Consuming News


The news out of the 2008 biennial news consumption survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press is not the fact that the drop off of consumers of traditional news sources (especially print newspapers) continues to decline and the percentage of those accessing news online is soaring. These trends have existed for the past five or six surveys Pew has conducted over the past ten or 12 years. This year’s incarnation found a sizable minority of us are at “the intersection of these two long-standing trends,” Pew reports, where “today it is not a choice between traditional sources and the Internet for the core elements of today’s news audiences.” In other words, a new grouping of news consumers has developed whose news gathering habits integrate traditional media sources with the Internet.

Through the survey’s data, Pew has identified four segments in nation’s news audience: The above-mentioned group, who Pew terms “Integrators,” who use both traditional news sources along with the Internet. They make up 23 percent of those surveyed. The younger set, which Pew terms “Net-Newsers,” relies primarily on the Web and are the vanguards leading the social networking revolution. They are much less likely to watch television or read print newspapers. This tech-oriented group makes up 13 percent of those surveyed. The older crowd, dubbed the “Traditionalists” by Pew, is the largest grouping at 46 percent. This group cites television as their primary news source. The fourth group, the “Disengaged,” has little interest in news, according to Pew, and make up 14 percent of the public.

Newspaper readership continues to decline, a drop of six percent since 2006, from 40 to 34 percent. Nightly network news has stayed about the same at 29 percent, but that percentage has dropped by half since 1993. Cable television news seems to be holding its viewers and growing some, up to 39 percent who regularly watch now, as opposed to 34 percent two years ago and 33 percent in 2002…Possibly a result of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report?” That’s my speculation only. Those who go online for news three or more times a week has risen to 37 percent, up from 31 percent just two years ago. Ten years ago only 13 percent of the public went online regularly for news, showing close to a three-fold increase over the past decade.

The trends are clear. Higher percentages of the public are depending on Web-based sources for news. Many of those who grew up accessing traditional media are transitioning by hybridizing their news sources, using a mix of traditional and new media sources.