Online sites top newspapers for Americans: report

More Americans are getting their news from the Internet than from print newspapers for the first time as audience figures for cable news programs fall, according to a report released on Monday.

The State of the News Media 2011 report by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism said that in another first, online advertising revenue topped that of print newspapers last year.

Forty-six percent of Americans now get news online at least three times a week, surpassing newspapers (40 percent) for the first time, the report said.

"People are spending more time with news than ever before," the report said. "But when it comes to the platform of choice, the Web is gaining ground rapidly while other sectors are losing."

It said only local television news is a more popular platform than online news sites with 50 percent of Americans citing it as their top news destination.

The audience for cable television news declined substantially in 2010, the report said, with the median viewership falling by 16 percent to an average of 3.2 million in prime-time.

CNN's median prime-time viewership fell 37 percent to 564,000 viewers.

Evening network television news audiences fell by 752,000 viewers, or 3.4 percent, from 2009, but network TV news still attracted an average audience of 21.6 million people.

Print newspaper circulation continued to decline in 2010 with weekday circulation down five percent and Sunday circulation falling 4.5 percent.

Print newspaper advertising revenue fell 6.4 percent in 2010 from the previous year to $22.8 billion while newspapers made an additional $3 billion from online ads.

"For the first time, more money was spent on online advertising than on print newspaper advertising," the report said. Online advertising grew 13.9 percent overall to $25.8 billion in 2010 according to figures from eMarketer.

Circulation revenue for newspapers is expected to be flat or down marginally in 2010, the report said, after falling 10 percent from 2003 to 2009.

Despite sliding print ad revenue and circulation, newspapers "generally are still operating in the black," the report said, with profit margins around five percent.

On the job front, the report said US newspapers "trimmed only marginally in 2010" after cutting nearly a third of their staff in the previous decade.

"We estimate losses of about 1,100 to 1,500 people, or three percent to four percent," it said.

Online news outlets, meanwhile, are hiring, the report said, citing AOL, Yahoo! and The Huffington Post, which was purchased by AOL for $315 million.

Meanwhile, the number of ad pages sold across the magazine industry overall was flat in 2010 (down 0.1 percent) after steep declines in 2008 (11.7 percent) and in 2009 (25.6 percent), the report said.

While fewer Americans are reading print newspapers, more are using their cellphones and tablet computers like Apple's iPad to get local news and information.

Forty-seven percent of Americans use cellphones or tablet computers to get information on local weather, restaurant listings, local news and sports scores and traffic conditions, the report said.

But only 13 percent of mobile device owners are using applications, or apps, to tap into local information, the report found, and just 10 percent of that group pays for an app - amounting to just one percent of the total US adult population.

"Many news organizations are looking to mobile platforms, in particular mobile apps, to provide new ways to generate subscriber and advertising revenues in local markets," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.

"The survey suggests there is a long way to go before that happens."

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