Project for Excellence in Journalism's State of the News Media documents transition, tranformation
The best thing you can say, after poring through the volumes of information offered by the Project of Excellence in Journalism's latest State of the News Media report, is that the decline of established media outlets may at least have slowed a bit.
Beyond that, there isn't much good news in the exhaustive analysis if you don't work for Fox News Channel -- the entity largely responsible the growth in the one of the few sectors where the news audience is expanding -- cable television.
What emerges is a tale of an industry still in the midst of serious transition and transformation, with revenue down in most sectors, audience declining in many areas and some spots where established media expected to see a bright future -- online advertising and pay walls around Web sites, for instance -- facing serious challenges.
There still seems to be little antidote for a news audience migrating increasingly to online platforms where advertising revenue is smaller. And those online audiences are less loyal, making it tougher for individual media outlets to hold onto fickle audiences.
Among the report's major trends: That newsmakers increasingly control the initial reporting of events, that commentary and analysis areas of news media are growing as straight reporting areas decline, the decreasing loyalty to news outlets increases importance for each news story to attract audience, traditional news media outlets still provide most of the newly-reported information in the news ecology and the ranks of self-interested information providers has increased, requiring news outlets to define their relationship to them.
The report also offers two cool new online resources: An interactive area where users can seek out answers to their own questions about the news media's state in 2009; and an online database of companies which own news properties in the United States.
-- The end of 2009 brought a loss of 5,900 more full-time jobs in newspaper newsrooms. Since 2001, one-third the number of people working in American newspapers are gone.
-- In local TV news, 450 jobs were lost in 2009, which was an improvement over the 1,200 jobs which disappeared the year before.
-- Online news consumers are fickle and expansive; only 35 percent can identify a favorite news site, and only 15 percent of those people said they would visit that favorite site if it was limited by a pay wall.
-- Local TV ad revenue went down 22 percent in 2009 (though it was the year after one of America's most massive elections); newspaper ad revenue declined 28 percent; online ads fell 10 percent.
-- Cable TV revenue, however, increased 9 percent -- this during a year where the transition to digital TV frequencies may have pushed consumers to get cable
-- Despite declines in the network TV news audience, 22.3-million people still watch the evening newscasts -- five times the number of people who watch cable TV news shows in prime time, when the available audience is larger. Still, network TV news audiences fell by 2.5-percent in 2009, a slower the decline than previous years.
-- Fox news saw its profits rise by 19-percent in 2009 to $535-million; CNN and Headline News profits just rose 1-percent, as did MSNBC's profits. And though Fox News spent $674-million on newsgathering, 72-percent of that was spent on host-driven programs. The $188-million Fox News spent on staffing and bureaus was less than half the amount spent by CNN and HLN.