WHITE PLAINS, NY --At the start of 2015, 39 of the top 50 digital news websites have more traffic to their sites and associated applications coming from mobile devices than from desktop computers. However, for half of these 50 sites, desktop visitors stay longer than mobile.
Even as mobile and social habits evolve, legacy platforms have not been abandoned. Some, though, are faring better than others, according to the State of the News Media 2015 report, which tracks the diversifying newsgathering industry over time and across a variety of indicators. This year’s report includes 13 data-filled fact sheets, each of which paints the portrait of one segment of the industry, an overview that weaves together trends across the industry and an updated Media & News Indicators database.
Among the key findings on how the news industry fared in the past year:
· The newspaper industry continues to be hard hit. Newspaper ad revenue declined another 4% year over year to $19.9 billion – less than half of what it was a decade ago. The slight 1% growth in circulation revenue among publicly traded newspaper companies with publicly released data suggests gains there are far from making up for losses in advertising. And after an unusual year of small gains in 2013, newspapers saw both daily and Sunday circulation fall another 3% in 2014, declines that were felt across papers of all sizes. Newspaper weekday circulation has now fallen 19% since 2004.
· Local TV continues to capture viewers, grows ad revenue. Local TV saw slight viewership increases for evening (3%) and morning (2%) newscasts in 2014 and larger ones in early morning and mid-day. And it grew its on-air ad revenue to $19.7 billion in 2014, according to BIA/Kelsey—up 7% from 2013 and 2% compared with 2010, (the next most recent non-presidential election year). News-producing stations, about two-thirds of all local TV stations, account for a disproportionate amount of this revenue. Retransmissions fees, also on the rise, added another roughly $5 billion for the year, SNL Kagan estimates.
· Cable news had another rough year. Prime time median viewership was down 8% across the three channels. Fox News fared the best but still saw a 1% decline year over year. MSNBC fared the worst with total revenue down 1% for the year, due mainly to a 5% decline in ad revenue, according to projections from SNL Kagan. CNN’s revenue was projected to rise 3% while Fox News revenue was projected to rise 6%, and was the only one of the three channels to report profit growth (10%).
· Network television news saw a second straight year of audience growth. Overall, network news grew 5% in evening and 2% in morning, for a combined average evening viewership of roughly 24 million. At the network level, ABC and CBS produced revenue growth while NBC’s revenue declined. ABC Evening News revenues, based on data from Kantar Media, have now nearly caught up to NBC’s.
· For all of these legacy news sectors, significant digital revenues remain largely on the wish list. None get more than a small share of their total revenue from digital, even though digital ad revenue across all media grew 18% in 2014 to $50.7 billion, according to eMarketer. Mobile ad spending alone increased 78%, though that is a slow-down from the two years prior. Mobile ad spending now accounts for 37% of all digital ad spending, up from 25% in 2013. While new relationships have been struck between news organizations and tech companies like Facebook, the tech companies still control more of the arrangement and reap most of the financial benefit. Facebook now pulls in roughly a quarter, 24%, of all display ad revenue and more than a third, 37% of mobile display.
· Several digital news start-ups had a bumpy year while others made journalistic strides. First Look Media, which launched in January 2014 with an infusion of $50 million from eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, closed one of its signature news products, The Racket, before publishing a single story after editor-in-chief Matt Taibbi walked out in October 2014 citing conflicts with management. Tech news outlet Giagom closed with no warning even to staff, announcing it could not pay its creditors. On the other hand, Vice News, launched in March 2014, cites 1.1 million subscribers and 175 million video views as of early 2015 and in March aired an interview with President Obama. And Vox.com, the news site of Vox Media launched in April 2014, met its revenue goals and surpassed its traffic goals in the first six months, according to co-founder Melissa Bell. According to Pew Research Center’s analysis of comScore data from January 2015, Vice.com ranks 31st in the list of top 50 news sites with 15.6 million unique visitors to its site and associated apps and Vox.com ranks 35th with almost 14 million visits.
· Podcast listening is on the rise, which could breathe new life into audio journalism. NPR’s podcast downloads alone grew 41% year over year, according to the company’s internal data. The percentage listening to online radio via mobile devices continues to rise, while the percentage listening on a desktop is falling. That means online radio listening can occur nearly anywhere—including inside cars, a traditional stronghold for AM/FM radio. As of January 2015, 35% of cellphone owning adults have listened to online radio in the car, up from 21% in 2013 and nearly six times that of 2010 (6%).
· Hispanic-oriented news media meanwhile are struggling to reach a complex audience. Print circulation declined at the three longstanding Hispanic daily papers, and Univision, the leading Hispanic-oriented television network, saw audience declines for its signature national news programs after record highs in 2013. At the same time, a handful of digital, English-language Hispanic outlets such as Latin Post are trying to find a place in the market.
· African American-oriented news media maintains a presence in print, broadcast and now the Web. Weekly newspapers aimed at this population are still the most prevalent, but most of those with data that the Pew Research Center can track lost audience in 2014. In broadcast, a few new African American-oriented television news programs emerged in 2014 and at least one new syndicated radio program emerged. Online, NBC launched a new vertical in early 2015 aimed at its African-American audience. In U.S. newsrooms more broadly, the portion of full-time daily newspaper jobs filled by African Americans has remained relatively steady while the portion inside television newsrooms has increased slightly. And seven full power TV stations came under black ownership in 2014 – up from zero in 2013.