State of the Media, By the Numbers

Seven notable stats from the Pew State of the Media report

The annual State of the Media report by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism was released this morning. The report looks back on how every part of the media fared in 2009, including newspapers, magazines, network news, cable television, and online sites.

It’s not the most uplifting bit of news about the news—but in a year that saw the most massive financial crisis since the Great Depression (on top of that whole broken business-model stuff), you already knew that.

Here are some of the report’s more eye-popping numbers:

1) To put all those tiny little papercuts into perspective; each round of newspaper layoffs, here and there, equals one big gushing head wound:

We estimate that the newspaper industry has lost $1.6 billion in annual reporting and editing capacity since 2000, or roughly 30 percent, which leaves an extra $4.4 billion remaining. Even if the economy improves, we predict more cuts in 2010.

2) Today’s brave new media ventures are rowboats struggling against the rushing tide of lost journalistic capital. The following statistic only underscores how important it is to critically examine the short- and long-term prospects of many new media ventures funded by foundations and individual donors. How long will their charity be sustainable?

$141 million of nonprofit money has flowed into new media efforts over the last four years (not including public broadcasting). That is less than one-tenth of the losses in newspaper resources alone.

3) Online advertising still doesn’t work, which advertisers have finally figured out:

A new survey on online economics, released in this report for the first time, finds that 79 percent of online news customers say they rarely if ever have clicked on an online ad.

Advertising during the year declined for the first time since 2002, according to data from eMarketer. Updated August projections put the declines at 4.6 percent, to $22.4 billion in total revenues.

4) Paywalls don’t work either.

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.

5) The idea that the news media is shrinking is wrong. There’s an increase in commentary, analysis, and discussion—but all that commentary relies on a iron core of reportorial journalism that is on the endangered species list:

Our 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.

6) All of this argument instead of information is hurting people’s heads:

71 percent of Americans feel now that most news sources are biased in their coverage and 70 percent feel overwhelmed rather than informed by the amount of news and information they see.

7) Still, they’d rather tune in to opinion than news. And that helped Fox News Channel eat the other cable networks for breakfast:

At night, when cable is dominated by ideological talk shows, Fox grew by nearly a quarter to an average of 2.13 million viewers at any given moment. MSNBC rose 3 percent to 786,000, while CNN fell 15 percent to 891,000 viewers….

In daytime, CNN was up 9 percent over 2008 to an average of 621,000 viewers. But Fox daytime viewership grew again by almost a quarter, to roughly twice CNN’s audience (1.2 million viewers). MSNBC, relying on NBC news people more than talk show hosts, fell 8 percent to 325,000 viewers.

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Alexandra Fenwick is an assistant editor at CJR.