A comprehensive report from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism found more Americans learned about the news from online surfing than from newspapers in 2010. The State of the News Media annual report added, “The internet now trails only television among American adults as a destination for news, and the trend line shows the gap closing.”
In December 2010 the report found 46 percent of people surveyed said they get news online at least three times a week, eclipsing newspapers (40 percent) for the first time. Cable and local news, magazines and newspapers saw a sharp decline in their audience numbers, while radio’s stats remained stable.
Countering this troubling trend is some sunny economic news. Ad spending bounced back for every sector but newspapers. The report said “online advertising overall grew 13.9% to $25.8 billion in 2010, according to data from eMarketer.” It went on to say, “When the final tally is in, online ad revenue in 2010 is projected to surpass print newspaper ad revenue for the first time. The problem for news is that by far the largest share of that online ad revenue goes to non-news sources, particularly to aggregators.”
Other key findings include figures on news investments. The report estimates job losses in the U.S. newspaper industry of about 1,100 to 1,500 people, or 3 to 4 percent of the workforce. “By recent standards, that is an improvement, although it leaves the largest newsrooms in the most American cities bruised and necessarily less ambitious than they were a decade ago,” the report writes.
The report applauded how, in 2010, some important new media institutions began to develop original newsgathering in a trailblazing way. Yahoo added several dozen reporters across news, sports and finance and AOL hired 900 journalists, 500 of them at its local Patch news operation, although it had to let go 200 people from the content team after the merger with the Huffington Post.
The State of the Media report also touched on paying for news. Around three dozen newspapers erected some kind of pay wall and only 1 percent of those outlets’ readers opted to pay for articles. A Pew survey suggests that “under certain circumstances the prospects for charging for content could improve. If their local newspaper would otherwise perish, 23% of Americans said they would pay $5 a month for an online version.” Also, the report believes certain niche news site featuring financial news – such as Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal – are successful at charging for news but the model wouldn’t be replicable for general news sites.
By Chris Hogg
For those interested in the gap between what reporters cover and what readers consume, this video from MIT/NiemanLabs may be of interest.
Pablo Boczkowski is a Northwestern professor who studies news production and how it is changing in a digital environment. In the video embedded below, Boczkowski makes a presentation on the kind of journalism news organizations produce and how it compares to what people actually consume. Boczkowski gathers data from a wide variety of sources that span different geographies and time periods.
After his presentation, Joshua Benton from Nieman Journalism Lab weighs in with a few interesting points to encourage discussion and debate on the subject.
You can read a transcript here, and for those who want to skip ahead: Boczkowski’s talk starts at 7:50; Benton’s response starts at 37:10; and a Q&A session starts at 57:45.
By Chris Hogg
Japan has been hit by the most powerful earthquake since it started keeping records, and a massive tsunami warning has been issued across the Pacific. Videos show widespread flooding, including ships, cars and buildings being washed away.
According to a report in the LA Times, seismologist Susan Hough of the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena said the quake “is going to be among the top 10 earthquakes recorded since we have had seismographs. It’s bigger than any known historic earthquake in Japan, and bigger than expectations for that area.”
The BBC reports a state of emergency has been declared in a nuclear power plant in Japan, but no radiation leaks have been reported. According to reports, hundreds of people are dead after the 8.9-magnitude quake hit about 400 km (250 miles) north-east of Tokyo at 2:46 p.m. local time.
Video captured by local media and citizen journalists is now making its way online, showing massive damage. While places like Hawaii brace for impact, the damage within Japan is widespread.
Here are some videos showing the devastation in Japan:
Map of areas affected in and around Japan (courtesy Storyful):
View Japan Earthquake – March 11 in a larger map
New York Times Co. has experimented with a Recommendations widget but now the feature has gone live on NYTimes.com. According to a press release, Recommendations “creates a customized list of recommended reading, pointing users to additional Times content of interest based on what the user has recently read on NYTimes.com.”
Registered members can access a Recommendations dashboard providing a summary of their NYTimes.com reading history, including the number of articles read in the past month, and lists of most-read sections and topics. The releases states, “The user must be logged in to view his Recommendations dashboard, and it is visible only to that user.”
