July 31, 2006

How Americans get news

Our colleagues at the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press today released a major new report about the way people get news. The Center does this survey every two years and this version found that Americans’ use of traditional sources of news has continued to decline and the internet as a news source has continued to rise, though both trends have moderated. The report can be viewed here. It is based on a nationally-representative survey of 3,204 American adults from April 27 to May 22 this year The report is full of interesting insights for news consumers and market research nuggets for news organizations. Some of the gems in the data:

  • One of the reasons people might not be as faithful about reading a newspaper or watching a news broadcast is that people feel confident they will quickly learn about news that matters to them, even if they are not fully paying attention.

    Some 80% of adults agree with the statement that “there are so many ways to get the news these days that I don’t worry when I don’t have a chance to read the paper or when I miss my regular news program.”

    This suggests that people know they will bump into important news if they are online, or friends will pass it along quickly.

  • That is confirmed by another survey finding: When people know that a big story is breaking, the internet is more important than newspapers or radio for getting breaking news. Some 75% of respondents picked TV as the place to get information when a big story is breaking; 18% picked the internet; 8% picked radio; and 6% picked newspapers.
  • Fully 61% of internet users have been sent a link in an email to a news story and 26% of internet users had that happen to them in the past week. On the sending side, 40% of internet users have shared a link to a news story in an email and 14% of online Americans have done that in the past week. This suggests that news is a social currency that is passed around in lots of ways online

    Another sign of the same phenomenon: On a typical day, a quarter of those who say they got news from newspaper websites said they actually encountered the news on non-newspaper web sites. It is also shared through such things as newsletters and aggregation web sites. One of the best aggregation web sites for news about the news business is run by our colleagues at the Center for Excellence in Journalism (http://journalism.org/).

  • Some 6% of those who get news online say they have paid for news content on the internet. We got a similar reading when we asked this question in December 2005. It suggests that most online news consumers can get what they want for free. At the same time, our survey showed that 54% of online news consumers have filled out a registration form in order to get access to news.

    This finding was included in our report on the impact of broadband growth on the consumption of news on the internet: here.