If you ask political news consumers what they like most about their favorite source of news, a vivid image of a typical TV, newspaper, and internet political news consumer will emerge from their own comments. That’s what the Pew Internet & American Life Project asked in its 2006 postelection survey, and from the responses you could almost see the newspaper reader -- straight from Norman Rockwell -- settling down in a favorite chair near a warm fire, shaking the paper open, and smoothing it flat to read the political news analysis. Next would be the TV watcher, perhaps a harried parent, bustling around the kitchen throwing dinner together, dodging the dog, checking kids’ homework, and keeping an ear and occasional eye on the evening campaign news; or a quieter version of that home where the TV is on in the background, out of habit or to provide company. Then the internet user, a multi-tasker in the home or business office, a fastmover, clicking windows open and shut, skimming a blog while downloading a long attachment, searching for a candidate’s video clip while pondering an email reply.
Just after the midterm elections in the fall of 2006, the Pew Internet & American Life Project polled Americans about their political news sources. (http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2007/Election-2006-Online.aspx) We asked people if they were getting most of their election news from the television, newspapers, radio, magazines, or the internet. As ever, television was the walk-away favorite. Over two-thirds of respondents (69%) said they got most of their political news from television; about a third (34%) said newspapers, and 15% said the internet.
But the underdog internet is gaining quickly. Compared with data gathered after the most recent mid-term election in 2002, the percentage of Americans who reported they went to the internet for most of their political news in 2006 more than doubled, from 7% to 15%. During the same time period, the percentage of those getting their political input from TV and newspapers remained essentially static, increasing from 66% to 69% for TV, and from 33% to 34% for newspapers.
We probed further, asking people to reflect on what it was about what they particularly liked about their preferred medium for campaign and election news -- TV, newspaper, or internet --that set it apart from the other forms of media. Nearly all respondents gave us an answer, often a word or two and sometimes a few sentences.
The fun starts here. But first, a quiz for you: Can you match the respondents’ following answers (a sample from some of the most common qualities) with the proper medium: television, newspapers, or internet?
a) Enjoyable. In-depth. I can think about it. I can review it.
b) Easy. Live. I can do something at the same time. It’s just there.
c) Control. Quick. Choice. Convenient.
In case you aren’t absolutely sure of your answer, here is a further hint: Each comment below is taken verbatim from the responses, and each belongs with the description above bearing the same letter. That is to say (a) below belongs with (a) above.
a) “I just enjoy reading my newspaper.”
b) “I don’t really know what it is I like about it.” (from a TV lover.)
c) “It’s exactly what you want when you want it.” (from an internet aficionado.)