Behavior of Online News Consumers

Watching News on TVPew Research Center, a non-profit organization that focuses on issues, attitudes, and trends shaping the USA and the world, released a report on Monday about where Americans get their news. The study was performed by Pew Research Center’s Pew Internet & American Life Project, one of the seven divisions of the Center that focuses on the impact of the Internet on various sectors of American Life.

The report, entitled “Understanding the Participatory News Consumer,” provided some interesting insight into the relationship between news providers and news consumers. For one thing, Americans are not loyal to one news organization — they consume information from a myriad of platforms, be it TV, the Internet, local newspapers, radio, or national newspapers. The Internet is the second most popular news platform, or third if you count local television news and national television news as two separate media. Only 2 percent of American adults are getting their news solely online, however, and 59 percent get their news from more than one platform a day. There are also those who still rely on offline sources for their news — 38 percent.

Some other statistics from the report include:

  • The five most popular online news topics online are weather, national events, health or medicine, business finance or the economy, and international events.
  • 37 percent of Internet users share the news in some ways, either by Twitter, Facebook, email, or other means.
  • 75 percent of those who read the news online get those stories delivered via email or social media sites.
  • 52 percent of those people will share news stories with others online.
  • 72 percent of American news consumers say they follow the news because they enjoy talking with others about what is happening in the world.
  • 65 percent say they do not have a favorite news site, and visit between two and five news sites a day.
  • 36 percent of Internet users say an important part of a news website to them is the ability to manipulate content themselves such as graphics, maps, and quizzes.
  • Of the 80 percent of Americans who have cell phones, 33 percent get some form of news through their devices.

Freelance writer Ian Paul analyzes these findings in an article he wrote for PC World:

[I]f the news is going social and people want to share this content with others, doesn’t it make more sense to give people a reason to visit news sites, instead of building barriers to accessible content?

Despite rising popularity of online news, the favored platform for local news is still television at 78 percent, which, Paul says, contradicts the growing trend of hyper-local websites. As the hyper-local news sites grow in strength and number, however, that is a statistic that is likely to change. For one thing, there just aren’t that many strong hyper-local sites in existence right now. And, among those, one might argue, not many provide reliable news coverage.

The “Understanding the Participatory News Consumer” study was a collaboration with the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, which studies the press in general.

Source: “Americans Prefer Online News After TV, Report Finds,” PC World, 03/01/10
Source: “Understanding the Participatory News Consumer” report, Pew Internet & American Life Project, 03/01/10
Image by flash.pro on Flickr, used under its Creative Commons license.

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