In its ninth annual study, Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has released the 2012 State of the News Media report, and while the future of print newspapers is unsurprisingly bleak, the future for mobile is bright. With 1 in 4 Americans getting news from mobile devices in addition to desktops, this is an audience of news consumers that the media needs to pay close attention to.
The 2012 study also found that news consumers who access news content via mobile devices are less likely to rely on a search to find news content that interests them than they are likely to go directly to a news site or access news content via a mobile app. Furthermore, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter grew by huge amounts in 2011, but those sites played a limited role in daily news consumption, according to the 2012 State of the News Media report. Pew Research found that, “only about a third as many news consumers follow stories via Facebook as do so by going directly to news websites or apps or by using search. For Twitter, the proportion drops to less than a sixth as many.”
Interestingly, the study found that Facebook users are more likely to follow news links provided by friends and family while Twitter users follow links from a wide variety of sources and connections. This is useful information for news organizations. Social media represents a significant opportunity for news organizations to connect with and engage with news consumers. Those consumers are on sites like Facebook and Twitter, but news organizations haven’t found the right way to connect with them on those sites yet.
Given that Pew Research predicts as many as 100 newspapers will move to a digital subscription model in the coming months in order to survive financially (as 150 dailies already have), we can expect to see some big changes coming for online news in 2012. Pew Research also predicts the proliferation of local news sites will contract even more in 2012 as AOL’s Patch.com has already demonstrated.
Finally, Pew Research reports that one of the biggest things to watch is the intrusion of technology giants into the news media world. With sites like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple attempting to handle everything in consumers’ digital lives, the news is a likely target. Already, deals have been struck between major technology brands and news brands — YouTube and Reuters, Yahoo! and ABC News, and Facebook with The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, and others. Who will own the news in the future? That’s a big unanswered question right now.
All hope is not lost for the news industry. As Pew Research explains, “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.”
Image: Kay Pat