Results from a recent Pew Research Center US study examining how the public consumes news reveals that television remains a dominant source, while the importance of the Internet continues to grow and that of print newspapers declines.
However, use of different media varied depending upon age, affluence, education and technological savvy. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press report, released Aug. 17, categorized the news audience into four groups:
- News integrators — 23 percent of public, who are well-educated, affluent and middle class
- Net newsers — 13 percent with a median age of 35 who rely primarily on the Internet for news and lead the way in Web and technology use
- Traditionalists — 46 percent with a median age of 53 who are less affluent and educated
- Disengaged — 14 percent
Television dominated as the top news source for traditionalists, the survey found. But while most traditionalists have a computer, few retrieve news from the Internet. This group also reported that watching images and video, as opposed to reading or hearing facts, gives them the greatest understanding of an event.
News integrators also regard television as the top source of news, but are far more likely to supplement its use with daily use of the Internet. Fully 56 percent of news integrators get news online on a typical day, while 66 percent get news from television. Radio is also an important news source for news integrators, with 46 percent listening on a typical day.
While TV news dominated among traditionalists and news integrators, it takes a back seat among Net newsers, according to Pew Research. Ninety-two percent of this group goes online for news. This group, which is 58 percent male, is more likely to read a political blog than watch network news or watch news clips online than watch the nightly network news (30 percent vs. 18 percent).
The group identified as disengaged doesn’t have much interest in current events. The survey found that only 55 percent get any news on a typical day and only 20 percent know the Democrats hold a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The survey also revealed that TV news viewing in general is a mixed bag. While the percentage of viewers who regularly tune to cable TV news climbed to 39 percent, up 5 percentage points, in 2008 compared to 2006, those saying they regularly watch local TV news had fallen 2 percentage points to 52 percent in the same period. Nightly network news saw an increase of 1 percentage point to 29 percent for the period.
However, when compared to those who said they regularly tuned in 15 years ago, local viewership was down 25 percentage points and nightly network news viewing had declined 31 percentage points.