According to the latest 2012 State of the News Media report from Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2011 truly marked the tipping point for a new era of digital media consumption and sharing.
In the new "new media" landscape, Pew's landmark annual consumer research underscores the widening gap between the news and technology industries as a small, powerful group of digital behemoths increasingly consolidate and control our digital lives and become media titans in their own right.
“Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and a few others are maneuvering to make the hardware people use, the operating systems that run those devices, the browsers on which people navigate, the e-mail services on which they communicate, the social networks on which they share and the web platforms on which they shop and play,” says the study.
What's at stake: the extent to which these intermediaries will shape the future of news as mobile technology spurs growth in news consumption, outpacing social media as the primary source. Last year, report co-authors Amy Mitchell and Tom Rosenstiel wrote, “The news industry, late to adapt and culturally more tied to content creation than engineering, finds itself more a follower than leader shaping its business.”
In 2012, that phenomenon has grown. While Facebook and Twitter remain important sources for news, mobile is “strengthening the appeal of traditional news brands and even boosting reading of long-form journalism.” New devices are not replacing social media, but rather augmenting the amount of media consumption, as mobile users access news more often and read for longer periods.
Among the key findings, about one-third of those surveyed (34%) who indicated they're desktop/laptop news consumers also reporting getting news on a smartphone, and about one-quarter, 27%, of smartphone news consumers also get news on a tablet.
“These digital news omnivores are also a large percentage of the smart phone/tablet population. And most of those individuals (78%) still get news on the desktop or laptop as well,” says the study.
While use of social media for news is similar across devices, the breakdown by demographics between Facebook and Twitter is notable. Facebook users largely mirror the general population but with higher incidence than Twitter users of children in the house (37% versus 29% for Twitter and 31% of all adults).
Twitter news followers skew male, 57% versus 44% for Facebook users and 48% of the population over all. They are younger, 39% are 18 to 29 years old, which is nearly double the population over all (22%), but about the same as Facebook users (37%), highly educated, more than a third (37%) have at least a college degree, and are less white than the population over all and less white than Facebook news users.
While 2011 saw news organizations increasing efforts to monetize web content, “among the top news websites, there is little use of the digital advertising that is expected to grow most rapidly, so-called “smart,” or targeted, advertising. So far, news organizations are mainly using the popular networking platform, Twitter, to push out their own content rather than to engage with audiences, solicit information or share information they themselves did not produce,” reports the study.
The report’s conclusion: “In sum, the news industry is not much closer to a new revenue model than a year earlier and has lost more ground to rivals in the technology industry. But growing evidence also suggests that news is becoming a more important and pervasive part of people’s lives. That, in the end, could prove a saving factor for the future of journalism.”