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Newspapers Hit New Low as an Information Source

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The number of Americans who say that newspapers are an important source of information continues to decline, according to a survey by the The Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. Only 56 percent of Internet users surveyed agreed with the statement that newspapers were an important or very important source of information, while 68 percent said that television was, and 78 percent said that the Internet was. The findings are part of the Annenberg School’s ongoing Digital Future Project, which has been surveying Americans on their views and behavior related to the Internet for 10 years.

To make matters worse for the industry, the Center’s survey also found that newspapers are continuing to decline as a source of entertainment as well — only 29 percent of those surveyed said that newspapers were an important source of entertainment, down from 32 percent in 2008. Almost 20 percent of users said that they had canceled a subscription to a newspaper or magazine because they now get the same or related content online, and 59 percent said that if the print edition of their newspaper stopped publishing they would read the online version. Only 37 percent said that they would read the print edition of another newspaper.

In an interesting counterpoint to the numbers on newspaper readership, however, the Annenberg survey also found that a growing number of Internet users do not believe that information they find online is reliable. A majority of users said that less than half of the information they get from the Internet is reliable, a new low for the 10-year-old study, and 14 percent of users said that only a small portion of the information they find online is reliable. Less than half of those surveyed said that they had some trust or a lot of trust in the Internet in general.

In other words, Americans increasingly see the Internet as an important source of information, despite the fact that they view much of that information as unreliable. Depending on how you feel about Internet users in general, that’s either a baffling example of contradictory behavior, or a sign of healthy skepticism about online media.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): What We Can Learn From the Guardian’s Open Platform

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Zarko Drincic

16 Responses to “Newspapers Hit New Low as an Information Source”

  1. Kim Hays

    It seems most people are confused by the word “source.” The internet is the medium in which people are reading the news. The “source” of the bulk of the news presented in that medium are newspapers.

  2. Not sure I understand this story. OK, people don’t find their news from newspapers, where do they find their news. If they are going to, does it really matter if they are getting their news from a newspaper or online (from a reputation perspective, not a revenue perspective?)

  3. It’s important to keep in mind that the best information on the Internet is generated by newspapers. The survey actually is about the medium, not about the source. I get most of my news from the Internet and my home page is my local newspaper, which I continue to support with a daily subscription.

  4. Dumb stats, dumb story.
    Newspapers now view themselves as the Internet. Check the traffic numbers of newspaper websites and you’ll see millions and millions Agree.

  5. philip

    This is an advertising piece disguised as an editorial piece. Read on and see how much the actual study costs. And just for the record, if you survey just Internet users, how do you think they will respond? The survey sample is skewed.
    OK, does anyone know who funded this study?

  6. Excellent post, which I found in my Twitter feed!

    I don’t think its surprising at all to see a mixed result from the current survey. These numbers reflect the larger conversations that are happening online everyday. Ten years into this survey, these mixed results seem appropriate.

    The fact is that right now, our society is going through significant changes in the way they receive, cultivate and interact with media. New technologies and media platforms seem to arise everyday. Smart phones have become ubiquitous enough that people have begun to use them to cull information from them in ways that suits their life.

    I hope the local paper doesn’t go the way of the Edsel, but this only speaks to the fact that media needs to be more creative, and create more conversations of its own with their audience. Content needs to not only explain the news, but be hyper-local in their story-telling as Rev mentioned with the example.

    Trust is a precious commodity right now, perhaps more so than ever as we all face economic uncertainties and a high-level of ignorance of what to do and whom to trust. People can turn to newspapers, but the 21st Century newsroom needs to also wake up and fight for relevance amongst a cacophony of information. Using social media may yet be an opportunity to generate direct connections with your audience, but the fact remains that many of these applications are only now being adapted in to real-world (and not just marketing-speak) as big brands are trying to innovate (see Starbucks and Chili’s mixed results on FourSquare).

    The media needs to work harder to be a trusted resource both online and in print; creating new connections with their readers is key. Technology will lead the way, but the stories need to be told differently. We all need to adapt.

  7. YesBut

    Newspapers and the Internet are not mutually exclusive. I’m pretty sure a few newspapers have posted some stories online. Pretty sure.


  8. jackowick — that local news is killed by this “progress” would be one perspective. Another would be to consider it a business opportunity for someone with resources/background/etc… to take on.

    Here in Seattle, we have small neighborhood-oriented sites popping up (see and its sisters of the adjacent neighborhoods) and very successfully filling this niche.

  9. ronald

    “Depending on how you feel about Internet users in general, that’s either an example of contradictory behavior, or a sign of healthy skepticism about online media.”

    Maybe neither. Why’s that? Positive feedback loops. One tends to reinforce ones believe system. Or I want only to read what I believe is true, everything else must be unreliable(false, not that there are only facts on the net). By choosing a news(paper) one does just that. One has to know why people think data is unreliable.

    The Friend of My Enemy Is My Enemy

  10. Good info. Could you complete it by telling us: what percentage think the information they get from print newspapers is reliable? (same breakdown if possible: how many believe half, how many believe small portion).

    If people do not trust online and offline equally, it explains their behavior… no point in going to print if it doesn’t add value.

    However if they do trust print, that is baffling.

  11. Absolutley true… if you ask people where the most accurate news is, I bet their answers are “Newspapers”, then “TV”, then “Internet”.

    I think one issue with internet as a news source is local municipal news. I live in a small town with almost no online news (despite living a stone’s throw from a state capital) and any online news I do find is often accompanied by comments that include racism, slander, and people from different time zones chiming in. Local news: killed by progress.

    • fjpoblam

      Same here. I live in a larger small town, where one might expect online news, but it isn’t there. We keep up our local newspaper subscription, but the local newspaper continues to dwindle in size. The daily is now down to two very thin sections (about 8 pages each). The TV station in the city 65 miles away gives only “symbolic” coverage. Aside from that, we have local radio stations.