Home » OPINION » Columns » TODD SMITH — Cable news audience increased 8% according to Pew State of the News media report

TODD SMITH — Cable news audience increased 8% according to Pew State of the News media report


Throughout July, the Spin Cycle explored the recently released Pew Research Center State of the News Media report, showcasing key audience and economic indicators across the U.S. news media landscape.

This data pinpoints the shifting ways Americans seek news and information in an increasingly digital world.

The press – often referred to as the fourth branch of government – is also very much a business. And its ability to make an impact with the public is dependent on its ability to attract eyes and dollars!

This year, instead of a single report, Pew developed a series of fact sheets spotlighting the most important info from each sector. Over the coming weeks, The Spin Cycle will dive into these reports. This week, our focus is on cable TV news.

Cable TV news broadcasts have surged in popularity for many Americans – becoming an increasingly important information source. In 2018, both the evening and daytime cable news audiences increased. Financially, these cable news channels have set themselves apart from other news media with their comparatively robust business model, according to the Pew report.

According to Comscore TV Essentials® data, viewership increased for the three major cable news channels (CNN, Fox News and MSNBC) in 2018. The average combined audience (defined as the average number of TVs tuned to a program throughout a time period) for the prime news time slot (8 p.m. to 11 p.m.) of these three networks increased 8%, to about 1.25 million. (Audience data for the three major financial networks – CNBC, Fox Business and Bloomberg – is not included here.) The average audience for the daytime news time slot (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) increased by 5%.

Total revenue across the three channels increased by 4% in 2018 to a total of $5.3 billion, according to estimates from Kagan, a media research group in S&P Global Market Intelligence. This includes increases in both main revenue sources: advertising and license (affiliate) fees. The three major financial networks (CNBC, Fox Business and Bloomberg) saw little growth in either their advertising or license revenue, which leaves total revenue on par with 2017.

Total newsroom spending by the three channels combined increased by 5% in 2018 to a total of $2.4 billion, according to estimates by Kagan. Newsroom spending at the three major financial networks was $725 million, a 3% change.

About 2,700 employees worked as reporters, editors, photographers, camera operators and film and video editors in cable TV newsrooms in 2018, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics. This is on par with 2015, when there were about 2,800 news employees.

The median wage for editors was about $62,000 per year in 2018, followed by reporters at about $53,000, camera operators and film and video editors at about $49,000, and photographers at about $47,000, according to the Pew report.

Digital News Continues to Grow

A vast majority of adults in the United States get at least some news online(either via a mobile device or desktop/laptop), and the online space has become a host for the digital homes of both legacy news outlets and new, “born on the web” news outlet, according to Pew.

Digital advertising revenue across all digital entities (beyond just news) continues to grow, with technology companies playing a large role in the flow of both news and revenue.

The average fourth quarter, monthly unique visitors for the primary domains of these outlets in 2018 was 22.4 million, similar to the 21.7 million in 2017, according to Comscore data. The average minutes per visit was 2.0, down slightly from 2.4 minutes in 2017.

Outlets have several options for reaching their consumers, including apps, newsletters, podcasts and aggregation platforms like Apple News or Flipboard. The use of those different tools varies across digital-native news outlets. In a Pew Research Center audit of 37 outlets conducted in mid-2019, just under half of these highest-traffic digital-native news outlets (46%) have apps for at least one of the two main mobile platforms (iOS and Android). This is down from the 2018 figure of 57%, which drew from a somewhat different group of sites. Those outlets that do have apps tend to offer them for both platforms: About four-in-ten (41%) have apps for both platforms, while 5% have just an iOS app (down from 23% among the 2018 group of sites). None only offer an Android app.

Digital-native news outlets are also adopting other outreach and engagement methods. Over eight-in-ten (84%) of these outlets offer newsletters, and almost all have an official presence on Apple News (95%) or Flipboard (92%). A large majority (73%) release podcasts, and 54% allow comments on their articles.

These outlets are also highly likely to use social media as part of their outreach. Similar to 2018, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram are widely used, with all outlets in 2019 having an official presence on each. However, only about two-in-ten (22%) have an official channel or account on Snapchat, up 8 percentage points from 2018.

In 2018, according to eMarketer estimates, digital advertising grew to $109 billion, an increase from $88 billion in 2017. It was estimated to comprise 49% of all advertising revenue, up from 43% in 2017.

Mobile advertising revenue’s rapid growth also continued in 2018, increasing from $57 billion in 2017 to $71 billion. Although desktop advertising revenue also saw an increase in 2018, mobile advertising revenue comprised almost two-thirds (65%) of all digital advertising revenue.

Looking more specifically at digital display ads, which include banners, videos and other advertisements that news organizations and other websites typically run alongside their content, revenue continued to rise in 2018. The rise was driven by growth in both mobile and desktop display ad revenue (desktop display includes advertising on desktop and laptop computers and other non-mobile internet-connected devices).

Video ads were the largest segment of this market in 2018 at $30 billion, growing 36% from the previous year. Banner ads also showed sharp growth, rising 31% over 2017 to $22 billion in 2018. 

Smokey Mic: Ad Council Launches Marketing Consultancy

The Ad Council – the iconic force behind some of the greatest public service campaigns in the world, including the Smokey Bear, McGruff the Crime Dog and the “Loose Lips Sink Sips” campaigns – has launched a new strategic consultancy to help companies and foundations engage the public even more.

The new service, called the Ad Council Edge, will channel 75-plus years of advertising genius with the new consultancy.

The Ad Council – established in 1942 – typically partners with creative agencies to create pro bono campaigns for nonprofit and government clients, which are then run using donated airtime and print space from thousands of U.S. media outlets.

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» TODD SMITH is co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Deane | Smith, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm – based in Nashville, Tenn. – is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, follow him @spinsurgeon and like the ageny on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/deanesmithpartners, and join us on LinkedIn  http://www.linkedin.com/company/deane-smith-&-partners.


… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.

If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.

Click for more info

About For the MBJ