The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism released its "State of the News Media 2010" report Monday, and amid the unsurprising facts and figures about the financial and personnel losses at newspapers and the failure of online sources to figure out how to make money off those advertisements, there were some less obvious—and more unsettling—findings.
Alexandra Fenwick at the Columbia Journalism Review pulled out seven especially notable statistics from the report, including the facts that in the past year, the newspaper industry "lost $1.6 billion in annual reporting and editing capacity since 2000, or roughly 30 percent," and that "79 percent of online news customers say they rarely if ever have clicked on an online ad." Perhaps especially troubling for news sites considering the paywall option—including, most recently, ABC News—the report also found that "only about one third of Americans (35 percent) have a news destination they would call a favorite and even among these users, only 19 percent said they would continue to visit if the site put up a paywall."
Therefore, though the traditional news organizations are still doing the lion's share of the actual on-the-ground journalism—the Pew report included the troubling assertion that their "ongoing analysis of more than a million blogs and social media sites finds that 80 percent of the links are to U.S. legacy media"—general news sites have little to separate them from the rest of the herd. But are the news organizations which do stand out faring any better?
This Guardian piece explains how politically progressive magazines have been especially hard hit in the U.K., losing readers and outlets in which to sell their print editions. Here in the U.S., the Pew report found that, "true to industry dogma... conservative opinion publications did better than their liberal counterparts." The conservative National Review increased their circulation by almost 10 percent, while progressive magazines dropped readers, The Nation decreasing circulation by 3 percent, The New Republic by a whopping 18 percent. In cable news, conservative Fox outpaced more middle-of-the-road CNN in terms of profit and revenue, and perhaps most striking, Fox's "prime-time viewership was nearly bigger than both CNN’s and MSNBC’s combined." All this begs the question: is all the focus on how the practice of news gathering and dissemination will evolve overshadowing the question of what kind of news the future will bring?
Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons, user Ranveig.