Tuesday, September 16, 2008

News Junkies Tune In All Media

According to the 2008 biennial news consumption survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, audiences for most traditional news sources have steadily declined, as the number of people getting news online has surged. However, today it is not a choice between traditional sources and the Internet for the core elements of today's news audiences, notes the report, since a sizable minority of Americans find themselves at the intersection of these two long-standing trends in news consumption.

The study finds four distinct segments in today's news audience:
  • Integrators, who comprise 23% of the public
  • Net-Newsers (13%)
  • Traditionalists, the oldest (median age: 52) and largest news segment (46% of the public)
  • Disengaged (14%) who stand out for their low levels of interest in the news and news consumption
Integrators represent 23% of the public, and like web-oriented news consumers, Integrators are affluent and highly educated. However, they are older, on average, than those who consider the internet their main source of news. Overall, Integrators spend more time with the news on a typical day than do those who rely more on either traditional or internet sources.

Integrators also are heavier consumers of national news -- especially news about politics and Washington -- and are avid sports news consumers. Television is their main news source, but more than a third cite the internet as their primary source of news during the day. This reflects the fact that 45% of Integrators log on to the internet from work.

Nearly half of Integrators (46%) listen to news on the radio during a typical day. While the internet is the main news source for Integrators during the course of the day, about as many in this segment rely on radio news as TV news during the day (32% radio vs. 36% TV news).

Net-Newsers are the youngest of the news user segments (median age: 35). They are affluent and even better educated than the News Integrators:
  • More than eight-in-ten have at least attended college
  • They rely primarily on the internet for news,
  • They are leading the way in using new web features and other technologies
  • Nearly twice as many regularly watch news clips on the internet as regularly watch nightly network news broadcasts (30% vs. 18%)
  • Fewer than half (47%) watch television news on a typical day.
  • Twice as many read an online newspaper than a printed newspaper on a typical day (17% vs. 8%), while 10% read both.
  • They are at least as likely as Integrators and Traditionalists to read magazines such as The New Yorker and The Atlantic, and somewhat more likely to get news from the BBC.
    More than four-in-ten Net-Newsers (43%) regularly watch cable news, far more than the proportion that regularly watches network or local news.

Traditionalists remain the largest segment of the overall news audience. Compared with the Integrators and Net-Newsers, Traditionalists are downscale economically:

  • 43% are not employed
  • 60% have no more than a high school education


Television dominates as the favored news source among Traditionalists. And at each time of the day -- whether morning, daytime, dinner hour, or late at night -- overwhelming majorities who get news at these times cite television as their main source. Most Traditionalists say that seeing pictures and video, rather than reading or hearing the facts, gives them the best understanding of events.


The Disengaged are very much bystanders when it comes to news consumption. They are less educated on average than even the Traditionalists and exhibit extremely low interest in, and knowledge of, current events:

  • Only 55% of the Disengaged get any news on a typical day
  • 20% know that the Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives

Other Key Findings in the Trends in News Consumption

  • About a third of those younger than 25 (34%) say they get no news on a typical day, up from 25% in 1998
  • A slim majority of Americans (51%) now say they check in on the news from time to time during the day. This marks the first time that most Americans consider themselves "news grazers"
  • Just 10% of those with social networking profiles say they regularly get news from these sites
  • Currently 51% of regular CNN viewers are Democrats, up from 45% two years ago
    Nearly four-in-ten regular Fox News viewers are Republicans (39%), about the same as in 2006
  • 15% of Americans say they have a smart phone, such as an iPhone or a Blackberry. More than a third of smart phone owners (37%) say they get news from these devices
  • Believability ratings for major online news outlets, including news aggregators such as Google News and AOL News, are lower than for major print, cable and broadcast outlets

Since the1990s, the proportion of Americans saying they read a newspaper on a typical day has declined by about 40%; the proportion that regularly watches nightly network news has fallen by half. Most of the loss in readership since 2006 has come among those who read the print newspaper. These trends have been more stable in recent years, but the percentage saying they read a newspaper yesterday has fallen from 40% to 34% in the last two years alone.

For more complete information, including charts and tables, please visit PewResearch here, or the Pew website here.

Source: Research Brief for Thursday, September 11, 2008: http://blogs.mediapost.com/research_brief/?p=1791

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