An increasing number of all Americans use the Internet as their primary news source, a new study has found, with one third of adult Americans getting their news from social networks more than any other outlet. Is this a victory for the power of social media, or a sad commentary on the ineptitude of “regular” news media?
The Pew Research Center released the study Trends in News Consumption: 1991-2012 yesterday, tracking the ways in which readers and viewers receive information about current affairs over the last twenty-one years. The report backs up the long-held belief that the rise of the Internet has been felt most dramatically in print media, and print newspapers in particular, and demonstrates that television news reporting looks set to be affected in a similar way very soon, with the first signs already visible.
According to the most recent survey of news sources, only 23 percent of Americans read newspapers today, down from 47 percent in the year 2000; this drop is reflected outside of newspapers, with print magazine consumption also dropping from the year 2000 (18 percent of respondents read news magazines today, down from 26 percent in 2000). In comparison, 46 percent of Americans now get their news from the Internet at least three days a week, with 34 percent having done so in the 24 hours prior to answering the survey (That figure grew to 39 percent when cell phones and other mobile devices are factored in). That 46 percent figure is up from 37 percent for the same question when asked just two years ago, and apparently made up of young people with higher education (65 percent of online news junkies are college graduates, with only 22 percent of them ages 65 or older).
Even more impressive is the rise of social media’s importance in the news landscape. “The percentage of Americans saying they saw news or news headlines on a social networking site yesterday has doubled – from 9% to 19% – since 2010,” the report points out, adding that “among adults younger than age 30, as many saw news on a social networking site the previous day (33 percent) as saw any television news (34 percent), with just 13 percent having read a newspaper either in print or digital form.” Facebook is by far the most successful of all social sites, with 41 percent of all adults using it regularly for news, compared with just 13 percent for Twitter.
Social networking sites have a far higher news penetration than other sites you may have thought would be more traditionally popular; compared with the 33 percent who get their news from social media, only 12 percent read news blogs on a regular basis, with just 5 percent listening to news podcasts. This may be considered a lesson for Huffington Post and other news sites: Perhaps it’s time to just start using Facebook and save yourself the costs of a website.