What does your typical day look like for news consumption? Do you start by reading a print newspaper that has been delivered to your door? Do you watch the local or national television news? What about radio news? Has internet news become your main focus, and, if so, what kinds of sites do you use? Do you access news on your cell phone? Do you share news you've found, and do you discuss issues in the news with friends? These types of questions were the focus of a recent study conducted jointly by two projects within the Pew Research Center-the Internet & American Life Project and the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ). The report that has just been issued (www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Online-News.aspx), "Understanding the Participatory News Consumer," is based on a recent national telephone survey of 2,259 adults ages 18 and older. The findings indicate that the vast majority of Americans get their news from multiple news platforms and 59% get news from both online and offline sources on a typical day. In this multiplatform media environment, people's relationships to news are becoming portable, personalized, and participatory.
New internet and mobile tools and technologies are transforming Americans' relationship to the news. The internet is now the third most popular news platform after local and national TV. As someone who spends a great deal of time online, I was a bit surprised to see the following breakdown of news-seeking behaviors on a typical day-a lot of people still do watch TV.
- 78% of Americans get news from a local TV station.
- 73% get news from a national television network such as CBS or a cable TV station such as CNN or FOXNews.
- 61% get some kind of news online.
- 54% listen to a radio news program at home or in the car.
- 50% read news in the print version of a local newspaper.
- 17% read news in the print version national newspaper such as The New York Times or USATODAY.
But the important finding is that most people use multiple platforms, and six people in 10 use a combination of online and offline sources. The report states that "The notion that people have a primary news source, one place where they go for most of their news, in other words, is increasingly obsolete."
However, the report calls users' behavior on the internet modest. "As is the case with the general news ecology, most people do not express loyalty to one primary online news source, nor do they branch out to gather news from a wide array of websites. Most online news consumers (57%) say they use between two and five online news sources and 65% say they do not have a single favorite website for news."
For those interested in digging further, the report provides a richness of demographic details with charts and graphs to illustrate. For example, not surprisingly, those with the highest educational attainment and annual household incomes are more likely than other adults to use multiple news platforms. There are some interesting differences among those reporting political affiliations-Democrat, Republican, or Independent. Here's an example of one finding: "Those who are disproportionately likely to seek out news sources that match their own views include Republicans and conservatives."
There are differences among landline phone users and cell phone users, etc. There are fascinating charts listing topics about which Americans say there is enough or not enough news coverage. Who knew that people would want more coverage of scientific news and discoveries?
There's an entire section of the report on how people use the news and feel about the news. It seems that news meets a mixture of social, civic, personally enriching, and work-related needs in people's lives. Some 72% of American news consumers say they follow the news because they enjoy talking with others about what is happening in the world, and 69% say keeping up with the news is a social or civic obligation. Moreover, among those who get news online, 75% get news forwarded through email or posts on social networking sites, and 52% share links to news with others via those means.
"News awareness is becoming an anytime, anywhere, any device activity for those who want to stay informed," says Kristen Purcell, associate director for research at the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. "We see new segments of avid news consumers built around those who have set up news alerts and those who are eager to be part of the news-creation and news-commentary environment."
However, Americans have mixed feelings about the current news environment. More than half (55%) say it is easier to keep up with news and information today than it was 5 years ago, but 70% feel the amount of news and information available from different sources is overwhelming.
If you have the time and interest, the report is definitely worthy of attention. By the way, after the miserable winter in most parts of the U.S., is it any surprise that the news topic of most interest to online users is the weather. Second in interest is national events, while health or medicine is third.
Pew Research Center
The Pew Research Center (www.pewresearch.org) has established itself as one of the premier organizations studying the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping America and the world. As a nonpartisan "fact tank," it provides information by conducting public opinion polling and social science research, by reporting news and analyzing news coverage, and by holding forums and briefings. It does not take positions on policy issues. Its work is carried out by seven projects (http://pewresearch.org/about/projects), which encompass social and demographic trends, religion, the Hispanic population, the press, and more.
The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project (www.pewinternet.org) recently published "The Future of the Internet IV" and "Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change."
PEJ's comprehensive annual report, "The State of the News Media 2010," is coming mid-March (www.journalism.org).