State of the News Media: Who’s Thriving and Who’s Simply Surviving?

Pew Research Center’s Annual State of the News Media shows the trend of major media veterans moving to native digital outlets

Pew Research Center’s Annual State of the News Media shows the trend of big names in media moving from legacy to native digital organizations

It fascinates me that the news industry is never still. It’s constantly changing, shifting, and adapting to the nuances of its audience.  Print, broadcast, online, and social media outlets all are vying for the same eyeballs.  One day you’re in; the next day you’re out.

When the Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project released its Annual State of the News Media report in March, I was eager to see which groups were thriving and which were simply surviving.  The report covers multiple aspects of the industry and for the first time in a long time, despite increasing digital and social competition, things are looking up for mainstream media.

That’s music to the ears of this former television reporter, who never would have guessed something called a “tweet” could impact the media landscape in the profound way it has in recent years.

The good news is that Pew reports social and digital media now are helping — and not hurting — mainstream news outlets.  Half of Facebook users get their news on Facebook and half of the people who view video online, are watching news videos, according to the report.

Native digital news – paid content written by experienced journalists – has presented new opportunities in media.  These sites not only are hiring in big numbers, but attracting big names.  Former NY Times executive editor Bill Keller who recently announced a move to head up non-profit criminal justice site, The Marshall Project,  is the latest on an impressive list of veteran journalists making the switch.

The Pew report notes that native digital news is picking up where scaled back traditional outlets left off, providing various forms of news content — local, international, and even investigative.

Local television executives are seeing a brighter picture as well.  The number of people who tuned in in 2013 increased for the first time in five years, led by early morning newscasts (5 a.m.-7 a.m.) with a 6.3 percent increase.  The same applies to network programming, where the morning shows saw the greatest increase in average viewership at 6.7 percent.  Nightly news viewers went up 2.3 percent.

Pew Research Center's findings on the state of network and local news

Pew Research Center’s findings on network and local news viewership

Cable news, on the other hand, experienced a decline in its viewers.  The report said, “The combined median prime-time viewership of the three major news channels—CNN, Fox News and MSNBC—dropped 11 percent to about 3 million, the smallest it has been since 2007.”  MSNBC lost the most viewers – 24 percent of its prime time audience.

Of all mainstream media, I think daily newspapers suffered the most during the past several years. As recently as a few weeks ago, 167 layoffs (25 percent in news) were announced at New Jersey’s largest newspaper, The Star Ledger.  The layoffs are part of the newly formed, NJ Advance Media, which combines the Ledger,, and other daily papers owned by Advance.

The impact of this latest move is yet to be seen, but newspaper circulation nationwide already is struggling. According to the Newspaper Association of America and cited in the Pew report, print accounts for a little more than 70 percent of daily circulation and not quite 75 percent of Sunday circulation.

Clearly, the media’s landscape is ever-changing and evolving. How, what, and when news is consumed can change from year to year. These are just some of the key points from this year’s Pew report, which contained a wealth of valuable information about the direction of the news media industry. Check out the entire State of the Media Report annual report here.

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Brett Savage-Simon is PR Newswire’s former director of audience relations and was a television reporter in her former life.

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