What Pew’s State of the Media Report Means to PR Practitioners

Every spring, I look forward to the release of Pew Research’s State of the News Media study.  Besides reading the report with complete and utter nerd excitement, I’m always interested in the media consumption trends that Pew uncovers.  Here are some of the top findings from the 2012 report.

The Rise in Mobile Technology

This year, Pew’s report focused on the rise of mobile technology and its potential to change the news business.  As consumers acquire multiple mobile devices (e.g., smartphones, e-readers and tablets), they are becoming multiplatform digital news consumers.  In fact, Pew dubs these consumers “digital mavens.”  (Too bad “digital mavens” is more than seven characters; otherwise, I’d put it on my next car tag.)

The Impact on Newspapers

It’s no surprise that as mobile audiences multiply, print circulation is declining.  In fact, Pew estimates that since 2000, the newspaper industry has shrunk 43 percent.  Meanwhile, newspaper websites are thriving.  Thanks to mobile devices, traffic to these sites was up nine percent in 2011.

You might think traditional journalism is dying along with the decline of print publications.  Logical connection, right?  Enter the mighty tablet, which allows users to browse with ease and scroll through long websites seamlessly.  The tablet is saving long-form journalism and providing the American public with a new newspaper – one that allows them to read a lengthy article without having to fold over to page D9.  Currently, Pew states that 18 percent of the population owns a tablet, and those users are increasingly demanding digital content from publishers.

The Future

With former print subscribers moving to digital formats, how will the newspaper industry financially survive?  According to Pew, we can expect a lot more digital subscriptions coming our way “as a matter of survival.”  As Pew states, “The move, long anticipated and long delayed, is only partly influenced by the success of The New York Timesmetered model,’ which now has some 390,000 subscribers and resulted in almost no loss in more casual online traffic.”

Subscription-based online news platforms will change the way PR practitioners report audience reach and online impressions.  In addition, the rise of digital media places added pressure on communicators to think “digitally,” “interactively” and “shareably.”  Today’s “digital mavens” are multi-taskers and quick readers with short attention spans who like to share information digitally. In other words, they are quickly changing the PR industry with a few swipes of their index fingers.

Hold tight as the future “un-scrolls!”

–          Anna Ruth WilliamsAnna Ruth, senior account manager

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