Study Finds Social Media is Slowly Burying Newspapers and Network News

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Is NBC's Brian Williams being replaced by @someguyontwitter? Voice of America reports that, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center, 15 percent of U.S. adults first hear about a news story on a social networking site. For young people, the number is almost 25 percent.

While venerable news agencies like CBS (NYSE: CBS ), Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA ) and GE's (NYSE: GE ) NBC, The New York Times (NYSE: NYT ) and The Washington Post (NYSE: WPO ) have all been forced to lay off reporters and spend less money on hard news coverage, their websites are more popular than ever.

That's because more and more people are going online for their news, as opposed to reading the newspaper or tuning in the nightly news. It's a vicious circle with budget woes forcing newsrooms to cut staff and coverage, which causes viewers and readers to look elsewhere, lowering audiences, causing even more cuts, etc.

Television news broadcasts, in particular, have been hard hit with viewership among those under age 30 dropping from 42 percent in 2006 to 28 percent in 2012.

While many are going online for the news, the advertising revenue isn't following. Newspapers, in particular, are forced to ask consumers to pay for their online access.

The Pew report indicates that 450 of the 1380 daily newspapers in the U.S. say they plan to, or have already, instituted a pay wall for their online sites.

Two of the three largest papers in the country, The New York Times and News Corp's (NASDAQ: NWSA ) the Wall Street Journal, have pay walls, with the NYT saying it makes more money from subscription fees than it does from advertising.

Although large media outlets also use social media like Facebook (NASDAQ: FB ) and Twitter to reach out and spread their news gospel, companies and individuals also have access and the ability to directly communicate without filtering by journalists or other, impartial third parties.

The growing importance of social media as news outlets is reflected in Facebook's recent overhauling of its newsfeed feature, with the aim of becoming the "personalized newspaper" of the digital age.

In order for news outlets to maintain and increase Facebook and Twitter viewership and readership, they will have to compete, not only with each other, but also with users' friends and family.

Meanwhile, the influence of "others" in social media on major news stories and the need for major news outlets to get involved is, perhaps, nowhere more apparent than in a recent headline on the ABC News website. Regarding the Steubenville (Ohio) case against two teens accused of assault against a fellow student, the headline reads: "Social Media Helps Convict Teen Rapists."

(c) 2013 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.

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This article appears in: Investing , Stocks

Referenced Stocks: CBS , CMCSA , GE , NWSA , NYT

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