April 12, 2012

72% of Americans follow local news closely

Part III. How do local news enthusiasts’ news consumption habits differ from others?

Overview

Local news enthusiasts are general news enthusiasts. Overall, nine in 10 say they enjoy keeping up with the news a lot (63%) or some (29%), and they are more likely than other adults to follow all types of news (international, national, and local).  This is true of both older and younger local news enthusiasts, though those age 40 and older are the most likely to follow all types of news. 

More than three-quarters of local news followers (78%) also follow national news closely whether or not something important is happening and 63% follow international news closely regardless of particular breaking events.  In contrast, among their less enthusiastic counterparts, 56% report they follow international and 53% report they follow national news only when something important is happening. 

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Local news consumption habits

There is no difference between local news enthusiasts and others in their views about the comparative ease of keeping informed about the local community today compared with five years ago – just over half (56%) say that compared with five years ago it is easier today to keep up with local news, and an additional 29% say there is no real difference compared with five years ago.  Just 13% say it is harder today to keep up with local news.

However, in several other respects local news enthusiasts are very different from those who follow local news less closely.  Their general view of local news and the number and type of sources they use show significant differences in how these two groups approach keeping informed about their community. Overall, local news enthusiasts see more value in their local news sources, use a variety of sources and more sources regularly than others, and are more willing to pay for them. 

Do local sources provide the information that matters?

Asked whether the local news sources currently available to them give them the information they need, a third of this group (35%) say that local news sources give them all of the information that matters to them, and an additional 60% say these sources provide some of the information that matters to them.  Just 4% say their local news sources give them not much or none of the information they need.  Older and younger local news enthusiasts are similar on these measures of satisfaction with local news.

In comparison, among those who follow local news less closely, just one-quarter (25%) say local sources provide them all of the information that matters to them, while 57% say they only provide some.  Fully 15% of this group say they do get not much or none of the information they need from their current local news sources.

Number and variety of local news sources used

Local news enthusiasts use a wider variety of sources on a regular basis than other adults to keep up with local news.  As a group they prefer traditional platforms such as newspapers and television, as well as word of mouth from family or friends, yet there are key differences between younger and older local news followers in this regard

Eight in 10 adults who follow local news closely (80%) use broadcast television as a source for local news on a weekly basis, while about half use word of mouth (57%), radio (52%) and print newspaper (48%).   Older local news enthusiasts are more likely than those under age 40 to use broadcast television (83% v. 76%) and a print version of the local newspaper (53% v. 36%) weekly.  In contrast, younger local news enthusiasts are more likely to use word of mouth as a local news source each week (63% v. 54%).

Fewer local news followers of any age, but still substantial percentages, go beyond these traditional sources and use online sources or the online versions of more familiar sources – such as search engines (41%), websites for the local newspaper (23%) or television station (20%), and social networking sites (12%).  Local news enthusiasts are more likely than other adults to use each of these different sources for local information on a regular basis.  And not surprisingly, among local news enthusiasts, younger adults lead the way in using each of these sources: 

  • Search engines (54% of local news followers under age 40 v. 35% of older local news followers)
  • Local newspaper website (33% of those under age 40 v. 18% of those age 40+)
  • Local television station website (32% of those under age 40 v. 14% of those age 40+)
  • Social networking sites (21% of those younger than age 40 v. 7% of those age 40+)

Table 4

Local news enthusiasts are also more likely than others to use only traditional sources of local news (27% vs. 21%), yet nearly two-thirds of this group use non-traditional sources as well.  Four in 10 (40%) use a combination of traditional, online and mobile sources, and an additional 25% use a combination of traditional and online sources.   

Local new followers who rely on just traditional news sources tend to be age 40 and older—36% use only traditional sources for their local news, compared with 10% of local news enthusiasts younger than 40.  The latter, in contrast, are more likely than older local news followers to use a combination of traditional, online and mobile sources for their local news (64% v. 28%). 

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The diversity in local news sources used by local news enthusiasts translates to using more sources weekly.  These heavier local news consumers use a mean of 3.77 sources a week compared with 2.84 sources for others.  Local news enthusiasts are twice as likely as other adults (18% v. 9%) to use six or more sources of local news on a weekly basis. Nearly half of those less interested in local news (47%) use two or fewer sources per week to gather information about their community.

