In the landscape of online media consumption, mobile is king, and Facebook stories or 140 character Twitter blasts seem to be eclipsing more traditional forms of publishing.
The Pew Research Center released these and other findings in its 2015 State of the News Media report on Wednesday, a document which cobbles together disparate data in order to sketch a larger picture of how the landscape of media has been changing over the last year.
One of the most significant findings is the increasing popularity of mobile devices, especially as a means to access the news sources that were formerly read on a desktop screen, or even further back, a physical broadsheet. Thirty-nine out of 50 surveyed news sites reported that they now get more traffic from mobile devices than they do from desktop computers.
However, the increasing popularity of news-on-the-go does not mean that the mobile news reader is more well informed than a traditional computer screen reader — in fact, the opposite may be true. Pew found that while the majority of news sites reported an increase in traffic from mobile devices, only 10 out of the 50 reported that mobile visitors spent more time per visit on their sites than desktop visitors. Mobile news reading might be more popular, but it seems to also be more shallow.
Social media also continues to be a key driver of modern news access. Along with the increasingly mobile news audience, almost half of Internet-using adults report finding out news about politics or the government over the last week on Facebook alone.
And while many of the old-guard traditional news outlets are dying, that does not mean that they are entirely dead yet — many television outlets report a slight increase in viewership from last year. Network news channels reported a 5 percent evening audience growth compared to 2014, and local news reported a 3 percent increase. However, cable news and print newspapers are not faring as well — down 8 percent and 3 percent in consumption respectively.
A relatively newer news platform, podcasting, has seen a meteoric rise over the last couple of years. NPR reported a 41 percent increase in total podcast downloads over the last year. However, this could largely be due to the popularity of podcast “Serial,” a WBEZ spinoff of This American Life about the 1999 murder of high school student Hae Min Lee, which became a national hit and the fastest downloaded podcast of all time. The percentage of Americans who have listened to a podcast within the last month has doubled since 2008, to 17 percent by January of 2015.
Some of the most talked-about journalistic ventures of the last couple of years had a hard time in 2014. The tech journalism outlet Gigaom, which was funded with over $20 million in venture capital, $8 million of which came through in 2014, shut down in March with no warning to staff. The New Republic, which was bought by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes in 2012, faced mass resignations from newsroom employees due to the new direction planned for the magazine. BuzzFeed, still a leader in clickbait content, expanded its foreign and investigative teams over the last year, but also faced ethical inquiries into their removal of articles which were objected to by key advertisers.
However, some outlets, such as Vice News, Vox.com, Politico, and Quartz, achieved major strides over the last year, with Vox landing at the 35 spot on the list of 50 top news sites, and Vice News, ranked at number 31, reported 1.1 million subscribers and 175 million video views.
The report concluded that the changing landscape of journalism shows no sign of slowing down in the near future, and that with the shifting nature of social media, gaining a financial foothold in the large and varied market might become more and more difficult in the years to come.
The State of the News 2015 is an annual report by the Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project, and consists of aggregated fact sheets secured from third party researchers and organizations, and then combed and combined by the project.