March 22, 2006

Online news hits a new high-water mark in popularityFor many home broadband users, online news is a primary news source

By the end of 2005, 50 million Americans got news online on a typical day, a sizable increase since 2002. Much of that growth has been fueled by the rise in home broadband connections over the last four years.

For a group of “high-powered” online users – early adopters of home broadband who are the heaviest internet users – the internet is their primary news source on the average day. Within this group – which makes up 40% of home high-speed internet users in the United States – 71% go online for news on the average day, while 59% get news from local TV. Just over half get news from national TV and radio on the typical day and about 40% turn to local papers.

“The broadband difference is now permeating the news environment,” said John B. Horrigan, Associate Director for Research at the Pew Internet & American Life Project and principal author of the report. “High-powered internet users are heavily into other media sources as well, but the preeminent place of online news suggests that it shapes their offline information choices in an important way.”

Across age groups, the impact of online news is greatest for American adults under the age of 36 with a high-speed internet connection at home. For this age group, the internet is now on par with local TV as a daily source for news, and surpasses national TV, radio, and local papers as a news source. Fully 46% of this group gets news online on the typical day, compared with 51% who turn to local TV, 41% who turn to radio, and 40% to national TV news.

Broadband users in this age group are more likely to seek out a wider range of news sources on a typical day than their dial-up counterparts, with much of that addition coming from online news. For the “under 36” age group generally, the local paper, local TV, and national TV newscasts play lesser roles in their newsgathering habits than for older Americans.

“Historically, Americans under the age of 36 are generally less likely to follow current events than older Americans, but the presence of an ‘always on’ broadband connection pulls some of them to the news,” said Horrigan. “For many of these young broadband users, the internet is their ‘main course’ for news and they don’t always eat their vegetables or order dessert in the form of using other media.”

For older broadband users, online news fills in ‘news gaps’ among already established news consumption habits, although these broadband users show a modest tendency to watch less local TV news than dial-up users. Otherwise, broadband and dial-up users over the age of 35 show small differences in daily news consumption habits.

The report is based on a December 2005 survey of 3,011 adult Americans, 1,931 of whom are internet users and 1,014 of whom have high-speed internet connections at home. The Pew Internet & American Life project is a non-partisan, non-advocacy research organization based in Washington, D.C. and is part of the Pew Research Center.