Digital Trends from the State of the News Media Report

Every year, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism captures a snapshot of the media climate. The Hub reviewed the State of the News Media 2012 report and identified the following digital trends that can impact the news start-up or news venture.

Online news consumption trends
According to the Pew report, online traffic to news sites continues to grow as more people flock to the Internet for information and news. In particular, the report highlighted the growing number of news consumers who own multiple devices and use those devices to get news. As of January 2012, 44% of adults own smartphones and 31% of smartphone users also own a tablet. They also found that today’s news consumers do use different devices to access news at different times of the day. For example, using the smartphone and/or tablet to check news in the early morning hours or late at night and the laptop or desktop to check the news during the day.

News ventures and news start-ups can take advantage of this online growth by using this opportunity to acquire new audiences and maintain existing ones. Don’t limit your news organization to only one content distribution model – consider the options of offering different content to your potential audiences who own a smartphone, tablet and/or laptop. Don’t be afraid to consider the major online traffic peaks – early morning hours and late evenings can be opportunities where you can provide different content to your audience than what you featured during the day on the website.

Advertising trends online
The Pew report also highlighted the growth in digital advertising. As of 2011, advertising dollars spent on the online platform totaled $32 billion. Of those who advertised online, search represented a big portion of where the money was spent, followed by banner ads, classifieds, rich media, video, lead generation, sponsorship and emails.

They particularly highlighted the fact that video advertising continues to grow. It’s predicted to grow to almost $8 billion by 2015. Mobile advertising is also growing with spending in this area at $1.45 billion for 2011. This kind of advertising is predicted to grow to $10.8 billion by 2016.

News ventures and start-ups can take advantage of this digital advertising market. As more news consumers own mobile devices and today’s culture is more visual than ever, it’s a powerful combination to consider whether a video or mobile advertising plan fits into your news organization’s business strategy.

Social media trends
Social media continues to be a big player in the digital media climate. Contrary to belief, the Pew report found that social media’s influence on news consumption – the function of replacing or altering existing user’s news habits is basically a myth.

The Pew report showed that the influence of social media on news consumption is not as strong as once thought and in fact the social media channel is serving more as an addition or complement to existing media consumption habits. The report also detailed how many news consumers are still going to the news website or news app to get the actual news content versus going through an aggregator or through search. The report also found differences in terms of what kinds of content audiences seek from Twitter versus Facebook.

As audiences use social media platforms differently as well as use them to complement existing news habits, the news venture or start-up should pay close attention to their social media strategy to accommodate for these differences to maximize the best form of community engagement.

Mobile devices
This year’s Pew report highlighted the growing number of news consumers that are becoming “digital mavens,” those individuals who are multiplatform digital news consumers. They found that nearly a quarter of US adults now get news on multiple devices via the computer and laptop, tablet and phone, and/or variation thereof.

Again, news ventures and start-ups can gain insight from this finding by recognizing their audience may be consuming news content via multiple platforms. This entails thinking about different content distribution strategies beyond the website to reach the most readers. Creating a different content experience for the smartphone, the tablet and the website can be a successful path for the news start-up in reaching those “digital mavens.”

Community News
The State of the News Media Report had a special section devoted to community news organizations. In particular, they highlighted that news ventures can’t rely on just having a foundation grant to make it and to be sustainable but they have to think about as many venues as possible for funding. The report highlighted examples from MinnPost, Texas Tribune and the Voice of San Diego, to showcase how each organization has different revenue sources ranging from memberships (at the individual and corporate level) to foundation grants to hosting special events and conferences to having advertising and/or sponsorships.

Second, the report highlighted how today’s community news organizations can find success by focusing on a niche or content area in areas such as arts, education, health, and science to name a few. Lastly, they also addressed how community news organizations are partnering with traditional media outlets and new entities to showcase their work across a greater network and gain new audiences in the process. These are just a few items brought up in the community news section of the Pew Report.

Whether you are a news start-up or an existing news venture, the State of the News Media Report can provide a plethora of information and insight that can help transform your news organization for the coming year. It all depends on what actions you take with the information you find.

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