36% Watch News Videos Online, And Lots Of Us Actually Supply Them, Too, Says Pew

The bottom line number, according to a new report from the Pew Research Journalism Project, is that now 36% of all adults watch news videos online.

But the impact of such figures means nearly half (48%) of adults 18-to-29 watch online news videos, and 49% of those 30-to-49 do. That trend line seems clear.

This new report, released today at part of the “State of the News Media 2014” gives props to online video news gains, but wonders where the revenue is. Along the edges, its section on online video news also makes a startling observation about what users are doing at those sites.

According to Pew, 12% of social media users have posted their own videos of news-making events on social sites. But even more mind-blowing is that 11% of online news consumers have submitted their videos, photos, articles or opinion pieces to news sites themselves.

That’s an extraordinary stat, an indication that the citizen-journalist is evolving into a valuable and real force.  

Reworking the stat to figure in those who are not online news consumers or social media users, that still means 7% of all U.S. adults have submitted content to news sites. Pew doesn’t say how much of it has been used—this must have been a banner winter for snow news videos--but the volunteer effort seems to be begging for some branding and packaging. (Certainly, the Boston Patriots' Day bombing, and the many videos of it, shows how ubiquitous citizen news video has become.) 

Ah, but the money. The Pew study wonders where the money, and the will, is for online video news because the lion’s share of advertising on online video still goes to YouTube and entertainment-related sites. The report’s authors say “a closer look suggests that digital news video does not necessarily have a clear or simple path to becoming a major form of news in the future. Producing high-quality video — or even streaming it live — can be costly, and the payoff is not clear.”

Legacy media also still has legacy advertisers, but they are not tripping over themselves to buy pre-roll.

U.S. users are accustomed to turning to online for news content, if not always video. In 2013, Pew says, 82% get some of their news on a desktop or laptop—35% said “frequently”-- and 54% said they get news off a mobile device, 21% of them “frequently.”  Obviously, an audience exists.

Legacy TV news organizations are upping their online video efforts, on their own sites and on YouTube sites, but not in a way that suggests a sea change. Pew did a spot check of 32 local TV news Web sites and found that almost all carry some kind of online video, but the amount varies wildly.

That doesn’t seem like a very large sample size, and maybe not the right place to be looking. It would seem that the places to watch for online video action are newspapers, which on one hand, have no history of doing online video and on the other, may recognize their print bread-and-butter is disappearing. Video is where they want to be.

According to the Newspaper Association of America, total daily newspaper circulation actually improved by 3% in 2013 (and up 1.6% on Sunday), in part because of new reporting rules that include paying visitors to digital platforms. Significantly, the NAA says, the 15 biggest papers now have just 54.9% of their circulation in print.

Adding video, as some newspaper sites have done, makes sense. Still, if you’ve seen a lot of newspaper video efforts, man, it can be painful.

Speaking of pain, the Pew report’s overview notes: “In digital news, the overlap between public relations and news noted in last year’s State of the News Media report became even more pronounced. One of the greatest areas of revenue experimentation now involves Web site content that is paid for by commercial advertisers – but often written by journalists on staff — and placed on a news publishers’ page in a way that sometimes makes it indistinguishable from a news story.”

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