News Industry 'More Undermanned and Unprepared to Cover Stories'

By Susan Jones | March 18, 2013 | 8:11 AM EDT

(AP Photo)

( - Newsroom personnel cuts, shorter and fewer news stories or video "packages," and less coverage of live new events are taking a toll on the overall newspaper/television industry.

According to a new study from the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, the news industry in 2013 "is more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands."

A public opinion survey included in the annual survey found that nearly one-third of respondents (31 percent) have deserted a news outlet because it no longer provides the news and information they were accustomed to getting.

And as news reportage shrinks, the study said there are growing opportunities for those in politics, government agencies, and business to take their messages directly to the public by using digital technology and social media -- without any filter by the traditional media.

The report identifies six major trends in 2013, as follows:

1. Americans are noticing the effects of a decade of newsroom cutbacks:  More men than women -- and more well-educated and higher-income Americans -- have stopped turning to a news outlet because it no longer provides them with the information they had come to expect. With reporting resources cut to the bone and fewer specialized beats, journalists’ level of expertise in any one area and the ability to go deep into a story are compromised.

2. The news industry continues to lose out on the bulk of new digital advertising. Improved geo-targeting allows many national advertisers to turn to Google, Facebook and other large networks to buy ads that formerly might have gone to local media. Google is now the ad leader in search, display and mobile. In key revenue areas, it appears the news industry may have been outflanked by technology giants.

3. The long-dormant sponsorship ad category is seeing sharp growth. News organizations have taken early steps to move into this area.  Promoted tweets on Twitter account for some of the growth, along with the rise of native ads, the digital term for advertorials containing advertiser-produced stories, which which often run alongside a site’s own editorial content.

4. The growth of paid digital content experiments: Right now, 450 of the nation’s 1,380 dailies have started or announced plans for some kind of paid content subscription or paywall plan, in many cases allowing a certain number of free visits before requiring users to pay. (The trend has also spread beyond newspapers, as highlighted by blogger Andrew Sullivan’s recent decision to attach a fee to his site, The Dish.) Digital subscriptions are seen as an increasingly vital component of any new business model for journalism—though, in most cases, they fall far short of actually replacing the revenue lost in advertising.

5. While the hardest-hit industry, newspapers, remains in the spotlight, local TV finds itself newly vulnerable.  Local TV audiences were down across every key time slot and across all networks in 2012. While local TV remains a top news source for Americans, the percentage is dropping, particularly among younger generations.  Regular local TV viewership among adults under 30 fell from 42% in 2006 to just 28% in 2012, according to Pew Research survey data.   What’s more, the topics people go there for most—weather and breaking news (and to a lesser extent traffic)—are ripe for replacement by any number of Web- and mobile-based outlets.

6. Hearing about news stories from friends and family, whether via social media or actual word of mouth, leads to deeper news consumption. A majority of Americans seek out a full news story after hearing about an event or issue from friends and family, a new Pew Research survey finds. For nearly three-quarters of adults (72%), the most common way to get news from friends and family is by having someone talk to them, either in person or over the phone. And among that group, close to two-thirds (63%) somewhat or very often seek out a news story about that event or issue. Social networking is now a part of this process as well: 15% of U.S. adults get most of their news from friends and family this way, and the vast majority of them (77%) follow links to full news stories.

This is the tenth edition of Pew's annual "State of the News Media" study.