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?
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.