Commentary

New Research Charts How Digital News Consumption Eclipsed Traditional Channels

Digital media has massively disrupted the ways in which Americans receive news over the last two decades, pushing TV, radio and print into a subordinate role. Now, new data from Pew Research Center explores the contours of that disruption, indicating just how much has changed.

For example, a large majority of U.S. adults (84%) say they get news from a smartphone, computer or tablet “often” or “sometimes,” according to the research, including 51% who say they do so often. And the portion who gets news from digital devices continues to outpace those who get news from television. Americans turn to radio and print publications for news far less frequently than to digital devices and television.

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In addition, Americans are also more likely to prefer getting news on digital platforms over TV, radio or print.

Here’s a particularly drastic example: 65% of respondents said they rarely or never get their news from print, and another 24% say they sometimes get their news from print. That’s a total of 90%, rounded up. By contrast, only 16% said that of digital devices, with another 33% characterizing their news consumption via digital devices as “sometimes.”

If further proof is needed of the eclipse of print media, for news, I’m not sure what it might be.

Within the digital-device realm, there was significant divergence, with news consumption divided among a number of different pathways. Today, news websites and apps are the digital pathways most Americans use to get news, with about one-quarter of U.S. adults (24%) preferring to get their news this way. Just 11% prefer search, 10% prefer to get their news on social media, and 4% say they prefer podcasts.

There is hope in this particular set of data, for news brands, if not for traditional channels. If just 10% use social media for news, that might hint at widespread distrust of social platforms. It might also suggest marketers that use social media (or search) — the duopoly controls more than 50% of global ad spend — are not spending wisely.

Age is a determining factor in news consumption, the Pew research confirms.

Americans under 50 are more likely to turn to digital devices and prefer them for getting news than are those 50 and older. Conversely, Americans 50 and older are more likely to turn to and prefer television. Other demographic factors play a role as well, including gender, ethnicity, education level, income level and political leaning.

Read Pew’s full factsheet here.

 

2 comments about "New Research Charts How Digital News Consumption Eclipsed Traditional Channels".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, November 10, 2021 at 8:20 a.m.

    Tony, as I have pointed out before, it really matters what kind of "news" the respondent is thinking about when answering such questions. Is it about the respondent's family or friends---then, yes, I would expect social media to place vey high. But if it's about the stock market taking a tumble or some warlike crisis involving the U.S overseas I would bet that the first thing that many people would do is turn on their TV set and go to CNN, MSNBC, etc. Of course there are many gradations between these extremes---but all "news"isn't equal  in terms of personal relevance to the consumer or urgency. Also, the term,"often"  in this type of study can mean different things to different respondents and this also applies to the various "news" items and sources. For example, I wouldn't be surprised if a person who claims that he/she "often" gets "news" from TV devotes 7-10 hours a week to TV news. But a respondent who claims to often get "news" from  digital venues may spend only 2 hours hours per week  doing exactly that.

  2. Dane Claussen from University of Idaho, November 10, 2021 at 6:36 p.m.

    All of that news that I and everyone else is reading/watching on their phone, computer, or tablet: who produced it? A high percentage was reported, written and edited by staff members at newspapers and magazines, or was disseminated by AP, Reuters, etc., who got it from newspapers and magazines. Computers, tablets, and smartphones are just delivery platforms; they are not actually producing any journalism. Pew writes as if print publications can simply go away because supposedly no one reads them in print anymore (which also is not true) and their journalism can go with them. But that's still most of the journalism produced in the US.

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