The widest variety of sources used is among local news enthusiasts under age 40.  The mean number of sources use weekly by this group is 4.38, compared with 3.47 for older local news followers.  Three in ten local news enthusiasts under age 40 (29%) report using 6 or more sources for local news weekly, compared with 12% of their older counterparts.   

Chart 9

However, despite the number and variety of news sources used, these local news junkies are much more likely than others to have a favorite source for local news.  Six in 10 (62%) report having a favorite source, compared with just 38% of those who follow local news only when something important is happening.  Older local news enthusiasts (age 40 and older) are slightly more likely than their younger counterparts to have a favorite local source (66% v. 53%).

Local news enthusiasts are more willing to pay for local news

Local news enthusiasts are more reliant on their local newspaper than others and that reliance is reflected in a greater willingness to pay for the local paper (both the print and online versions).  One-third (32%) say it would have a major impact on them if their local newspaper no longer existed, compared with 19% of those less interested in local news.  In contrast, just 19% of adults who do not follow local news closely say they would feel a major impact and fully half (51%) say they would feel no impact at all from the loss of their local paper. Only 34% of local news enthusiasts feel this way. 

Most likely to report a major impact if their newspaper disappeared are local news followers age 40 and older (35%), though even among younger local news followers 26% say losing the local paper would have a major impact on them. 

Local news enthusiasts are twice as likely as other adults (38% v. 19%) to have a paid subscription for delivery of a local print newspaper, led almost entirely by the 46% of older local news enthusiasts who currently pay for this service.  In addition to a local newspaper print subscription, 6% of local news enthusiasts pay for some other local news source, compared with just 3% of other adults.

While nearly three quarters (72%) of local news enthusiasts say they would not pay for online access to their local newspaper, nearly one-quarter (23%) say they would pay a monthly subscription fee of $5 or $10 to get full online access to their local newspaper.  This is higher than the percent of other adults who would pay to access their local newspaper online. 

  • 13% (vs. 8% of other adults) would pay $5
  • 10% (vs. 5% of other adults) would pay $10

Older and younger local news enthusiasts are equally likely to say they would pay for online access to their local paper, despite the fact that younger local news enthusiasts are currently heavier users of their local paper’s website.    

Local news enthusiasts are not more likely to be “local news participators”

Interestingly, as a whole, their enthusiasm for local news does not lead this group to more actively participate electronically in the local news environment than others.  Overall, four in 10 local news enthusiasts have participated in one or more of the following activities related to local news, with their level of participation on each activity comparable to those who do not follow local news closely. 

However, younger local news enthusiasts are significantly more likely than both their older counterparts and adults who do not follow local news closely to participate in the digital local news environment.  More than half of local news followers under age 40 (56%) engage in one of the following activities, compared with 33% of older local news followers and 42% of adults who do not follow local news closely.

  • Email a link to a local news story or local news video to someone you know (36% of younger local news enthusiasts v. 21% of older local news enthusiasts v. 26% of other adults)
  • Post news or information about your local community on a social networking site like Facebook (32% of younger local news enthusiasts v. 8% of older local news enthusiasts v. 17% of other adults)
  • Comment on a local news story or local blog you read online (22% of younger local news enthusiasts v. 13% of older local news enthusiasts v. 15% of other adults)
  • Customize homepage to include your favorite local information or news sources or topics (20% of younger local news enthusiasts v. 13% of older local news enthusiasts v. 15% of other adults)
  • Contribute to online discussions or message boards about your local community (14% of younger local news enthusiasts v. 5% of older local news enthusiasts v. 6% of other adults)
  • Tag or categorize online local news content (9% of younger local news enthusiasts v. 5% of older local news enthusiasts v. 5% of other adults)
  • Contribute your own article, opinion piece, picture or video about your local community to an online news site (8% of younger local news enthusiasts v. 4% of older local news enthusiasts v. 4% of other adults)
  • Post news or information about your local community on Twitter (5% of younger local news enthusiasts v. less than 1% of older local news enthusiasts v. 1% of other adults)