Traditional media outlets struggle with the web

The news media is in a state of flux, analysis of the US market has shown. And, while traditional newspapers continue to see advertising revenue decline, old school media firms are struggling to carve an online niche for themselves and rely on third parties to fill their online pages with ads.

According to a report by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, the financial performance of US news media improved in 2010, in comparison to a "dismal" 2009, but newspapers saw a continued in advertising revenue - down by 6.4 per cent.

Online news surpassed print newspapers in ad revenue and audience for the first time in 2010, the State of the News Media report suggests, but news organisations are increasingly dependent on independent networks to sell their ads and on aggregators and social networks to cook up an audience. This suggests they'll have to adapt to survive - and quickly, too.

"In a world where consumers decide what news they want and how they want to get it, the future belongs to those who understand the audience best, and who can leverage that knowledge with advertisers,” said PEJ Director Tom Rosenstiel. “Increasingly that knowledge exists outside of news companies."

Publishers are finding that, while they produce the content, it's the likes of Google that controls whether anyone will read it. And if no-one reads it, then there's no ad revenue to be had.

Additionally, what ad revenue there is to be had is delivered by specialist third-party ad networks so they take their cut too.

The biggest of these - again - is Google.