Digital News Consumption: The clearest pattern of news audience growth in 2012 came on digital platforms, and the proliferation of digital devices in peoples’ lives seemed to be a big part of the reason.
In 2012, total traffic to the top 25 news sites increased 7.2%, according to comScore. And according to Pew Research data, 39% of respondents got news online or from a mobile device “yesterday,” up from 34% in 2010, when the survey was last conducted.
Accessing news is one of the most popular uses for the devices, enabling Americans to get news whenever they want and wherever they might be. An August 2012 Pew Research study found that fully 64% of tablet owners say they get news on their devices weekly; 37% reported they do so daily. The trend is nearly identical for smartphone owners – 62% said they consume news on their device weekly, and 36% do so daily.
When it comes to news people hear from friends and family, social media are playing a growing role, especially among young people, according to a Pew Research survey released in this year’s report, though it is still far from replacing traditional word of mouth. Nearly three-quarters, 72%, say the most common way they hear about news events from family and friends is by talking in person or over the phone. But 15% get most news from family and friends through social media sites. And it rises to nearly a quarter among 18-to-25-year-olds. Seven percent do so via e-mail. Either way, the vast majority say they then seek out news stories to learn more.
Digital Economics: Overall digital advertising grew 17% in 2012 to $37.3 billion, according to eMarketer. Digital advertising makes up around 23% of the total U.S. advertising market, up from 20% in 2011. Display advertising (which is made up of banner ads, video, rich media and sponsorships), the main source of digital ad revenue for news, grew 22% to $15 billion in 2012. While display is still the second-largest type of digital advertising, behind search, eMarketer projects that by 2016 display will outpace search. The majority of that digital revenue was scooped up by the powerful stakeholders in the digital arena—companies such as Google and Facebook.
These powerful tech entities are also quickly moving into the mobile realm—and into mobile display. Mobile ads grew 80% in 2012. At $2.6 billion, mobile now accounts for roughly 7% of total digital ad spending. eMarketer projects it will hit 21% by 2016. Mobile display is also growing, but here again, the big tech firms have swooped in. The top six account for 72% of all mobile display. And Facebook, which did not even create its first mobile-only ad feature until the summer of 2012, reported that mobile display accounted for 23% of its ad revenue in the fourth quarter of 2012. The question for news organizations is whether they can carve out a small but competitive space in the digital ad market.
One piece of that market that news can exploit is sponsorship advertising, and in 2012, so-called native advertising (a type of sponsorship ad) made headlines. Though it remains small in dollars, the category’s growth rate is second only to that of video: sponsorship ads rose 38.9%, to $1.56 billion; that followed a jump of 56.1% in 2011. Traditional publications such as The Atlantic and Forbes, as well as digital publications BuzzFeed and Gawker, have relied heavily on native ads to quickly build digital ad revenues, and their use is expected to spread.