 2010, according to data from Arbitron, and this has dropped only three percentage points in the last decade.

Some surprising facts, however, about the economics.

  • Every sector of the news media we study saw revenues grow above the levels of a dismal 2009 except for one: newspapers.
  • Digital: The economics of the web hit a milestone in 2010. For the first time, more money was spent on online advertising than on print newspaper advertising. Online advertising overall grew 13.9% to $25.8 billion in 2010, according to data from eMarketer.
  • Cable News: Despite declining audiences, revenues for each of the cable news channels were projected to increase in 2010 a total of 10.7% across the three networks. For the first time, Fox surpassed CNN in total dollars spent on the news.
  • Local TV News: Among traditional media, local TV may have had the best year financially. Revenue rose 17%, exceeding projections, thanks in part to a 77% increase in auto advertising and a record $2.2 billion in political advertising for the midterm elections.
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