The state of the media continues to deteriorate in favor of the web

MONTREAL – The economic situation of traditional media continues to deteriorate and keepers may place more faith in it than anywhere else, but they continue to move away from it in favor of the platforms of the web giants, just like advertisers.

In its massive State of the Media Report, published on Wednesday, the Center for Media Studies (CEM), a partner of Universities Laval, Montreal and QAM, paints a very complete picture of the media industry. The information in Quebec and this picture is cause for concern.

However, the report’s author, researcher Daniel Gero, notes that it is difficult to draw conclusions about the data from 2020 and 2021 because these pandemic years have brought about changes in behavior that are impossible to make. to get to know. If it is ephemeral.

TV and the epidemic

For example, television remains the main source of information for 52% of Quebec’s French-speaking population. And while the time spent watching the news on traditional television decreased by 19% between 2011 and 2019, it returned to 2011 levels in 2020, when daily press conferences from various government and health agencies were taken seriously. One can easily understand the uncertainty surrounding the continuation of this increase.

For their part, print and digital newspapers as well as traditional radio are the primary source of information, respectively, for only 15% and 5% of respondents. Social media ranks first for 16% of respondents, and unsurprisingly, this percentage is exploding among those under 35, who are ahead on TV by a good ten points.

On the other hand, despite not being the primary source, half of French-speaking Quebecers still read daily newspapers every day of the week, but a third are 65 or older, and conversely, those under 50 are Age is underrepresented.

Regional and live weeklies have seen their readership dwindle, but much of this erosion is attributed to the hexagonal graves they lived in. From 2012 to 2021, their number increased from 200 to 113. Mainstream magazines, for their part, have lost about 635,000 readers over the past three years.

High confidence in Quebec

It should be noted that confidence in traditional media information has rebounded in Quebec. Thus, more than half (54%) say they can trust the majority of information most of the time, compared to 44% of English speakers. This is a five-point increase from 2020 and back to 2016 levels and one of the highest results among the 46 countries surveyed by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Only eight developed countries have a score equal to or above that of Quebec. By way of comparison, countries such as Australia, Japan or Italy show percentages of around 40%, the United Kingdom and Mexico close to 35%, while France and the United States, in particular, come out on the back with around 30%.

The pandemic has had devastating economic effects, especially during lockdowns, and governments have been called on to support many economic sectors, including the media. Thus, the closing or curtailment of the activities of many retail companies has reduced or stopped their advertising expenditures altogether. However, the advertisers’ loss was offset, albeit in part, by increased expenditures by governments that sought to multiply awareness messages to the population. But above all, Ottawa softened the blow with its financial support for many businesses, including the media, and at the same time, the implementation of two tiers of government tax credits on written media payrolls gave some air to those who benefited from it.

Transforming advertising to the web

But the money drain from advertisers was already significant before the pandemic, exacerbating the phenomenon. Between 2012 and 2020, advertisers spent about $850 million less in traditional media. However, overall advertising budgets have increased by about $150 million. Unsurprisingly, since this phenomenon has been known and documented for a long time, it was Google, Facebook, YouTube and other Twitter that monopolized this money. Web giants now command nearly 60% of the advertising market compared to 20% ten years ago. Classified ads, another source of information that was once the exclusive franchise of daily newspapers, have also taken to the web on sites like Kijiji or LesPac.com.

Daily newspapers were the hardest hit, reporting losses in advertising revenue of $375 million, or 70% of what it had been. The decrease is $190 million for television (-27%), $114 million for magazines (-84%), $111 million for weekly magazines (-54%) and $64 million for radio (-22%).

To add to this burden, daily newspapers and magazines saw their subscription revenue and newsstand sales decline, respectively, by $85 million and $40 million.

And even if the media invests in the virtual space, it only collects 8% of the dollars for online advertising, a source of income that has been in decline since hitting 16% in 2012.

However, the data collected by CEM shows that Quebec newspapers (daily and weekly) finished 2020 with a profit of close to 12%, while they were a loser in 2018. On the other hand, public interest television, which is the other major information producer, is exposed for loss after loss since 2014. It peaked in 2020 at 23%.

loss of journalists

These losses have inevitably translated into significant reductions in staffing and information. The number of journalists decreased by 10% (420 people) between the 2006 census and the 2016 census. No sector—the print press, public television, radio, public or private sector—was spared.

CEM does not have such accurate data for the period from 2016 to 2021, but Statistics Canada data for this period indicate a continuing decline in the number of employees. Furthermore, all major print media in Quebec have announced staff reductions during this period. However, in recent times, journalists have been appointed to several daily newspapers. But at the same time, some magazines closed their doors while other publications diverged. At the end we write, “The additions do not erase the losses. The balance is negative. In fact, the payroll of dailies, weekly newspapers and other publications decreased by nearly 40% between 2016 and 2020.

We will have to see the outcome of new federal legislation targeting the web giants. Canadian newspaper publishers expect to receive royalties in the range of 100 to 150 million from digital giants such as Google and Meta/Facebook after the negotiations that this law mandates and frames. CEM’s analysis notes that “these huge companies are taking advantage of their dominant position to use journalistic content without paying a fair compensation fee to most of those who produce it.”

Results on TV and radio are described as “more contrast”. Thus there is a decrease in the amounts allocated to information in some electronic media, but there are additions in others. However, in many cases more has been invested in analysis and interpretation than in raw information. The creation of the Novo newsroom is welcome, but it must be remembered that this is a rebirth of the closed editing room in the past. Bell, the owner of Novo, also closed the newsroom at English radio station CJAD.

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