March 26, 2014

Pew Research Center

Despite the recent rapid proliferation of mobile devices, the number of Americans who consume video news online has increased just three percentage points since 2009, from 33 percent to 36 percent in 2013.

An uncertain future for news video on the Web is a key finding in Pew Research Center’s annual State of the News Media report released this morning.

Overall, the number of U.S. adults who view any online video has increased about 20 percent since 2009, before the iPad was introduced, while the number of U.S. adults who view online news video increased just 9 percent. That 9 percent growth over four years represents a significant slowdown from the 27 percent growth observed between 2007 and 2009.

Pew points out that the mobile boom is hardly over. It found 53 percent of smartphone owners watch online news video, while just 18 percent of those without smartphones do. So the appetite for video news online could still grow — if news organizations provide some quality options.

Vice Media and The Huffington Post are among the organizations making big moves in the space (and in other digital spaces, as Rick Edmonds points out in his rundown of other report findings). That new-media brands are betting big on video makes sense, as younger people are more likely to consume any online video, including news:

Of course, video is expensive to produce, and it’s expensive to host — unless hosting is outsourced to platforms like YouTube, which then gobble up a share of ad revenue. Pew said media organizations don’t break down how much of their digital video ad revenue can be attributed to news content, and total video ad revenue doesn’t exactly impress anyway:

Video advertising, while on the rise, amounts to just 10% of all digital ad revenue and just 2% of total ad revenue. Large distributors of video content like YouTube already account for a large portion of video watching on the web, and a hefty share of the revenue. And for traditional legacy providers – local TV stations and national networks – most of their audience and revenue are still in the legacy platforms, which may reduce these companies’ desire to invest in digital video in a big way.

Pew also found lots of variance in how local TV stations provide online video. Fourteen of 32 outlets surveyed included live streams of newscasts (one concern is that live streaming might cannibalize the more lucrative TV audience). Eighteen of the 32 had a YouTube presence, but some of the YouTube channels appeared inactive.

Rise of user-generated content

Meanwhile, Pew reports that 12 percent of social network users who get news online post their own videos of news events on social media. Overall, that’s 7 percent of U.S. adults, Pew says.

That has big implications as news organizations like NBC (which acquired a startup called Streamwire last year) and CNN (with its 7-year-old iReport) grow increasingly interested in user-created video, and companies like Storyful (recently acquired by News Corp) work to discover and verify important content shared around the web.

It seems likely that better smartphone cameras and faster mobile data speeds will lead to more and more user-generated content. The Online News Association has assembled a working group to identify the key ethical challenges of crowdsourcing news and determine best practices for news organizations taking advantage of the millions of would-be contributors at nearly every possible news scene.

More on this year’s State of the News Media report: Rick Edmonds on “The continued heft of the newspaper industry” | Andrew Beaujon on the “year of scale” for local TV stations

Related: On Thursday at 2 p.m. ET, Pew’s Amy Mitchell will lead a webinar on the report’s findings.

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Sam Kirkland is Poynter's digital media fellow, focusing on mobile and social media trends. Previously, he worked at the Chicago Sun-Times as a digital editor,…
Sam Kirkland

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