Pew Study concludes tech giants 'control the future of news'

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"All this raises the question of whether the technology giants will find it in their interest to acquire major legacy news brands — as part of the 'everything' they offer consumers," the researchers wrote. "Does there come a point, to ensure the much smaller media company’s survival, for instance, where Facebook considers buying a legacy media partner such as The Washington Post?"

The report points to examples of tech companies and news organizations that have already begun teaming up in recent years. AOL bought The Huffington Post, Reuters will produce original news shows for YouTube and ABC News will be the sole provider of news video for Yahoo. Facebook has struck agreements with The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and others to feature content on its Social Reader and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes bought The New Republic earlier this month.

Although more users are reading their news online, losses in print advertising outpaced gains in online revenue by a factor of about 10 to 1, according to the study.

The report notes that news organizations lag far behind the Web giants in tracking their users and developing targeted advertising. Although tracking users' online behavior has led to scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators over privacy, the practice has allowed companies like Google and Facebook to rake in profits from advertising.

In 2011, just five companies accounted accounted for 68 percent of all online ad revenue, according to the report.

The researchers predicted that news organizations will begin using more sophisticated tracking techniques to keep pace. 

"To survive, news must find a way to make its digital advertising more effective — and more lucrative — and the gathering of consumer data is probably the key. Yet news organizations also must worry about violating the trust of their audiences," the researchers wrote. "The longer they hesitate, the more market share they lose."