Katie Kalass

The State of Our News: Where Are We Headed?

The Pew Research Center’s annual report on data and trends about key sectors in the U.S. news media industry through the State of the News Media, and after diving into loads of data, I can confidently say I look forward to the future of the news industry.

I was very surprised by the shifts in modern ways Americans seek out information, although many components to industry trends have stayed consistent. The information was grouped into eight fact sheets, and through careful analyzing I was unaware of some of the trends and findings.

First, cable TV offered quantitative data of their average audiences, and reported that their evening news viewing decreased substantially since 2016. With this at mind, I was very surprised at the fact that revenue in this sector of news has increased for many channels since 2016. In addition, employment for cable TV newsrooms has fluctuated immensely since 2004, which came as a shock considering the increase in freelance writers, social media and access to information outside of the news.

I predicted a decrease in newsroom employment, and feel very optimistic about the future of news when employment and revenue are increasing over time. Will this employment shift to digital platforms, or will TV news maintain consistent audiences?

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In terms of advertising, many networks did not see an increase in advertising expenditures for morning news programs. Although these numbers stayed the same, average audiences for ABC’s 20/20, CBS’s 60 Minutes and NBC’s Dateline declined, which was very surprising. Last semester, I took a course for feature writing, and believed there was a higher demand for long length feature story telling. These stories are now accessible online, which may attribute to the decrease in viewers from TV.

Another surprise in the report was the percent of American who listen to radio, and the fact that numbers remain high and steady. I believed these traditional radio channels would have decreased over time, but they are still very successful. Online radio listenership in cars has increased substantially, and NPR podcast users have as well. If there were one thing I could have predicted prior to analyzing the report, it would be the increase in NPR podcasts – which I see are making their way to the forefront of news.

Local TV reported an increase in digital advertising, which made sense in terms of the way audiences are searching for information. One major increase in this sector of the report was the retransmission fee revenue for TV stations, which is projected to hit $12.8 billion by 2023, according to the report. The most interesting part was the graph on political advertising, which skyrockets every election year. I predicted some minor to no fluctuation, but the numbers are so specific to election years – which affects station revenue immensely.

As a journalist, I always wanted to pursue a career outside of broadcasting, aspiring to write for a newspaper someday. I was pleasantly surprised to see that unique visitors of newspaper websites have increased over time. However, circulation of newspapers decreases immensely as does estimated advertising and circulation revenue for the newspaper industry.

Unfortunately, with these numbers in mind, employment has decreased alongside median wages for journalists in the newspaper industry. After analyzing the report, I look forward to next year to see if these numbers change for online publications as newspapers transition to new methods of distribution. Until then, these numbers will indicate where the industry, and journalism, are heading.

3 thoughts on “The State of Our News: Where Are We Headed?

  1. Katie, I appreciate your intricate findings from the Pew Research. You drew a variety of conclusions that I had not considered, particularly in terms of how election years impact viewership. You mention how, after reading the facts, you are concerned about what your future might hold as a journalist. Do you think you will pursue a similar, yet outside, field to journalism (such as PR or advertising)? I agree that the message that these facts convey is one that is grim for future reporters. I think, however, that there is something to be said for how the industry is trying to adapt to the new media landscape. As someone with a similar passion for long-form feature writing, I too am hoping for a newspaper comeback… maybe it is time we learn to make podcasts.

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  2. I really appreciate your analysis of the Pew Research, Katie. Although traditional print media may be declined, the opportunities to work for these companies in an online format seem to be prevalent. The luster of seeing your byline in print is much more than that of seeing it on a webpage, but the opportunities that digital news will provide in the coming years should provide a long and successful career for you and others who share the passion that you have.

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  3. Katie, I enjoyed reading your analysis on the Pew Research. I think that the media is moving in a promising direction, especially with the increase of radio and online news. With an ever-changing landscape, the need to move to online platforms is increasing. I find the facts about radio the most interesting. I remember hearing about podcasts for the first time when I was in high school and thinking they were old and outdated. Now, they are bringing in viewers and income.

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