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Overview 2012

In 2011, the digital revolution entered a new era.

The age of mobile, in which people are connected to the web wherever they are, arrived in earnest. More than four in ten American adults now own a smartphone. One in five owns a tablet. New cars are manufactured with internet built in. With more mobility comes deeper immersion into social networking.

For news, the new era brings mixed blessings.

New research released in this report finds that mobile devices are adding to people’s news consumption, strengthening the lure of traditional news brands and providing a boost to long-form journalism. Eight in ten who get news on smartphones or tablets, for instance, get news on conventional computers as well. People are taking advantage, in other words, of having easier access to news throughout the day – in their pocket, on their desks and in their laps.

At the same time, a more fundamental challenge that we identified in this report last year has intensified — the extent to which technology intermediaries now control the future of news.

Two trends in the last year overlap and reinforce the sense that the gap between the news and technology industries is widening. First, the explosion of new mobile platforms and social media channels represents another layer of technology with which news organizations must keep pace.

Second, in the last year a small number of technology giants began rapidly moving to consolidate their power by becoming makers of “everything” in our digital lives. Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and a few others are maneuvering to make the hardware people use, the operating systems that run those devices, the browsers on which people navigate, the e-mail services on which they communicate, the social networks on which they share and the web platforms on which they shop and play. And all of this will provide these companies with detailed personal data about each consumer.

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