Mar 1, 2010

Where we're getting our news - and what we're doing with it

Most people continue to get their news from local and national television broadcasts, but the Internet continues to surge as a source, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The survey finds that on a typical day 61 percent of people get at least some of their news online (weather reports are the top subject matter for online consumption).

The survey also claims that online is now the third most popular platform for news, behind local and national television. The finding isn't clear cut, however, since Pew splits local and national newspapers into two categories. Depending on the amount of overlap, the number of newspaper readers could be as high as 67 percent, although it's probably less. Online comes in at 61 percent and radio is fifth, with 54 percent of people getting some amount of news there during a typical day.

From the survey:
More than half of American adults (56%) say they follow the news "all or most of the time," and another quarter (25%) follow the news at least "some of the time." Asked specifically about their news habits on "a typical day," the results are striking -- 99% of American adults say that on a typical day, they get news from at least one of these media platforms: a local or national print newspaper, a local or national television news broadcast, radio or the internet.

Only local and national TV news, the latter if you combine cable and network, are more popular platforms than the internet for news. And most Americans use a combination of both online and offline sources. On a typical day:

  • 78% of Americans say they get news from a local TV station.
  • 73% say they get news from a national network such as CBS or cable TV station such as CNN or Fox News.
  • 61% say they get some kind of news online.
  • 54% say they listen to a radio news program at home or in the car.
  • 50% say they read news in a local newspaper.
  • 17% say they read news in a national newspaper such as the New York Times or USA Today.
The survey shows that online news consumption is often complimentary to more traditional media sources because it provides consumers with different experiences, such as the ability to get a quick news update (weather, headline, sports score, etc.), share an article or link, or offer an opinion in a comments section. Many people also find news updates on their computer's home page, in their email box, on Twitter feeds, and on social media sites - "more than 8 in 10 online news consumers get or share links in emails," the survey finds.

Traditional sources are less interactive and more reflective. They continue to be the headwaters of news, with their original reporting flowing out onto the web to be shared or hashed over in pools of social networks.

Interestingly, these social networks appear to be less interested in hashing over local news. From the survey findings:
The most popular online news subjects are the weather (followed by 81% of internet news users), national events (73%), health and medicine (66%), business and the economy (64%), international events (62%), and science and technology (60%).

Asked what subjects they would like to receive more coverage, 44% said scientific news and discoveries, 41% said religion and spirituality, 39% said health and medicine, 39% said their state government, and 38% said their neighborhood or local community.


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