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Report says digital sites bringing momentum to news, but still a slice of industry

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Growing digital outlets are bringing "a sense of momentum" to the news business even as long-term problems continue to plague the industry, a U.S.-based journalism think-tank said on Wednesday.

The Pew Research Center's annual state of the news media report illustrates the rapid changes in the business and in consumer habits. Pew pointed to growing staffs at news sites like BuzzFeed and Mashable, and the development of Vox.com behind former Washington Post journalist Ezra Klein, as positive developments. Also, several digital organizations such as Huffington Post and Vice Media are pumping more money into international coverage.

More than their elders, young people are finding news clips online and spreading stories through social media — positive signs for a news industry that has struggled to reach a youthful audience, Pew said.

"There are appetites that seem to be developing in the digital realm for potentially reaching more people with news," said Amy Mitchell, director of journalism research at Pew.

Yet digital news is a small slice of the industry, with an estimated 5,000 full-time jobs at nearly 500 outlets, Pew said.

Meanwhile, full-time newspaper newsroom employment dropped 6.4 per cent in 2012, Pew said. Newspaper advertising revenue declined 52 per cent between 2003 and 2012.

Other findings in the annual report:

—SOCIAL NEWS

Half of people on Facebook and Twitter get news from the sites, and 62 per cent do on Reddit. Mostly, though, that consumption is incidental: nearly four in five Facebook users say they see news while on the site for other reasons. One-third of people on Facebook "like" either a news organization or a journalist.

Entertainment is the biggest category of news that people say they get from Facebook.

Pew's research shows the growing importance of smartphone-wielding citizens as firsthand witnesses to news events: Ten per cent of social media users say they have posted news videos they took themselves.

—LOCAL NEWS

Local television news saw its audience increase last year for the first time in five years. Local stations are also cash cows, driven by a growth in fees that stations charge cable companies for airing their content.

—DIGITAL VIDEO CLIPS

More than a third of American adults (36 per cent) say they watch news video online, slightly higher than the percentage of people who watch cable news regularly (34 per cent). About half of adults under 50 say they watch news video online. Ad revenue from digital news video is still a relatively small part of the market, but it grew 44 per cent between 2012 and 2013. One sobering sign: the growth of people watching online news has slowed in the past couple of years.

—INTERNATIONAL NEWS

There's some stirring in international news coverage after years of decline in the mainstream media. Digital sites like Vice Media, the Huffington Post, Quartz and BuzzFeed are sinking resources into this area. Meanwhile, the number of international reporters working for U.S. newspapers declined by 24 per cent from 2003 to 2010, and broadcast evening news programs are devoting less than half of the time to overseas reports compared with the 1980s.

—CABLE NEWS

Last year was a rough one for cable news networks. CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC saw ratings sink, partly to be expected the year after a presidential election. Prime-time viewership at the three networks was at its lowest point since 2007. MSNBC was hit hardest, with a 24 per cent decline.

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David Bauder can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter@dbauder. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder

The Canadian Press


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