On-The-Go Local News Readers Influence Community

According to a summary of findings from the Pew Research Center State of the News media, local news is going mobile. 47% of all American adults report that they get at least some local news and information on their cellphone or tablet computer, and what they seek out most on mobile platforms is information that is practical and in real time: 42% of mobile device owners report getting weather updates on their phones or tablets; 37% say they get material about restaurants or other local businesses.

Mobile applications, one of the newest forms of on-the-go local news, are beginning to take hold among mobile device owners, says the report. Compared with other adults, these mobile local news consumers are younger, live in higher income households, are newer residents of their communities, live in non rural areas, and tend to be parents of minor children. 

Adults who get local news and information on mobile devices are more likely than others to feel they can have on impact on their communities, more likely to use a variety of media platforms, feel more plugged into the media environment than they did a few years ago, and are more likely to use social media:

  • 35% of mobile local news consumers feel they can have a big impact on their community (vs. 27% of other adults)
  • 65% feel it is easier today than five years ago to keep up with information about their community (vs. 47% of nonmobile connectors)
  • 51% use six or more different sources or platforms monthly to get local news and information (vs. 21%)
  • 75% use social network sites (vs. 42%)
  • 15% use Twitter (vs. 4%)



Tablets and smartphones have also brought with them news applications or "apps." 24% of mobile local news consumers report having an app that helps them get information or news about their local community. That's 13% of all device owners and 11% of the total American adult population. While nearly 5 in 10 get local news on mobile devices, just 1 in 10 use apps to do so, which the report refers to as  "the app gap."

These mobile app users skew young and Hispanic. They are also much more active news consumers than other adults, using more sources regularly and "participating" in local news by doing such things as sharing or posting links to local stories, commenting on or tagging local news content, or contributing their own local content online.

Currently, only 10% of adults who use mobile apps to connect to local news and information pay for those apps. This amounts to just 1% of all adults.

When it comes to payments for news more broadly, 36% of adults say they pay for local news content in some form: local print newspaper, for an app on their mobile device or for access to special content online. 31% of those who pay for local news are paying for local print newspaper subscriptions and only a fraction are paying for apps or for access online to local material.

Pressed on the value of online access to their local newspaper, 23% of survey respondents say they would pay $5 a month to get full access to local newspaper content online, says the report. When asked if they would pay $10 per month, 18% of adults say yes. Roughly three-quarters say they would not pay anything.

28% say the loss of the local newspaper would have a major impact on their ability to keep up with local information. Another 30% say it would have a minor impact. But 39% say the loss of the newspaper would have no impact.

This survey is part of the Project for Excellence in Journalism's 2011 State of the News Media Report, and come from a national phone survey of 2,251 American adults (age 18 or more) in English and Spanish. The margin of error for the full sample is +/- 2 percentage points.

To read the study results in greater detail, with charts and graphs, please visit PewResearch here.

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