Friday, September 30, 2011

Where do people go for news?

Where do people go for news?  It's a question that is regularly asked by surveys, and has shown some interesting shifts over time.  However, the question normally asks only a general question about "news", or at best asks about local news or national news, recognizing the different sets of uses and gratifications bundled into the generic "news" label.
The Pew Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism the Pew Internet & American Life Project has just released a study that starts to unbundle the concept of news, and how an active audience shows more nuance and complexity in their news consumption habits.  Fir this study, the Pew Centers identified 16 different topic areas in news and asked participants for their preferences and use.  The goal was to develped a more nuanced understanding of an increasingly complex and competitive media ecosystem.  An example: while local TV news remains the most popular source for "news information," it urns out that adults "rely" on local TV news for weather, traffic, and breaking news, only
Also, not only has the proportion of people identifying the Internet as their preferred news source been growing, but Web-only news outlets are becoming the most-relied-on source of key areas of local news and information (listed as key source for information on education, local business, and restaurants, and tied with newspapers as top sources for news and information of jobs, schools, and housing).
Opinion about newspapers as a news source had some interesting results.  Newspapers were listed at "most-relied on) source for 11 of the 16 categories (listed first, or tied for first).  On the other hand, more than two-thirds of respondents felt that if their local newspaper disappeared, it would not affect their ability to stay abreast of news and information about their community.  In other words, while people felt they could rely on newspapers for many topics, newspapers were not seen as necessary or critical news outlets.
Part of that may be a result of the expansion of new types of digital and mobile media.  Almost half of respondents use mobile devices for local news and information and 17% get local news from social media at least once a month.  And don't forget that more than half of the sample report regularly getting local news and information from friends and neighbors (via word-of-mouth).
The good news for news and journalism generally is that almost two-thirds of the sample said that they regularly used and relied on at least three different media sources.  45% chose not to indicate a "favorite" outlet, suggesting tha rise of a smarter, more active, news consumer - one that assembles and uses a range of media to meet their news and information needs.  The study also found that 41% of the sample qualified as what Pew calls "local news participators" - people who share links, leave comments, and even contribute, to local online sites, articles and opinion pieces about their community.

Sources - Internet, Mobile Compete With TV as Key Local News SourcesOnline Media Daily
How people learn about their local community,  Pew Research Centers report

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