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News industry turning mobile: study

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The news industry is struggling with a shift to mobile, getting scant revenues as more readers turn to smartphones and tablets for information, a research report showed Wednesday.

[WASHINGTON] The news industry is struggling with a shift to mobile, getting scant revenues as more readers turn to smartphones and tablets for information, a research report showed on Wednesday.

Those are among the findings of the latest Pew Research Centre's State of the News Media report released on Wednesday, highlighting an ongoing shift in the US media industry landscape.

The report found 39 of the top 50 digital news websites had more traffic from mobile devices than from desktop computers in early 2015, although researchers said people generally spend more time reading news on PCs.

Overall, the news media is seeing much of the same trend as it has over the past few years - declines in print circulation and advertising, and a rise in digital news, albeit with limited revenues, Pew found.

Among the bright spots for the industry was television news, where some segments managed to gain viewers.

Pew said broadcast network newscasts boosted viewership by five per cent last year, but cable news channels had another difficult year - with prime-time viewership down eight per cent across the three major news channels.

BAD NEWS FOR PRINT

For newspapers, it was more bad news: daily and Sunday circulation fell another three per cent in 2014.

Advertising revenue dropped four per cent to US$19.9 billion - less than half of what it was a decade ago.

That was only partly offset by a one per cent rise in circulation revenue, which suggests rising prices for print editions and subscriptions.

Pew said that for "legacy" media like newspapers, data is not available to separate the digital-only segments at each organisation.

But the report said digital revenues "remain largely on the wish list" for news organizations, and offered no breakdown on mobile ad revenues for news properties.

The news media, however, is unlikely to get much from mobile ads since five firms - Apple, Facebook, Google, Pandora and Twitter - took in two thirds of mobile ad revenue, the report said.

Digital ad revenue across all media grew to US$50.7 billion in 2014, according to eMarketer figures cited by Pew.

Mobile ad spending now accounts for 37 per cent of all digital ad spending, with Facebook getting 24 per cent of all display ad revenue and 37 per cent of mobile display.

DIGITAL 'BUMPS'

The Pew researchers found the digital side of the news industry is continuing to grow, but unevenly.

Large capital injections were reported by Vice News - which raised a reported US$500 million last year - and Vox Media, which publishes Vox.com and The Verge and is valued at some US$380 million after its US$46.5 million funding round.

Meanwhile BuzzFeed, which has been expanding with its own new capital, had to deal with "ethical questions surrounding the removal of posts that spoke negatively of key advertisers," the Pew report said.

And longtime tech journalism outlet Gigaom shut down in March when it was unable to pay its creditors.

Pew said the number of entries in digital news are now "so numerous and varied that they are difficult to keep track of" and that "the pace of technological evolution and the multiplicity of choices... show no sign of slowing down." The researchers said the top "digital news entity" was Yahoo-ABC News, with more than 127 million users, including 93 million who access from a mobile device.

The others in the top 10, in order, were CNN, NBC News, Huffington Post, CBS News, USA Today, BuzzFeed, The New York Times, Fox News and Mail Online. Each of the top 10 had more users on mobile than desktop.

For large newspapers, digital audience numbers far outpace circulation: The New York Times, for example, had an average weekday print circulation of less than 650,000, while its website and apps attracted nearly 54 million visitors in January 2015.

But Pew said online visits averaged just 4.6 minutes for the Times, indicative of the "fly-by" nature of online news.

Newspapers have done little to alleviate their financial woes.

Overall advertising revenues fell to US$20 billion last year, down from a peak of US$47 billion in 2005. But digital has failed to make up more than US$3.5 billion of the total.

Newsroom employment was down another three per cent in 2013, the latest year for which data was available, Pew said, after a six per cent drop in 2012.

AFP