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Study: New Technology Doesn't Mean New Money For Local News Organizations

March 14, 2011

Local news may be going mobile more than ever, but those new technologies have yet to translate into significant revenue for news organizations, according to a study by The Pew Research Center.

Just 10 percent of adults who use mobile apps for local news and information, or about 1 percent of all adults, pay for that access, according to the report released Monday. Thirty-six percent still pay for some kind of local news, most of it in the form of local print newspaper subscriptions. Almost 20 percent of respondents said they would be willing to pay $10 a month, but about three-quarters of adults aren't willing to pay anything for local news, the study found.

"Many news organizations are looking to mobile platforms, in particular mobile apps, to provide new ways to generate subscriber and advertising revenues in local markets," said Lee Rainie, director of The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, in a statement. "The survey suggests there is a long way to go before that happens."

And the bad news doesn't stop there. Thirty-nine percent of respondents said the loss of their local newspaper would have no impact on their ability to stay informed on local information. Twenty-eight percent said losing their paper would have a "major" impact, according to the study.

But it's not all doom and gloom for local news providers. Almost half of all American adults get at least some local news and information on their cellphones or tablet computers. And 65 percent say they think it is easier to stay informed today than it was five years ago.

"Tablet penetration is growing so rapidly--as quickly as any device we have seen to date--it will be fascinating to see whether that changes whether people will pay for content online, but for now it hasn't happened," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The study is the result of 2,251 phone interviews (at least 750 by cellphone) with American adults. The results have a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points.

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