The New (Media) Concentration

A new report entitled State of News Media: Online by the Project for Excellence in Journalism points out that the new media, just like the old, are already concentrated when it comes to owning audience attention and the advertising dollars that follow the eyeballs. I was pointed to the report by a recent edition of Paid Content, which suggested special attention to sections on ownership and economics. I have excerpted some factoids apropos of my Mini Media interests.

The ownership section begins by asking “Has the people’s medium been taken over by big media?” In short the answer is yes, if that means large and meaningful traffic flows. “The big are getting bigger, something we saw a year earlier,” the report notes. CNN, Yahoo and MSNBC are the Big Three with more than 20 million unique visitors a month. There is a big drop off to fourth placed NY Times digital at just above 8 million monthly visitors, followed by what was a stranger to me, Internet Broadcast Systems, an amalgam of local television stations and other traditional media outlets. The two newest sites among the top 20 destinations were the Associated Press CustomNews Service and Google News.

The ownership section concludes by noting that more than half of the top 25 online news sites are owned by the 20 largest media companies “so the data point to the heavy concentration of ownership of the news the public is getting online.”

The economics section focused on advertising. It confirmed other suggestions that online advertising continues to grow at rates faster than dollar growth on competing media but still accounts for only four percent of total ad spending. Search ads increasingly dominate the mix, accounting for about 40 percent of the total as of second quarter 2004. Display ads, or banners, slipped to 20 percent of the mix, down from 21 percent in 2003 and 29 percent in 2002. Classifieds were a flat 17 percent in 2003 and Q2 2004, up from 2002’s 15 percent.

One piece of information new to me at least was a chart showing online revenues as a percentage of total revenues for 10 publicly traded newspaper chains led by Knight Ridder, which earned about 3.7 percent its gross from Web sources, up from 2.5 percent in 2003.

A chart shows how the growing share of local ad spending (a projected $2.7 billion in 2004, up from $2.1 billion in 2001) goes mainly to newspapers (39 percent) followed by online verticals (26 percent) which the report did not define, and I can’t think of a representative example in the category.

Tom Abate
Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media