The State of the News Media 2015

state of news industry 2015One of my favorite annual reports is the Pew Research Center’s State of the News Media 2015. Now in its 14th year, the report is one of the best indicators of the health of the news media industry. The major theme from this year’s report is the rising challenge news organizations face managing mobile and social media audiences. Most notably, 39 of the top 50 digital news websites have more traffic coming from mobile than from desktop computers.

For those of you working in digital marketing or related fields, this should come as no surprise to you. More consumers are accessing all kinds of websites via mobile devices than from desktop computers. What’s surprising is how slow news organizations are adapting to the rise of the mobile consumer. This may be intentional, as mobile visitors are less valuable to advertisers (and therefore publishers) according to Pew (validated by comScore data). [Read more…]

Periscope and Meerkat : The New ‘Twitter’ for Reporters

Periscope, Meerkat - New Twiter for ReportingBelieve it or not, Twitter has been around for nine years now. Shortly after Twitter launched in March of 2006, The American Journalism Review (AJR) published an article that referred to Twitter as “…the latest in an ever-lengthening list of overhyped technologies and cultural techno-fads stretching back to CB radio.” The industry largely doubted the viability of Twitter as a news platform. They will not repeat this mistake with Periscope and Meerkat, two new live-video apps that enable anyone with a smartphone to broadcast a live-video feed to their Twitter followers. Just as Twitter has become the first broadcast breaking news in text and photo formats, so too will it now bring us live-video coverage of news as it unfolds.

Back to the AJR article for a second – because it provides a great illustration for how news organizations have evolved their approach to new platforms and consumption patterns across their audiences – the author posed the question of whether Twitter was a fad, or if it could actually end up being useful for news distribution, reporting or source-building. It was a wait and see attitude that dominated an industry rooted in traditions and paralyzed by a lack of innovation and willingness to change.

In one of my first blog posts on Journalistics, nearly two years after the launch of Twitter, I shared the results of a survey I conducted with more than 100 professional journalists at the time. I interviewed reporters and producers about the biggest challenges facing them in preparing the news in a rapidly-changing media environment. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a single mention of “learning how to use Twitter in my reporting.” I’ll say it again, that was two years after the launch of Twitter.

Fast-forward to 2015 and we’re witnessing the next transformation in social media-based reporting with the launch of Meerkat and Periscope. These services launched over the course of the past couple of weeks. Every minute, news organizations, reporters and a bunch of other early adopters are starting to leverage these new platforms to broadcast their live-video feeds to anyone that will watch. If you aren’t yet familiar with how this works, once you click a button to begin the stream, your Twitter followers are notified that you’re broadcasting. They just have to click the link and their preferred device becomes the new window into the world of breaking news (or anything else publishers choose to broadcast). [Read more…]

Most News Still Comes From Traditional Media

A new study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism finds that much of the “news” people receive contains no original reporting. Said another way, only a few traditional outlets report on the news, the rest repeat it. The study examined all the outlets that produced local news in Baltimore, Maryland, over the course of a one week period, finding that eight out of ten stories simply repeated or repackaged previously published information. Is this an isolated incident over the course of one news week? Is this data limited to the news cycle in one U.S. market? It’s hard to say. It certainly raises some interesting questions about the quality of local news content in your market. [Read more…]

Newspapers’ Shift to Digital Too Slow?

The Media Management Center, Northwestern Univeristy, recently published “Life Beyond Print: Newspaper Journalists’ Digital Appetite” which found almost half of today’s newspaper journalists think their newsroom’s transition to digital is moving too slowly. Most newspaper journalists have warmed to the idea that news will be primarily delivered online and via mobile devices, rather than print, for the remainder of their careers. Whatever the reason for newspapers being slow to adapt to digital delivery, it’s clear journalist resistance isn’t the source.

According to the study which included almost 3,800 people in a cross-section of newspaper newsrooms, America’s journalists want a faster shift from print to digital delivery of news. Many of the journalists interviewed reported being heavily involved in digital activities in their personal lives and would devote more effort to dgital products at work. Only 20% of journalists like things the way they have always been. [Read more…]

Are Journalists Outnumbered In The PR Game?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were roughly 243,000 public relations specialists employed in 2006. The BLS projects there will be more than 286,000 PR specialists by 2016, an increase of 43,000. In addition, there were roughly 50,000 public relations managers employed in 2006, estimated to increase to 58,000 by 2016 – an increase of 8,400. Overall, PR employment is expected to grow by 12 percent or more through 2016.

Contrast the growth of public relations employment with that in the media sector. The BLS estimates there were 67,000 News Analysts, Reporters and Correspondents employed in 2006, expected to increase to only 68,000 by 2016 – an increase of roughly 1,200 jobs or 2%. Of course, this data was published before the recent wave of media downsizing and layoffs. Over the course of the past couple of months, we’ve seen an alarming number of layoffs in the media. A recent post on StopBigMedia.com highlights some of the deepest cuts we’ve seen:

  • Star-Ledger, the largest newspaper in New Jersey, cut its staff by 40 percent
  • The Los Angeles Times laid off another 75 journalists – since 2001, the paper has cut its staff from 1,200 to 660
  • Gannett, a company that owns 85 daily newspapers, announced it would cut its staff by 10 percent – roughly 3,000 employees
  • Time Warner Inc., the world’s largest magazine publisher, plans to cut 600 or 6 percent of its magazine employees
  • Media News Group, one of the largest newspaper owners in the country, plans to consolidate copy-editing desks at 54 newspapers to one location
  • The Project for Excelence in Journalism estimates that newspapers have cut about 10 percent of newsroom jobs – 5,500 positions – in the past 10 years
  • UNITY: Journalists of Color reported recently that 2,415 newsroom jobs have been cut since September

The list of cuts goes on and on. An interactive map of newspaper layoffs has a running total of many of the recent cuts – estimated to be in excess of 3,300 jobs so far in 2009.

It’s safe to assume that employment for journalists is actually on the decline, data that will most likely be reflected in the next wave of research by the BLS.

It’s no wonder that journalists are overwhelmed in their jobs. Even if the BLS numbers hold true, there are almost 4 public relations specialists for every journalist working out there. Assuming that most PR specialists engage in some form of media outreach, that’s a lot of inbound information for any one group to handle. Add to this the range of products and services designed to make mass communication more efficient for PR specialists sending information to media outlets, and it’s very alarming. There are few products and services designed to help media professionals manage and process this inflow of information (there are none that we know of), so they will continue to be overloaded for the near future.

Add to this fact that journalists are being asked to do more work than ever – a combination of smaller teams and a rising demand for content across existing and emerging channels, and it can’t be a great time to be working in a newsroom environment.

What solutions are on the horizon that can help journalists tip the scales in their favor? Will journalists just continue to tune-out PR pros so they can focus on the tasks at hand? Or is the problem really not as bad as the data suggest? What do you think?