And, those trend lines aren't likely to reverse direction any time soon. Look at this chart, also from the Reuters Institute, that breaks down news consumption habits by age:
Neither of the facts is, in and of themselves, new. The decline of print media is well documented and has forced organizations like The Washington Post and the New York Times to drastically overhaul the means by which we package and deliver content to users. The rise of the social Web was seen early by people like Jonah Peretti and Ben Smith who built BuzzFeed on the simple premise that creating shareable content is the future.
What's remarkable to me is how quickly social has grown and, correspondingly, how quickly print has faltered. The numbers above between 2014 and 2015 are eye-popping. Rather than a slow-motion decline for print, it's starting to look like a collapse. Check out this chart on the rapid erosion of newspaper circulation courtesy of Pew's "State of the Media 2015" report:
While it's clear that media companies need to a) go online to find audience and b) create as much shareable content as possible, what's far more murky is how those same media companies can make money off of the changing habits of news consumers.
If the number of people getting their news from social media continues to rise, that's all to the benefit of the Facebooks of the world. But what about the organizations providing that content? Selling advertising around a single article isn't like selling advertising for a home page or a landing page. And when I say "isn't like" I mean "is WAY harder to make money doing."
Which brings me to this chart, also from Pew, which should be scary for any practicing or aspiring journalist:
Yes, the balance between print ad revenue and digital ad revenue is becoming more equitable. But that's because print revenue is rapidly shrinking while digital revenue is growing very slowly. Not so good.
There's no question that the future of the editorial side of journalism is the social web and the sharing sentiment that drives it. But the question of how to make money off of it -- short of becoming essentially an advertising firm creating sponsored content for companies -- remains unanswered. How and if it gets answered is hugely important to the future of the Fourth Estate as we know it.