Americans spend more time following the news: Study

MUMBAI: News consumption for Americans has gone up during the ten-year period, according to the Pew Research Center for People and The Press.

Digital platforms are playing a larger role in news consumption, and they seem to be more than making up for modest declines in the audience for traditional platforms. As a result, the average time Americans spend with the news on a given day is as high as it was in the mid-1990s, when audiences for traditional news sources were much larger.  
  Roughly a third (34 per cent) of the public say they went online for news – on par with radio, and slightly higher than daily newspapers. And when cell phones, email, social networks and podcasts are added in, 44 per cent of Americans say they got news through one or more internet or mobile digital source.

At the same time, the proportion of Americans who get news from traditional media platforms – television, radio and print – has been stable or edging downward in the last few years. There has been no overall decline in the percentage saying they watched news on television, and even with the continued erosion of print newspaper and radio audiences, three-quarters of Americans got news from one or more of these three traditional platforms.

In short, instead of replacing traditional news platforms, Americans are increasingly integrating new technologies into their news consumption habits. More than a third (36 per cent) of Americans say they got news from both digital and traditional sources, just shy of the number who relied solely on traditional sources (39 per cent). Only nine per cent of Americans got news through the internet and mobile technology without also using traditional sources.

The net impact of digital platforms supplementing traditional sources is that Americans are spending more time with the news than was the case a decade ago. As was the case in 2000, people now say they spend 57 minutes on average getting the news from TV, radio or newspapers on a given day. But today, they also spend an additional 13 minutes getting news online, increasing the total time spent with the news to 70 minutes. This is one of the highest totals on this measure since the mid-1990s and it does not take into account time spent getting news on cell phones or other digital devices .

The biennial news consumption survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted June 8-28 on cell phones and landlines among 3,006 adults, finds further evidence that the combination of digital and traditional platforms is leading to increased news consumption.

The groups that are driving the increase in time spent with the news – particularly highly educated people – are most likely to use digital and traditional platforms. Fully 69 per cent of those with some post-graduate experience got news through a digital source; this also is the group that showed the largest rise in time spent with the news from 2006-2008 to 2010 (from 81 minutes yesterday to 96 minutes). There also has been a modest increase in time spent with the news among those 30 to 64 – but not among older and younger age groups.

Digital platforms are supplementing the news diets of news consumers, but there is little indication they are expanding the proportion of Americans who get news on a given day. The vast majority of Americans (83 per cent) get news in one form or another as part of their daily life. But even when cell phones, podcasts, social networks, email, Twitter and RSS feeds are accounted for, 17 per cent of Americans say they got no news, little changed from previous years.

Moreover, while young people are most likely to integrate new technologies into their daily lives, they are not using these sources to get news at higher rates than do older Americans. Rather, those in their 30s are the only age group in which a majority (57 per cent) reports getting news on one or more digital platforms.

The integration of traditional and digital technology is common among those in older age groups as well. Nearly half (49 per cent) of people in their 40s, and 44 per cent of those between 50 and 64, got news through one or more digital modes – rates that are comparable to those 18 to 29 (48 per cent). Digital news consumption is low only among those ages 65 and older, just 23 per cent of whom used one or more digital modes for news.

Print Newspaper Decline Only Partially Offset by Online Readership
Only about one-in-four (26 per cent) Americans say they read a newspaper in print, down from 30 per cent two years ago and 38 per cent in 2006. Meanwhile, online newspaper readership continues to grow and is offsetting some of the overall decline in readership. This year, 17 per cent of Americans say they read something on a newspaper’s website, up from 13 per cent in 2008 and nine per cent in 2006.

But the online audience is only partially stemming the decline in the share of Americans who turn to newspapers; even when all online newspaper readership is included, 37 per cent of Americans report getting news from newspapers, virtually unchanged from 39 per cent two years ago, but down from 43 per cent in 2006.

In general, daily newspaper readers tend to be older on average than the general public, but the regular readership of some of the major national newspapers – USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and especially the New York Times – defy this trend. More than half of regular USA Today and Wall Street Journal (55 per cent each) readers are younger than 50 – a profile that largely matches the nation as a whole (roughly 55 per cent of all adults are between 18 and 49). Fully two-thirds (67 per cent) of regular New York Times readers are younger than 50, with a third (34 per cent) younger than 30 – making its audience substantially younger than the national average (55 per cent younger than 50, 23 per cent younger than 30).

The young profile of the regular New York Times readership is undoubtedly linked to the paper’s success online. Nearly one-in-ten of internet users younger than 30 (eight per cent) – and six per cent of all internet users – volunteer the New York Times when asked to name a few of the websites they use most often to get news and information.

Cable News Audiences in Flux : Overall, cable news continues to play a significant role in peoples’ news habits – 39 per cent say they regularly get news from a cable channel. But the proportions saying they regularly watch CNN, MSNBC and CNBC have slipped substantially from two years ago, during the presidential election.

