RealTime IT News

Online News Second Only to TV, Pew Finds

More Americans turn to the Internet for news than any other platform save for television, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center's projects on journalism and the Internet.

Local television remains the most popular vehicle for news, with 78 percent of respondents to a recent survey saying that they typically tune into local TV news broadcast. Seventy-three percent said they typically watch national TV news, either from a network or cable station, followed by 61 percent who said the Internet factors into their daily news routine.

National newspapers such as The New York Times or USA Today ranked last on Pew's media mix, with just 17 percent of survey respondents saying they typically look to one of those outlets, though 50 percent said they read their local newspaper. Fifty-four percent of respondents said that they usually listen to news programs on the radio either at home or in the car.

The study also highlighted the increasing fragmentation that has splintered the media environment, with 92 percent of Americans telling the Pew researchers that they seek out news from a variety of platforms, and 59 percent saying that they on a typical day they look to both the Internet and offline media for information.

"In the digital era, news has become omnipresent," the Pew researchers wrote in their report. "Americans access it in multiple formats on multiple platforms on myriad devices. The days of loyalty to a particular news organization on a particular piece of technology in a particular form are gone."

Pew found that 57 percent of the survey respondents said they routinely visit between two and five sites a day when seeking out news. Just 35 percent said they have a favorite site.

The most popular news sites proved to aggregators and portals, like Google News and AOL, favored by 56 percent of online news readers. But Pew also found that traditional sites with substantial offline operations like CNN and BBC enjoy a hearty online readership.

The particular Web sites and offline news outlets people favor are guided by a variety of factors, such as age and political affiliation. As to the general quality of modern journalism, 63 percent of respondents said felt like the big news organizations do a good job covering the issues they care about the most, but 71 percent expressed the belief that most news outlets are biased in their coverage.

The study also highlighted the increasing social dimension of news that has grown out of the participatory culture of the Web. Seventy-two percent of online news consumers said they arrive at stories through links shared in e-mails or posts on social networking sites, and 52 percent said they use those channels to share news with others.

"The Internet is at the center of the story of how people's relationship to news is changing," the researchers said in their report. "In this new multi-platform media environment, people's relationship to news is becoming portable, personalized and participatory."

Thirty-three percent of cell phone owners said they use their mobile devices to access news content, though that demographic skewed toward college-educated white males with a median age of 34. Moreover, 28 percent of Internet users said they have customized their home page with filters to highlight the news stories about the topics that interest them the most. Thirty-seven percent said they have engaged with news stories by adding comments or passing them along to others through social sites like Facebook and Twitter.

"To a great extent, people's experience of news, especially on the Internet, is becoming a shared social experience as people swap links in e-mails, 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 researchers concluded.

Kenneth Corbin is an associate editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.