Media Recovering; Here's 2010 Wrap

According to the Pew Research Center study, The State of the News Media 2011, the state of the American news media improved in 2010. Most sectors of the industry saw revenue begin to recover, and new revenue models began to show signs of blossoming.

Among the major sectors, only newspapers suffered continued revenue declines last year. The report estimates that 1,000 to 1,500 more newsroom jobs will have been lost, making newsrooms 30% smaller than in 2000.

The study suggests that the biggest issue ahead may not be lack of audience or even lack of new revenue experiments, but that in the digital realm the news industry is no longer in control of its own future. As news consumption becomes more mobile, news companies must follow the rules of device makers and software developers to deliver their content. And the new players take a share of the revenue and, in many cases, control the audience data.

Key findings from the Pew study are summarized by categories:

The Audience:

People are spending more time with news than ever before, but when it comes to the platform of choice, the web is gaining ground rapidly while other sectors are losing. In 2010, digital was the only media sector seeing audience growth. And cable news joined the ranks of older media suffering audience decline.

Audiences Turn to Web


% Change in Audience 2009-2010



Local TV

- 1.5

Network TV

- 3.4


- 5.0


- 6.0


- 8.9

Cable TV

- 13.7

Source: Nielsen Media Research, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, Audit Bureau of Circulations, April 2011


In December 2010, 41% of Americans cited the internet as the place where they got "most of their news about national and international issues," up 17% from a year earlier. When it came to any kind of news, 46% of people now say they get news online at least three times a week, surpassing newspapers for the first time.

Only local TV news is a more popular platform in America now. A new survey finds that 47% of Americans now say they get some kind of local news on mobile devices such as cellphones or other wireless devices. As of January 2011, just 7% of Americans owned electronic tablets, according to the new survey, nearly double from four months prior. And, 6% of American adults have e-readers.

Cable News:

The audience for cable news in the last year declined substantially. In aggregate, the median viewership fell 13.7% across the entire day in 2010. Prime-time median viewership fell to 16% to an average of 3.2 million, according to Pew's analysis of Nielsen Market Research data. Daytime fell 12%. And, for the first time in a dozen years, every channel was losing. CNN viewership fell 37%, Fox fell 11%, and MSNBC declined 5%.

Network News:

Audiences for almost every network news program fell again in 2010. Evening news audiences fell 3.4%, from 2009 and have been on a downward trend for three decades. Network evening news is, however, still an extraordinarily powerful source of information in America. Some 21.6 million people on average watched one of the three programs each night, roughly four times the combined number watching each cable news channel's highest-rated program. In the morning, an average of 12.4 million people tuned in each day over the year, 3% fewer than in 2009.


In 2010. Weekday print circulation fell 5% and Sunday fell 4.5% year-to-year for the six-month period ending September 30. One survey, by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, finds the total audience that reads newspapers, in print and online, at least three times a week dropped by six percentage points over the last two years. By this count, 40% of Americans report reading a newspaper in any form, down from 46% in 2008 and 52% in 2006. The number of those who reported reading "yesterday" print and online now sits at 37%, down two percentage points from 2008.


Circulation for the six news magazines in the report fell 8.9%. By far the largest portion of that, subscriptions, fell 8.6%, but that number is controlled, based on how much magazines want to spend to "buy" readers. Newsstand sales, which is a smaller component, dropped 17.7%. Circulation for the magazine industry as a whole dropped 1.5%.


The audience for AM/FM radio has remained among the most stable. 93% of Americans listened to AM/FM radio at some point during the week in 2010, according to data from Arbitron, and this has dropped only three percentage points in the last decade. According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 16% of Americans say they get most of their national and international news from radio, down 6% from 2009. And 34% of Americans said they got some news on the radio "yesterday," down from 43% in 2000. NPR's audience grew 3% in 2010, according to NPR internal data, to 27.2 million a week, up 58% since 2000.

The biggest change in radio listening may be in cars, and we are on the brink of internet radio being widely available there for the first time, says the report. More than quarter of Americans said they were "very interested" in online radio in the car in 2010, up 17 percentage points from 2009.

Local TV News:

The one traditional media platform that possibly could claim some good news on audience was local TV. Stations of all types added audience at the new early timeslot of 4:30 a.m.. Stations in 69 cities had news that early, up from 28 a year earlier. And 7 p.m. audiences, where some stations are adding news, are also growing. Finally, there is some evidence that viewership gains at independent stations offering news may now compensate for the loss of audience at network affiliates.


Every sector of the news media studied saw revenues grow above the levels of 2009 except for one: Newspaper revenues fell again, a sign that its structural problems of the print newspaper are more severe than any other media sector.

Advertising Revenues Bounce Back (for Most)


% Change From Previous Year

Local TV




Cable TV


Network TV







- 6.4

Source: Pew Research Center, April 2011

To access the summary and complete study, please visit Pew here.

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