News Has "Become a Social Experience": Pew

Do you catch up on the news in multiple ways during a typical day — on a mobile phone, on the web, via a newspaper — and get that news from more than one place (major news portal, TV broadcast channel)? And do you like to share that news through social networks and comment on it? Then you are today’s archetypal news consumer, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life and the Project for Excellence in Journalism. The study shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans — more than 90 percent — use multiple platforms to get their daily news, that the days of loyalty to a specific news outlet or brand are gone and that news has “become a social experience.”

The study (which is based on a national telephone survey of 2,259 adults ages 18 and older), also found that the Internet has taken over from newspapers as the most popular source of news. Overall, the Internet came third, behind local and national television. The report paints a picture of a news consumer who is platform-agnostic and moves easily between online and offline sources. “Americans have become news grazers both on and offline,” Amy Mitchell, deputy director of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, was quoted as saying. Among the study’s findings:

  • Six in ten of those surveyed (59 percent) get news from a combination of online and offline sources on a typical day.
  • Six in ten American adults (61 percent) get news online on a typical day, and 71 percent of Americans get news online at least occasionally.
  • 33 percent of cell phone owners now access news on the devices.
  • The majority of online news consumers (57 percent) routinely rely on just two to five web sites for their news, and only 35 percent have a favorite.
  • Portal web sites like Google News, AOL and Topix are the most commonly used online news sources, visited by over half of online news users (56 percent) on a typical day.

Another key finding of the report is that news has become a social experience for many consumers, who not only share the news they find with their friends through social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, but are also increasingly using such tools to find their news in the first place. And once they find it, they want to talk about it and become involved in it. A statement released along with the study says:

The rise of social media like social networking sites and blogs has helped the news become a social experience for consumers; people use their social networks and social networking technology to filter, assess, and react to news. They also use traditional email and other tools to swap stories and comment on them.

Kristen Purcell, associate director for research at the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, said that “we see new segments of avid news consumers built around those who have set up news alerts and those who are eager to be part of the news-creation and news-commentary environment.” Overall, the study found that consumers’ relationship to the news is “becoming portable, personalized, and participatory.” In particular it found that:

  • 28 percent of Internet users have customized their home page to include news from sources and on topics that particularly interest them.
  • 37 percent of Internet users have contributed to the creation of news, commented about it, or disseminated it via postings on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.
  • Among those who get news online, 75 percent get it forwarded through email or posts on social networking sites and 52 percent share links to news with others via those means.

While the Pew Report doesn’t contain any earth-shattering news about what the state of online media looks like right now, it confirms what anyone who has been paying attention to the industry — or even to the behavior of their friends and relatives — instinctively knows: news consumption has become mobile, cross-platform and social. If you are a media outlet but aren’t taking advantage of all of these features, and rethinking how they affect your business, then you’e missing the boat.

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Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Flickr user Zarko Drincic

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