The failing media

Posted: August 6, 2019 by chrisharper in Uncategorized

The U.S. media are literally failing.

The Pew Research Center recently released its annual report on the media, and it’s not a pretty picture.

I realize that there are a lot of statistics here, but I think it’s important to see how bad the situation really is.

The estimated total U.S. daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) in 2018 was 28.6 million for weekday and 30.8 million for Sunday, down 8% and 9%, respectively, from the previous year. Weekday print circulation decreased 12%, and Sunday print circulation decreased 13%.

The average audience for morning news programs from ABC, CBS, and NBC declined over the past year, down 4% in 2018, to about 3.2 million from 3.3 million.

The average audience for the evening newscasts for ABC, CBS, and NBC remained relatively stable in 2018, with 5.3 million viewers tuning in on average, compared with 5.2 million in 2017,

In 2018, viewership for network local affiliate news stations (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC) declined in key time slots – morning (6 a.m. to 9 a.m.), evening (4 p.m. to 7 p.m.) and late-night (11 p.m. to 2 a.m.).

Viewership increased for the three major cable news channels (CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC) in 2018. The average combined audience (defined as the average number of TVs tuned to a program throughout a time period) for the prime news time slot (8 p.m. to 11 p.m.) of these three networks increased 8%, to about 1.25 million. The average audience for the daytime news time slot (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) increased by 5%.

The report does not break out the three networks, which would show an increase for Fox, a decrease for CNN, and the status quo for MSNBC, which has declined significantly so far this year.

Digital news outlets included in this analysis are those whose primary domain – the outlet’s flagship website – averaged at least 10 million unique visitors per month from October to December of each year analyzed. There were 37 such outlets in 2018.

Problems also exist in the digital-only sites. BuzzFeed News laid off a hundred people in 2017. Despite taking in tens of millions of dollars in advertising revenue in 2018, The Huffington Post failed to turn a profit.

News organizations can no longer blame the internet for their problems. That excuse has been around for more than a decade.

Numerous suggestions have been made to turn around this decline, including plans to turn news organizations into not-for-profit operations. That has helped some outlets. The problem is that replacing advertisers with foundations with a lot of money also creates a different type of dependence—one that usually has a left-leaning agenda.

I think the problem is that consumers no longer find the product useful or worth the money. News organizations need to rethink the notion of if it bleeds, it leads, providing more useful coverage rather than the sensational. That’s my nickel.

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