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New Devices, Platforms Spur More News Consumption,
But News Industry Loses Ground to Technology Rivals

1-in-4 Americans Get News on Mobile Devices – Adding to Existing News Consumption; Social Media’s Role as a Driver of News is Small, But Growing

March 19, 2012— A mounting body of evidence finds that the spread of mobile technology is adding to news consumption, strengthening the appeal of traditional news brands and even boosting reading of long-form journalism. But the evidence also shows that technology companies are strengthening their grip on who profits, according to the 2012 State of the News Media report by Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

More than a quarter of Americans (27%) now get news on mobile devices, and for the vast majority, this is increasing news consumption, the report finds.  More than 80% of smartphone and tablet news consumers still get news on laptop or desktop computers. On mobile devices, news consumers also are more likely to go directly to a news site or use an app, rather than to rely on search — strengthening the bond with traditional news brands.

While technology may be adding to the appeal of traditional news, technology intermediaries are capturing even more of the digital revenue pie. In 2011, five technology giants generated 68% of all digital ad revenue, according to the market research firm eMarketer — and that does not include Amazon and Apple, which make their money from devices and downloads. By 2015, roughly one out of every five display ad dollars is expected to go to Facebook, according to the same source.

“Our analysis suggests that news is becoming a more important and pervasive part of people’s lives,” PEJ Director Tom Rosenstiel said. “But it remains unclear who will benefit economically from this growing appetite for news.”

Social media platforms, meanwhile, grew substantially over the last year, but still play a limited role in daily news consumption. Only about a third as many news consumers follow stories via Facebook as do so by going directly to news websites or apps or by using search, according to new PEJ survey data released here. For Twitter, the proportion drops to less than a sixth as many.

“News organizations have a big opportunity in the social and mobile realms,” PEJ Deputy Director Amy Mitchell said. “But they will need to do a better job than they did in the desktop realm of understanding audience behavior and developing effective technology and revenue models.”

These are some of the conclusions in the ninth edition of PEJ’s annual State of the News Mediareport.  The report is a comprehensive analysis of the major trends in news over the last year and includes detailed chapters on eight major media sectors — digital, newspapers, cable news, network TV, local TV news, audio, magazines and ethnic media. This year’s study also includes two new national surveys examining how news is consumed on different devices and the impact of social media on news, a special report on the state of community media and an examination of Native American media.

Among the study’s findings: