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Funding for Newsgathering Dries Up

WASHINGTON: Extreme newsgathering reductions in 2009 overshadowed any innovations in journalism, the Pew Research Center said today. Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released the results of its State of the News Media 2010, the results of which are grim:

- Newspapers spend $1.6 billion a year less on reporting and editing than they did 10 years ago.
- Network news staffs are estimated to be half of what they were in the 1980s.
- Local TV newsrooms personnel have dropped 6 in the last two years, by around 1,600 jobs.
- Local TV revenue fell 22 percent in 2009.
- Radio was down 22 percent.
- Magazine revenues fell 17 percent.
- Network TV fell 8 percent.
- Online ad revenue fell 5 percent.

Pew said that among the commercial news sectors, only cable did not suffer declining revenue and layoffs in 2009.

“Last year was significantly harder on the news industry even than 2008, and the report predicts still more cutbacks in 2010, even with an improving economy,” the Pew’s Tom Rosenstiel said. “And while there is more discussion of alternative ways of financing the news, there is not yet much concrete progress.”

One such source--non-profits--have invested just $141 million in media since 2006. How news operations will be funded in the future remains to be seen. Nearly half of the 37 publicly traded media companies with current data lost money in 2009.

Pew’s outlook for local news was sobering:

“Almost all the indicators for local TV are pointing down,” the PEJ report said. “Audiences continue to fall for newscasts across all timeslots. Revenue, too, was in a free fall. Looking ahead, most market analysts project revenues to grow only slightly, but that is hardly taken as goodnews given that it is a year that will include both the off-year elections and winter Olympic Games.”

Pew said the audience for local news is deteriorating faster than that for network news. Viewership was off 6.4 percent last year, four times the rate of 2008.

“Most analysts predict a better 2010, buoyed by economic recovery, a Supreme
Court decision overturning limits on campaign spending and a midterm election
year. But those numbers will be pressured still by continuing audience declines
and a wider range of advertising options,” the report said.

An estimated 450 jobs were lost at TV station news operations last year, in addition to the 1,200 cut in 2008, Pew estimated. At the same time, the amount of news increased from 4.1 hours to 4.6 hours.

TV stations also changed hands rapidly in 2009, some due to bankruptcy. Pew researchers found 76 station transactions valued at $715 million, compared to 46 valued at $537 million in 2008. The decline was attributed to the squeaky credit market alongside diminished station values.

Contrary to any previous assumptions about the Internet, it’s unlikely to generate resources sufficient to support news operations. TV station digital revenues represented just 3 percent of the total, versus 10 percent projected by analysts.

Drilling further into Web use, 79 percent of online news consumers said they’d never or rarely clicked on an ad. Just 35 percent could identify a “favorite” news Web site, which doesn’t bode well for the type of pay-walled garden News Corp. is implementing for The Wall Street Journal. Just 19 percent of news surfers said they’d continue using a site if it started charging fees.

The most-traversed online news sites were also extensions of traditional media brands, Pew said. Of 4,600 news sites tracked by Nielsen, the top 7 percent got 80 percent of the traffic. Of the top 200, legacy media represented 67 percent. Another 13 percent were aggregators, e.g., Google News; and 14 percent were online-only sites producing original content.

Pew’s 25-page “2010 State of the News Media Executive Summary” is available at

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