Although digital technologies have been changing the face of the news for at least the last decade, we have finally reached a important milestone: more people now get their news from online sources than they do from physical newspapers.
That's according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, which has just released its latest report on the "State of the Media." The study finds that, "By several measures, the state of the American news media improved in 2010," but that improvement did not extend to one important sector - newspapers - which continued to see a decline in revenues, readership and newsroom jobs.
According to the survey, 46% of people now say they get their news online at least three times a week, surpassing newspapers (40%) for the first time. Only local television is more popular among Americans, with 50% indicating that's their regular source for news.
The report points to another milestone in 2010 as well: For the first time, more money was spent on online advertising than on print newspaper advertising. Online advertising overall grew 13.9% to $25.8 billion in 2010. Ad revenue at newspapers, however, fell over the same period by 6.4%.
The declining revenue and subscriptions for newspapers have resulted in many closures and layoffs. Indeed, newspaper newsrooms are 30% smaller than they were in 2000. But according to the survey, most Americans don't seem terribly concerned by the loss of this news source. Twenty eight percent said the loss of their local newspaper would have a major impact on their ability to keep up with local information; 30% said it would have minor impact and 39% said it would have no impact.
In a report that accompanies the State of the Media report, Pew finds that more people are turning to their mobile phones for local news; 47% of Americans report they get at least some local news from their cellphone, although their interests seem to be in information that's practical and in real time: weather and restaurant information, for example.
Interestingly, while nearly half of Americans say they get their local news via a mobile device, just one in 10 use an app to do so. And of those, an even fewer percentage pay to use those apps. This raises questions for the news industry as it's unclear whether people are willing to pay for online content, even if their local newspapers disappeared.
Nonetheless the Pew Research Center insists that, "Local news remains the vast untapped territory." "While local has been the area of greatest ferment for nonprofit startups," reads the report, "no one has yet cracked the code for how to produce local news effectively at a sustainable level."
Photo credits: Flickr user Daniel Blume