Only Fox News has maintained its audience size, and this is because of the increasing number of Republicans who regularly get news there. Four-in-ten Republicans (40 per cent) now say they regularly watch Fox News, up from 36 per cent two years ago and just 18 per cent a decade ago. Just 12 per cent of Republicans regularly watch CNN, and just six per cent regularly watch MSNBC.

As recently as 2002, Republicans were as likely to watch CNN (28 per cent) as Fox News (25 per cent). The share of Democrats who regularly watch CNN or Fox News has fallen from 2008.

In terms of specific programmes, Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly have succeeded in attracting conservative and attentive audiences. This is also the case for radio host Rush Limbaugh.

Most of those who regularly watch O’Reilly (63 per cent) and Hannity (65 per cent) are 50 or older; 44 per cent of the public is 50 or older. By contrast, the Daily Show and Colbert Report have the youngest audiences of any outlet included in the survey. Large majorities of those who say they regularly watch the Colbert Report (80 per cent) and the Daily Show (74 per cent) are younger than 50; 55 per cent of public is 18 to 49.

News Audiences’ Political Views : Ideology continues to be closely associated with people’s choice of certain news sources. Eight-in-ten Americans (80 per cent) who regularly listen to Rush Limbaugh or watch Sean Hannity are conservative – roughly twice the national average of 36 per cent. And at the other end of the spectrum, the New York Times, Keith Olbermann, the Daily Show, the Colbert Report and Rachel Maddow have regular audiences that include nearly twice the proportion of liberals than in the public.

News audiences also vary widely when it comes to opinions about current issues and topics. For instance, those who describe themselves as supporters of the Tea Party movement make up disproportionately large proportions of the audiences for Limbaugh’s radio show and Fox News opinion programmes. This also is the case for supporters of the NRA (National Rifle Association).

By contrast, supporters of gay rights make up large shares of regular New York Times readers, viewers of the Colbert Report and NPR listeners. Several ideologically divergent news audiences – including Wall Street Journal readers and viewers of the Colbert Report and Glenn Beck show – include larger-than-average percentages of self-described libertarians.

Overall, the share of Americans who say keeping up with the news is something they enjoy a lot has dipped, from a consistent 52 per cent in recent biennial news consumption surveys, including 2008, to 45 per cent in 2010.

The decline is linked to partisanship and ideology; in 2008 67 per cent of liberal Democrats said they enjoyed the news a lot, compared with just 45 per cent today. By contrast, about as many conservative Republicans say they enjoy keeping up with the news today as did so two years ago (57 per cent now, 56 per cent then). This has resulted in a switch in news enjoyment. Today, conservative Republicans enjoy keeping up with the news more than any other ideological and partisan group; just two years ago it was the liberal Democrats who held that distinction.

Other Key Findings
• While 26 per cent of all Americans say they read a print newspaper yesterday, that figure falls to just eight per cent among adults younger than 30.

• Far more men (50 per cent) than women (39 per cent) get news on digital platforms, such as the internet and mobile technology, on any given day. Men are more likely to get news by cell phone, email, RSS feeds or podcasts than are women. But men and women are equally likely to get news through Twitter or social networking sites.

• More people say they mostly get news “from time to time” rather than at “regular times.” The percentage of so-called news grazers has increased nine points (from 48 to 57 per cent) since 2006.

• Search engines are playing a substantially larger role in people’s news gathering habits – 33 per cent regularly use search engines to get news on topics of interest, up from 19 per cent in 2008.

• About three-in-ten adults (31 per cent) access the internet over their cell phone, but just eight per cent get news there regularly.

• Most Facebook and Twitter users say that they hardly ever or never get news there.

• One-in-four adults (25 per cent) who have Tivos or DVRs say they program them to record news programmes.

• About eight-in-ten (82 per cent) say they see at least some bias in news coverage; by a 43 to 23 per cent margin, more say it is a liberal than a conservative bias.

• Roughly a third (35 per cent) read a book yesterday, which is largely unchanged over the past decade. Of those, four per cent read an electronic or digital book.

• The public struggled with a four-question current events quiz – just 14 per cent answered all four correctly. But about half (51 per cent) of regular Wall Street Journal readers aced the quiz, as did 42 per cent of regular New York Times readers.

• Among news audiences, Obama gets his highest approval ratings among regular viewers of Keith Olbermann (84 per cent approve) and Rachel Maddow (80 per cent); his rating is nearly as high among regular readers of the New York Times (79 per cent). Obama gets his lowest ratings among regular Sean Hannity viewers (seven per cent) and Rush Limbaugh listeners (nine per cent).

• Partisan gaps in media credibility continue to grow, with Republicans far more skeptical of most major news sources than Democrats. The one exception is Fox News, which twice as many Republicans believe all or most of (41 per cent) than Democrats (21 per cent), the study said.

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