Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

The Latest Pew Report Reveals Very Sophisiticated News Consumers

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 1, 2010

There are lots and lots of statistics in the latest Pew report: Understanding the Participatory News Consumer.

Here are a few things that jumped out for me:

- 9% have created "their own original news material or opinion piece." This is a very sophisticated group.

- 36% of Internet users want to manipulate the content on a news site themselves "as graphics, maps, and quizzes." Again, a very sophisticated survey sample.

- People will use many media platforms for their news.
"92% use multiple platforms to get news on a typical day, including national TV, local TV, the internet, local newspapers, radio, and national newspapers."

- 7% use just a single media platform to get their news.

- Internet is now more popular than radio and newspapers as a source of news.

- People do not access news at specific times (i.e. no 'Ten o'clock News.')
"They seem to access news when the spirit moves them or they have a chance to check up on headlines."

- Weather is the most news worthy subject, followed by 81%.
"National events (73%), health and medicine (66%), business and the economy (64%), international events (62%), and science and technology (60%)."

- People want more science news the most.
"44% said [they want more] scientific news and discoveries, 41% said religion and spirituality, 39% said health and medicine, 39% said their state government, and 38% said their neighborhood or local community."

- News is being consumed so that it can be shared offline.
"Some 72% of American news consumers say they follow the news because they enjoy talking with others about what is happening in the world and 69% say keeping up with the news is a social or civic obligation."

- About 50% said they rely on others "to some degree," to tell them the news they need to know.

- Only one-third of cell phone users get their news through their phones. It seems that the format is lacking. This is important for all those news organizations rushing into mobile news.

- People feel overwhelmed.
"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."

- 63% agreed that major news organizations do a good job. 72% said most news sources are biased. The Pew report authors say this is a dichotomy. But is it really? It shows that people are smart about their news sources and they recognize bias when they come across it. They can distinguish between the quality of the content and the bias in the reporting.

Interesting findings. But parts of the survey reveal an incredibly sophisticated news consumer which makes me suspicious about the survey sample and how much it can be applied to the general population.


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