Wait: ABC News had 400 employees…?


“The process of cutting up to 25% of the jobs at ABC News is all but complete,” reports MediaBistro.

I’m not shocked that one of the Big Three networks is shedding staff.

What’s amazing is that “400 employees” only represents “25% of the jobs” at the division.

Four years ago, media watchers were talking about ratings (and revenue) at the Big Three newscasts “dropping like a rock.” The decline has slowly worsened, as noted in the most recent “State of the News Media” report, issued by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism:

The situation, as one industry observer described it, is glacial, not tectonic. An erosion, not a collapse.

CBS News, which managed to hold staffing relatively stable in 2009, also instituted cutbacks in early 2010, with estimates of 100 news staff members, or roughly 7% of the total, dropped. And NBC News experienced double digits cutbacks in 2009, by our reckoning and press accounts.

The economics of network news are challenging but the problems may be more tied to the structure of the financial model than to ratings. Broadcast network revenues come almost entirely from advertising, while cable channels get half their revenue from subscription fees from cable operators.

And advertisers aren’t interested, becausethe median age of nightly news viewers was 62.3 for all three evening newscasts in 2009 (…) These demographics are important. Some television news professionals say the advertising industry barely looks at overall ratings anymore, given how important younger demographics (viewers between the ages of 25 and 54) are on the theory that they are more fluid in their consumer choices.”

Meanwhile, as reported by no less an enemy of conservative media than Eric Alterman at the Center for American Progress:

48 million people get their news from [talk radio], according to the Pew Project For Excellence In Journalism, and the numbers of radio stations that carry at least some talk shows grew to 2,056 from 1,370 the year before, according to Inside Radio magazine.

That’s more than twice the collective audience for the three TV network evening news shows combined, more than five times the audience of the three network Sunday news shows, nearly seven times the combined audience for cable news shows, nearly 10 times the audience for NPR’s “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” and 16 times the audience for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.