September 27, 2012

More Americans get news online than from radios or newspapers, Pew’s biennial study of news consumption habits says. Twenty-three percent of people living in the United States said they’d read a print newspaper the day before. That’s half the number who did so in 2000, when nearly 50 percent read a paper the day before. Twenty-nine percent reported reading a newspaper in any format.

Eighteen percent copped to reading a magazine in print the day before. And in wistful news, only 12 percent said they’d received a personal letter.

In more good news for trees:

[S]ubstantial percentages of the regular readers of leading newspapers now read them digitally. Currently, 55% of regular New York Times readers say they read the paper mostly on a computer or mobile device, as do 48% of regular USA Today and 44% of Wall Street Journal readers.

The number of people relying on social media as a news source doubled since 2010, a finding my coworker Jeff Sonderman digs into in another post.

TV news’ audience is graying

TV remains the most popular source of news, but its audience is aging: “Only about a third (34%) of those younger than 30 say they watched TV news yesterday; in 2006, nearly half of young people (49%) said they watched TV news the prior day,” the report says.

Twenty-eight percent of people 18-29 reported they watched local news regularly. In 2006, the report notes, that figure was 42 percent.

Many young people don’t consume news

It’s not surprising that more people under 25 get news from digital (60 percent) than “traditional” sources such as TV, radio and print (43 percent). One rather striking finding:

Fully 29% of those younger than 25 say they got no news yesterday either from digital news platforms, including cell phones and social networks, or traditional news platforms. That is little changed from 33% in 2010.

As before, the time people 18-29 spend consuming news, on average, is far lower than other groups. News sources are competing with social networking for the attention of people under 25, the study found: “as many used Facebook or another social networking site yesterday as got news from all sources combined (76% vs. 71%).”

Only 5 percent of people under 30 reported they follow news about “political figures and events in Washington” very closely.

“The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” had the youngest audiences: 39 percent and 43 percent are below 30. Thirty-two percent of New York Times readers are under 30, higher than any other newspaper surveyed and more than twice the percentage of “Daily newspaper” readers under 30 (12 percent).

Fewer people enjoy following the news

43 percent of people say they “enjoy following the news a lot,” the study says. That’s important because:

As previous news consumption surveys have found, people who enjoy following the news tend to get more news from a variety of sources. Fully 71% of those who enjoy following the news a lot watched television news yesterday, compared with just 41% of those who get less enjoyment from keeping up. And newspaper reading is much higher among those who enjoy keeping up with the news a lot than among those who do not (44% vs. 17%)

People say they don’t like news with POV

Point: 64 percent said they “prefer getting political news from sources that don’t have a particular point of view, compared with 26% who would rather get news from sources that share their political perspective. This is on par with opinions since 2006.”

Counterpoint: “Among individual cable news outlets,” the study notes, “CNN’s regular audience has declined since 2008. Four years ago, nearly a quarter of Americans (24%) said they regularly watched CNN; that has fallen to 16% in the new survey.”

How well is news informing Americans?

Only 14 percent of the people surveyed could answer all four questions about current events: “which party controls the House of Representatives, the current unemployment rate, the nation that Angela Merkel leads and which presidential candidate favors taxing higher-income Americans. … Most news audiences, however, scored substantially better than the public.”

The best audience: Rachel Maddow’s (38 percent could answer all four questions).

Research published by Farleigh Dickinson University in May found that NPR listeners were the most informed while “all else being equal, someone who watched only Fox News would be expected to answer just 1.04 domestic questions correctly — a figure which is significantly worse than if they had reported watching no media at all.”

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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