Americans have more access to different forms of media than any other era--and the news media is struggling to keep up.
According to the Pew Research Center's State of the News Media report, mobile devices are driving more eyeballs to websites, blogs, and other forms of media than newspapers and public radio combined.
It's all well and good for plugged-in reporters and editors, but as publishers and CEOs struggle to monetize web 2.0, the lag is taking its toll.
"When circulation and advertising revenue are combined, the newspaper industry has shrunk 43% since 2000," The report reads. "The civic implications of the decline in newspapers are becoming clearer. More evidence emerged that newspapers are the primary source people turn to for news about government and civic affairs. If these operations continue to shrink or disappear, it is unclear where, or whether, that information would be reported."
If traditional media wants to play catch up with online advertisers, they have an uphill road to climb. According to eMarketer, an online agency tracking digital marketing and media, five companies own the lion's share of online ad revenue. Thanks in large part to programs like Google's AdWords and AdSense, Facebook, Yahoo!, AOL, Microsoft and Google collectively own 68 percent of all online ad revenue--and the people paying the big bucks aren't giving a second thought to Poynter, The Washington Post or The New York Times.
The new digital landscape is changing the way digital natives get their news. News aggregators like Newsvine, Flipboard, and the ever-controversial Reddit deliver content to millions of blogs and individuals everyday (according to Alexa.com, Reddit garners over 1 million page views per day--Newsvine garners a fraction of that).
In response, traditional media are launching a revolution of their own. In 2009, AOL acquired Patch, a hyper-local news website focused on delivering local news to suburban communities (Tim Armstrong, AOL's current CEO launched the site in 2007). Google via YouTube is paying Reuters for programming, and Yahoo is partnering with ABC News to for video and audio content.
Despite Facebook and Twitter's global reach, the social network sites play a small role compared to the overall Web. Yet despite the hype, Pew reports that social media accounts of a mere 9 percent of traffic to news sites.
"The populations that use these networks for news at all are still relatively small," The report reads. "Especially the part that does so very often. Moreover, these social media news consumers have not given up on other methods of gathering news, such as going directly to websites, using apps or through search. In other words, social media are additional paths to news, not replacements for more traditional ones."
So if Joe or Mary Facebook isn't powering web 2.0, who is?
Search engines. According to NPR's Marketplace Morning Report, search engines account for 57% of all online traffic (bots and spammers account for the rest--hackers need to hack, after all).
There is a bright spot to the turmoil. Village Voice Media--which owns the Village Voice, LA Weekly, and Seattle Weekly--has been in the black since launching a companion website, backpage.com.
But the profits are coming at a cost--the personals page has been sued by families of underage prostitutes alleging that Backpage enables prostitution, and Washington State's attorney general Rob McKenna sent the company a letter in 2010, asking Village Voice Media to provide proof that the company screens adult content to prevent underage prostitution.