But non-members can still see Recommendations within articles, but the offerings are limited. When I accessed an article today, the Recommendations box suggested articles on the iPad 2, text messages and Libya. The back end of the Times’ system supposedly culls suggestions based on recent article viewing.
“With a Web site as broad and deep as NYTimes.com, we are always looking for new ways to help our readers find news of interest beyond the sections they read most,” said Denise Warren, senior vice president and chief advertising officer, The New York Times Media Group and general manager, NYTimes.com. “NYTimes Recommendations offers a personalized view of The Times, and it gives our readers another reason to spend more time with our world-class journalism.”
Bringing Recommendations to articles signals a shift in how New York Times Co. is curating the news. Editors may have control over what goes above the fold, but digital initiatives like Recommendations suggest the Times wants to give more user control to its readers.
Do you think this strategy will work to bring the Times more traffic?
If only Steve Katz had some magic elixir to offer other news outlets looking to boost their online traffic…well, he’d share it with this reporter. But the publisher of Mother Jones, a non-profit news outlet based in San Francisco, can’t pinpoint exactly why February 2011 traffic to MotherJones.com surged 420 percent from February 2010′s number.
“Our reporters kicked out stories people were interested in,” he says in an phone interview. “They hit the zeitgeist when it was hot.”
In February, the site raked in 3 million unique visitors. Pageviews increased by 275 percent – to more than 6.6 million - compared to a year ago. Mother Jones had never seen this kind of traffic before.
“But the real challenge is to keep the traffic up past February,” he says, “and we have our fingers crossed.” The company publishes a monthly magazine and also provides daily content on its website.
So what did Mother Jones do right? Known for their sharp political reporting, they expanded their Washington coverage and also covered the Wisconsin protests, with the latter articles attracting significant attention.
The news outlet also credits its “explainer” articles that offer comprehensive info on current affairs, such as the Libya uprising and the Wisconsin issue. They act almost as topics pages. Nieman Labs sees value in this content: “…it’s news material catered to readers’ immediate need for context and understanding when it comes to complex, and time-sensitive, situations. The pages’ currency, in other words, is currency itself.”
Katz says February’s traffic spike should also be credited to their embrace of social media. One of the first alt-news companies to go online in the late 1990s, Mother Jones now asks all its writers to use Twitter and Facebook to engage with their readers. The strategy seemed to have culminated with glowing stats last month: membership to its Twitter feed increased by 28 percent and Facebook “fans” increased by 20 percent. The overall result? Around 29 percent of MotherJones.com’s traffic came from social media sites, nearly three times the amount attracted in the same period in 2010.
“Twitter and Facebook communities turned out to be interested communities in their own right,” Katz notes.
Social media integration is all well and good, but if they don’t point to compelling articles, what’s the point? Luckily for Mother Jones, readers were driven to stories they cared about, as evidenced by the 630 comments in Kevin Drum’s article on “What Wisconsin is Really About.”
You might recall Mother Jones won the “Colbert bump” due to their income inequity charts being featured on the Comedy Central show The Colbert Report; but that occurred on Mar. 1, after the February traffic numbers were collected.
Katz says February wasn’t the only highlight of the traffic success story. In fact, 2010 was a record year for Mother Jones: monthly page views and unique visitors to MotherJones.com in 2010 increased by more than 50 percent over the previous year, a press release states.
“We still have so much to learn,” Katz says, before offering some advice to news sites in a similar position. “It’s smart to invest in digital early, and to really invest in social media to see where it’ll take you.” Katz also commended their decision to give full-time reporting decisions to writers providing content instantly for the website and later for the print publication.
“Our staff are comfortable working in a digital environment,” he adds.
Katz doesn’t see a big traffic drop coming soon; in fact, he envisions steady growth, thanks to early GOP meetings to determine the front-runner in the 2012 primaries.
The area Mother Jones is most cautiously circling is mobile, Katz reveals. They optimized their website for smartphones but they have yet to launch a dedicated iPhone or iPad app. “We’re not sure if there will be financial gain for us [to invest in mobile] so there has to be another reason for us to move in that direction.”
For an overview of Mother Jones’ February traffic figures, go to this press release.