US: Internet is most popular source of news for majority of adults
Adding credence to the notion that more than ever people are relying on the Internet as their primary source of news, the latest poll by Zogby International shows a majority of Americans view the web as the best source of information. When presented with a scenario in which they had to choose only one source of news, 56% of adults picked the Internet.
Where Americans are getting their news on the web is striking. Nearly half said the web sites of national newspapers are important and 43% said the same for national TV sites. Internet-only operations fared much worse. Less than 30% stated that blogs that shared their political views were important, and just 14% said the same for blogs with the opposite political view. And social networking sites? Forget it. Ten percent of adults named Facebook as an important source of news, and a mere 4% said the same of Twitter. The percentages of adult Americans who would prefer to use TV, newspapers or the radio as their sole source of news information were significantly lower than that of those who would pick the Internet – 21% would go for TV, 10% newspapers, and 10% radio. (Respondents could also pick “Other/not sure.”)
When asked which was the most reliable source of information, the Internet was again far and away the leader. Forty percent of those surveyed chose the web, whereas 17% opted for TV and 16% for newspapers.
Nevertheless, the importance Americans place on the websites of newspapers and TV networks indicates that overall the mainstream media is still the most significant source of news – just in a different form. The websites of local newspapers and TV stations fared almost as well as their national counterparts in terms of importance to Americans. Even if they haven’t yet figured out how to best capitalize on online content, newspapers and other traditional media have clearly succeeded in drawing readers to their sites.
The significance of the web as a news source in the US is likely linked to the prevalence of the Internet in Americans’ lives, in a country where 84% of adults have Internet access. Worldwide, a similar survey would probably produce very different results. As Gavin O’Reilly, president of the World Association of Newspapers, pointed out at the WAN Power of Print Conference in May, newspapers reach 41% more adults than the Internet.
One remarkable piece of data from the US poll that Zogby chose to highlight: print media are far more popular for those on the left of the political spectrum. Whereas 17% of Democrats would choose newspapers as their only source of news, a paltry 5% of Republicans said the same. The percentages of those who would prefer the Internet were almost the same for Democrats and Republicans, meaning that those on the right must be relying on TV and radio.
It would be useful to know the demographic breakdown of each response, especially in regards to age. The term “adult” covers a broad spectrum of people. How do the answers of those under 30 compare to the baby boomer set? After all, the younger generation will ultimately define the shape of the news industry in the years to come.
Which news source Americans see as being the most dominant in five years time is telling – 84% think it will be the Internet, 13% said TV, and a measly 0.5% picked newspapers. That would appear to be a clear indication that traditional print media will have to change the way they operate if they want to remain significant in the eyes of American readers in the next five years.