Simone Fenzi

By the numbers: how the U.S. media industry is developing

Every year the Pew Research Center releases statistics and analysis on the state of U.S. Media. Now, I know what you are thinking: here goes another blog post about numbers and trends which will bore me half to death. However, if you just follow me for a few more minutes I will make sure that no math will harm you.

Let’s start with the category I like the most, public broadcasting. Covering virtually the entire territory of the United States, NPR has been around for 49 years. During the latest decades, it has seen a dip in listener-ship on par with the decline in radio audience. However, this downward trend might be due for a change.

In 2018 it was estimated that 9 Million Americans listen to NPR every week. Now, according to the 2016-2017 American Public Media report, this signals an increase of about 1.2 Million from the previous year; making audio public broadcasting one of the only sectors in the U.S. Media to grow this past year.

Image credits to Pew Research Center (

As this industry keeps growing, it becomes clear why podcasts and online streams are becoming the new cultural trend. It is entirely possible that with these new young listeners, audio communication, like podcasts, will take on entirely new roles in the news market.

Another category that has taken on more and more interest since 2016 is the online and digital media. As President Trump has brought in the public eye the word “fake news”, it seems like trust for online publication has declined.

Digital publications are still struggling to find a sustainable way to bring in revenue. With ads sales remaining too low to support many businesses, native and subscriptions have become more of a norm. While both paper and digital media have seen a decline in revenue during the past year, sales from paper media seem to be holding stronger than their online counterparts.

This, however, may not be the trend for the future. According the recent data, prices for online ads are rising giving more stability to digital media. If this growth keeps in the future, there may be a point where online ads will make it sustainable for media businesses to solely rely on them for profit.

While these numbers might be difficult to understand or the concept of media decline hard to grasp; this is a report that signals change. As someone who has worked in radio for the past three years, I will be the first to admit that it is difficult to adapt to new trends and technology. I would have never thought that our online distribution would outgrow our on-air listeners and yet that is exactly what happened last year.

Media businesses are now finding themselves in the middle of a technological and cultural change. While everyone is rushing to figure out a new way to create and distribute information, it is important to note one thing: the state of the Media might change, technology evolves, but as long as there are stories to tell, there will always be the need for ways to tell them.

One thought on “By the numbers: how the U.S. media industry is developing

  1. I totally agree with you about the podcasts attracting young listeners. I think that this common thought that people have lost their attention spans is totally wrong; it’s just about building that connection with the audience and making them invested in your content. People, like me, love audio content because there’s so much flexibility on how you can take it in. I love podcasts, specifically sports podcasts. I like The Ringer, and the Bill Simmons Podcast which is a sports podcast. It’s a medium that can translate to all demographics, it’s just about how the producer makes it happen.


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