According to the annual Pew Research report, State of the News Media 2014, three in ten U.S. adults are watching online news video. However, that rosy statistic may be tinted darker by the fact that overall growth of online news video is beginning to slow. Of course, when you already reach over 60% of your demographic there is going to be some slowdown in new viewer growth, so it is really all that surprising?
This is Pew Research we are talking about. Their methodology reads like a short work of non-fiction.
The State of the News Media report uses a host of different methodologies from data aggregation to original survey work to content analysis to first-person interviews. The wealth of methods helps provide the clearest sense of what is occurring around each research question. The detailed methodologies for the chapters included in this year’s State of the News Media are below. The methodologies are also attached to the report itself.
And that's basically just the intro paragraph. If you really need more methodology info, I will point you to their explanation of it all.
First off, we know there are roughly 189 million Americans watching online video each month, thanks to comScore. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated, in July 2013, that there would be around 317.5M Americans in December 2013 and roughly 23% would be under 18. So those viewing online video each month represent about 59.5% of the population overall and there are an estimated 244.47M adult Americans.
Pew Research states in their annual report that of all those Americans, 36% of the adults are watching news videos online. They estimate that to be roughly the same as those who get news on Facebook or watch cable news regularly. So overall, it looks like online news video is fairly popular as it's pulling in as much as most of its competing outlets.
Interestingly, just about the same number of online news video watchers are also recording videos on cellphones and sharing them online providing a diverse eyewitness record of all manner of newsworthy events. This triggered a rapid growth in its inclusion in online news reporting as well.
Pew believes there are various hurdles to online news video becoming a major form of news for the future. I contest that it already is since one-third of adult Americans are watching it, but we all have our opinions. They cite the high cost of producing high-quality video and live streaming without a clear pay off. So I asked a couple industry luminaries their thoughts on that assessment.
I spoke briefly with Bern Rexer, Executive Producer Media X Presentations Inc, a YouTube Live Streaming Partner, and he had this to say, "...live streaming continues to increase as a form of news media distribution – while costs decrease. So I don’t entirely agree with some of their expense statements about live streaming and video hosting costs." Since Bern does a lot of live streaming he definitely knows his way around it all and he continued on to say:
Live streaming continues to decrease in cost and is affordable for anyone to broadcast live video. And the technology to emulate traditional professional level live broadcasts, which might include multi-camera switching, graphics and video playback, - is more accessible and costs less than ever before. This gives anyone an opportunity to broadcast a message immediately to a global audience...
Furthermore, regarding live streaming on the internet as a broadcast mechanism for news media – it has never been easier or as inexpensive to produce or consume. There is tremendous opportunity for anyone to become news producers and begin to establish trust.
So, while Pew may know a thing or two, it seems they might also be out of touch with some things as well.
Since 2007, Pew Research states that growth has slowed considerably. While 2007 to 2009 say a 27% increase they say 2009 through 2013 was just 9%. But again, in my eyes, reaching as many as get their news from Facebook or cable news is a pretty good slice of that pie. Even is growth slows to single digits for the next couple years, or is bolstered by the rise of mobile devices and gets 10-15% a year, it could be the major form of news for the majority of adult Americans by 2015.
Who Watches Online News?
Pew found that the Millennials are the heaviest consumers of online video and consume a goodly portion of online news video as well. Since you're all savvy and read ReelSEO regularly, you already knew that. They found that 90% of 18-to-29-year-old watch online video and nearly half of them watch online news videos (48%).
To me that means advertisers and marketers have a very real reason to advertise against online news video, almost half of all Millennials, many of whom are 'cordless' having never had pay TV, are watching it. That's some pretty good reach into that demographic. If they're interested in the news, then they will probably have a specific sort of behavior profile as well which could make them prime targets for specific categories of products right?
In terms of the news demographic, 49% of the 30-to-49-year-old watch online news video. That's my demographic and, to steal a line from the Most Interesting Man in the World, I don't watch a lot of news but when I do, I watch it online.
Meanwhile, the older demographics see a swift drop off with 27% of 50-to-64 and just 11% of 65+ watching news online. Again, not at all surprising to me.
The End is Not Nigh!
I don't think that the 9% growth last year is indicative of dark times for online video news. In fact, I think what it will be is a spark to start a fire and get things moving even faster. Pew Research cited some big deals in online news including:
Vice Media’s launch of a digital news channel in early 2014, NBC’s acquisition of Stringwire in 2013 and HuffPost Live’s overseas expansion point in the same direction
That direction is towards more growth I think. Plus, with the proliferation and rising market penetration of smartphones and tablets, it could see a vast majority of people getting their news online during their commute, lunch breaks or even in their down time at a cafe or out on the town. Breaking news could be pushed straight to interested viewers as it happens making for more real-time digital news consumption.
Also, continued growth in the local news area will help drive more growth. Pew stated the it's pretty much hit or miss in terms of how much digital video local news websites offer but that it seems they are catching on fairly quickly.
A Pew Research audit of 32 local TV news websites finds that all but four offer video on their homepages, but the amounts range from 92% of all homepage stories to just 6%. Roughly half, 14 of the 32, offer live streaming of their broadcast programs. In addition, 24 of the 32 have mobile apps with video watching capabilities in both the Android and Apple stores, and 18 have YouTube channels, though, again, the activity level there varied greatly.
What will Drive Growth?
I have to believe that two things will drive growth. The first will be the local TV outlets getting down to business and pushing every important story out to the digital dwellers in real-time. There is clearly an interest if half of the Millennials are scoping out some digital news video. The other drive factor will be advertising dollars. Since half of the Millennials are watching online news now, it seems like that area is ripe for some dirt cheap video advertising because it's still undervalued given that only about one-third of American adults are viewing it. However, if the younger generation is your demographic, my only question to you is, why aren't your placing ads against local market broadcast news video content online?
Interestingly, I just had a chat with someone from my local CBS affiliate yesterday and we talked at length about digital news video and advertising. They have some interesting things going on and I think are moving in the right direction. I also think they just need advertisers to sort of figure it out, or they need to help educate some local advertisers as to what they could do with online video ads.