Monday, March 1, 2010

Where Do We Get Our News? (And What Do We Do With It?)

Where do Americans get their news?

According to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism :

78% : Local TV newscast
73% : Network TV newscast
61% : Online news sites
54% : Radio newscast
50% : Local newspaper
17% : National newspaper

But it's what we do with news, and how we interact with it, that's radically changing.

In its new report, "Understanding the Participatory News Consumer," the Project delineates how internet and cell phone users have turned news into a social experience.

The days of loyalty to a particular news organization on a particular piece of technology in a particular form are gone. The overwhelming majority of Americans (92%) use multiple platforms to get news on a typical day, including national TV, local TV, the internet, local newspapers, radio, and national newspapers. Some 46% of Americans say they get news from four to six media platforms on a typical day. Just 7% get their news from a single media platform on a typical day.

The internet is at the center of the story of how people’s relationship to news is changing. Six in ten Americans (59%) get news from a combination of online and offline sources on a typical day, and the internet is now the third most popular news platform, behind local television news and national television news.

The process Americans use to get news is based on foraging and opportunism. They seem to access news when the spirit moves them or they have a chance to check up on headlines. At the same time, gathering the news is not entirely an open-ended exploration for consumers, even online where there are limitless possibilities for exploring news. While online, most people say they use between two and five online news sources and 65% say they do not have a single favorite website for news. Some 21% say they routinely rely on just one site for their news and information.

In this new multi-platform media environment, people’s relationship to news is becoming portable, personalized, and participatory. These new metrics stand out:

Portable: 33% of cell phone owners now access news on their cell phones.

Personalized: 28% of internet users have customized their home page to include news from sources and on topics that particularly interest them.

Participatory: 37% of internet users have contributed to the creation of news, commented about it, or disseminated it via postings on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.

To a great extent, people’s experience of news, especially on the internet, is becoming a shared social experience as people swap links in emails, post news stories on their social networking site feeds, highlight news stories in their Tweets, and haggle over the meaning of events in discussion threads. For instance, more than 8 in 10 online news consumers get or share links in emails.

The rise of the internet as a news platform has been an integral part of these changes. This report discusses two significant technological trends that have influences news consumption behavior: First, the advent of social media like social networking sites and blogs has helped the news become a social experience in fresh ways for consumers. People use their social networks and social networking technology to filter, assess, and react to news. Second, the ascent of mobile connectivity via smart phones has turned news gathering and news awareness into an anytime, anywhere affair for a segment of avid news watchers.

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.

Americans today routinely get their news from multiple sources and a mix of platforms. Nine in ten American adults (92%) get news from multiple platforms on a typical day, with half of those using four to six platforms daily. Fully 59% get news from a combination of online and offline sources on a typical day. Just over a third (38%) rely solely on offline sources, and 2% rely exclusively on the internet for their daily news.
Other findings:

# The average online consumer regularly turns to only a few websites.

# Internet users use the web for a range of news, but local is not near the top of the list.

# News consumption is a socially-engaging and socially-driven activity, especially online. The public is clearly part of the news process now. Participation comes more through sharing than through contributing news themselves.

# News is pocket-sized.

# News is personalized: The “Daily Me” takes shape.

# News is easier to follow now, but overwhelming. And most topics get plenty of coverage, in Americans’ eyes.

More details here.

NOTE: Pew's comprehensive State of the News Media 2010 report is scheduled to be released in mid-March. You can read their 2009 report here.

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