Commentary

Mobile News Soars, Pew Finds

As in so many other types of media, mobile came from nowhere less than 10 years ago to dominate news consumption, besting desktops and increasingly displacing traditional media like newspapers. That’s according to the new “State of the News Media” report from Pew Research Center, which warns, however, that “For…  legacy news sectors, significant digital revenues remain largely on the wish list.”

Pew found that mobile devices now contribute a larger proportion of digital traffic than desktop computers for 39 out of the 50 biggest digital news sites. It’s worth noting, though, that visitors using desktops still spend more time on news sites than mobile visitors, on average. For example, according to Pew, desktop readers on Yahoo spent 3.9 minutes per visit on the site in January 2015, compared to 2.3 minutes for mobile visitors, while desktop visitors to NBC News Digital spent 5.1 minutes, compared to 2.6 minutes for mobile visitors.

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One surprise winner in media formats is the humble podcast. In January of this year, 17% of American adults said they’d listened to a podcast in the last month, almost double the proportion of 9% in 2008. No doubt this had a lot to do with the success of the “This American Life” spinoff “Serial.”

Not at all surprisingly, the newspaper industry continues to decline, as print ad revenues tumble, and digital ads fail to fill the hole. According to Pew, in 2014 total U.S. newspaper ad revenues sank 4% from the year before, to $19.9 billion, with the majority still coming from print, at $16.4 billion in 2014 (down from $17.3 billion in 2013). So digital ad revenues came to $3.5 billion, basically unchanged from the prior year.

The decline in newspaper print ad revenues comes alongside a 3% decline in newspaper circulation from 2013-2014, according to data from the Alliance for Audited Media cited by Pew. Still, it should be noted that 56% of newspaper readers prefer to consume news content exclusively in print.

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