A new report from the Pew Internet and American Life project says the Internet has surpassed newspapers and radio in popularity as a news platform on a typical day and now ranks just behind TV.
The report states, “To a great extent, people’s experience of news, especially on the internet, is becoming a shared social experience as people swap links in emails, post news stories on their social networking site feeds, highlight news stories in their Tweets, and haggle over the meaning of events in discussion threads.”
The report discusses two significant technological trends that have influenced news consumption behavior:
- First, the advent of social media like social networking sites and blogs has helped the news become a social experience in fresh ways for consumers. People use their social networks and social networking technology to filter, assess, and react to news.
- Second, the ascent of mobile connectivity via smart phones has turned news gathering and news awareness into an anytime, anywhere affair for a segment of avid news watchers.
“The process Americans use to get news is based on foraging and opportunism. They seem to access news when the spirit moves them or they have a chance to check up on headlines,” says the report. “At the same time, gathering the news is not entirely an open-ended exploration for consumers, even online where there are limitless possibilities for exploring news.”
Most people say they use between two and five news sources when online, and two thirds say they don’t have a single favorite. Only 21 percent say they routinely rely on just one site for their news and information. Moreover, many do not have strong loyalty to particular online sources. When asked whether they have a favorite online news source, the majority of online news users (65%) say they do not.
The most popular topics are the weather, national events and health. Nearly half said they’s like to see more coverage of scientific news and discoveries and 41 percent wanted more news on religion and spirituality.
The report explains that 80% of American adults have cell phones today, and 37% of them go online from their phones. The impact of this new mobile technology on news gathering is unmistakable. One quarter (26%) of all Americans say they get some form of news via cell phone today–that amounts to 33% of cell phone owners.
Despite the fact that it’s easier to keep up with the news today, the Pew Report says Americans still feel overwhelmed. Fully 70% agreed with that statement: “The amount of news and information available from different sources today is overwhelming.” Some 25% “completely agreed” with that statement and 45% “mostly agreed.”