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State of the News Media 2008

Posted By Bill Baer On March 17, 2008 @ 9:24 pm In Media | 1 Comment

This is an extremely intriguing collection of data regarding the “traditional” media and the “new” media (bloggers, Wikipedia).

Citizen Media

Despite the proliferation of blogs, survey data suggest most Americans have yet to accept them as significant news sources. According to a winter 2007 Zogby Poll, blogs were the lowest on the list of “important” sources of news, coming in at 30%, well after Web sites (81%), television (78%), radio (73%), newspapers (69%) and magazines (38%). More Americans, 39%, chose friends and neighbors over blogs as an important informational source.

Other research found that Americans appeared to be more interested in blogs for their entertainment value than their importance as a news source. According to August 2007 data published by the marketing research firm Synovate, 49% of all Americans read blogs because they find them entertaining, 26% because of a particular hobby or interest and 15% for news and information.

That appears to jibe with citizen bloggers’ own interests. The Pew Internet & American Life Project found in 2006 that most bloggers wrote about issues other than news. Nearly four in ten (37%) said they blogged mainly about their “life and experiences,” with issues of public life (11%) cited as the second most popular topic area. Just 5% said they concentrated primarily on news and current events.

If citizens are gravitating to blogs more for personal pleasure, traditional media are working to connect them more to the news. Fully 95% of the top 100 newspapers included blogs from reporters in March 2007, up from 80% in 2006, according to research conducted by the Bivings Group.

[…]

July 2007 data from Synovate suggest that nearly half of all Americans report ever having read a blog, but the numbers are growing rapidly. That is notably higher than the 39% the Pew Internet and American Life Project reported in the winter of 2006. And that number was up from the 27% Pew Internet found a year earlier.

And that universe appears to be much larger among the young. According to Synovate’s data, 78% of adults 18 to 24 years old have read blogs. These younger adults also were more likely to notice ads on blogs, 61% compared to 43% over all.

Only a small core of all adults, however, are regular blog readers, according to Synovate’s research. Just 15% read a blog daily and only 5% more than once a day. In comparison, three in ten (28%) were monthly visitors. And the largest group of blog readers (39%) visited them less than once a month, according to the research.

Journalist Survey

Journalists have become markedly more pessimistic about the future of their profession.

But their concerns are taking a distinctly new turn. Rather than worrying as much about quality, they are now focused on economic survival. And in that new focus, we see signs of new openness to change.

Journalists are ready — even eager — to embrace new technologies. They think a range of new digital activities, from blogs to citizen media, are good for journalism. They even think, by 2 to 1, that splitting their time across multiple platforms is a positive change rather than a problem that is taking time from their reporting or spreading them thin. These are all attitudes hard to imagine a few years ago.

It is also striking what is not here in these numbers. The fears of a decade ago in journalism have faded. News people are less concerned about credibility. They are not as worried about cynicism. They do not feel as isolated. It is possible that technology has helped alleviate these concerns, but it is also possible that there are simply bigger problems today, problems that are more concrete and less cultural.

The problems are about money. The crisis in journalism in 2008, journalists now more clearly believe, is a crisis of a broken economic model. And cutbacks in the newsroom, covering fewer things is now a concern front and center instead of how they are covered.

Those concerns will either be solved or journalism as people traditionally think of it — reporters out in the community bearing witness to facts — will shrink substantially.

[…]

At the national level, more than six in ten journalists and senior executives now think journalism is headed in the wrong direction; less than a third are optimistic. TV and radio journalists at national news networks, many of whom entered 2007 with hopes of growth as online video became more widely used, are among the most pessimistic of all. All of these numbers are up from 2004.

Online journalists working for established news outlets see things in a slightly better light, but even they are more negative than positive. Half see journalism headed in the wrong direction (versus 42% who said things are moving forward.)

Only one group, local news executives are generally optimistic (65%).

[…]

The vast majority now see great value in having a place on the Web site where users can post comments. Smaller majorities say that citizen-started Web sites are a good thing. (Print journalists are slightly more accepting of the practice than TV and radio journalists.) And they are less upbeat about users posting content directly onto news sites. Yet even here a sizable minority is positively inclined, nearly four in ten TV and radio or print journalists see it as a good thing.

Given the comments from the likes of Bob Costas (note: my entry is now updated with a response to his “clarification” with Deadspin), Bill Conlin, and Stephen A. Smith, we can now see with this data that their opinions are not widely held in the journalism industry.

However, we can also see with the data potential reasons why they spew such vitriol at bloggers: job security. Costas, Conlin, and Smith are all probably wealthy enough to withstand losing their jobs due to their employers going out of business, but they all probably have a passion for their jobs as well, and that’s what they fear losing primarily. That’s just some amateur psychoanalysis, though with a lot of assumptions.

Overall, the data is interesting and bodes well for bloggers. Check it out.


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