A new study by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life and the Project for Excellence in Journalism demonstrates that the Internet has become the third most popular platform for news consumers in the United States, with 61 percent of respondents claiming to access news online on a typical day. While the Internet's status as a go-to medium for news consumption should come as no surprise to anyone reading this here blog, the survey demonstrated some highlights for the rise of "social" and mobile news, and raises some questions on where we're headed, media- and money-wise.
After conducting a national telephone survey of 2,259 adults, Pew concluded that "people's relationship to news is becoming portable, personalized, and participatory." Thirty-three percent of respondents access news on cellphones; 28 percent of Internet users have created customized home pages with news from sources that interest them; and 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."
Despite the Internet's gain in popularity, it still falls behind local TV stations and televised broadcast/cable news shows, to which 78 percent and 73 percent of survey respondents respectively go daily. Making the poorest showing among the various content sources were national newspapers, to which only 17 percent of surveyed Americans turn on a daily basis to read news.
There are some implications in these findings for the media industry, which is trying to figure out where to go next in order to profit from the content it provides. Many are deeming applications for mobile phones and devices like the iPad the saviors of the future (Conde Nast, for example, is discussing plans to develop Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad applications for its major magazines), but it's unclear if there are real revenue opportunities here.
Newspapers may have the most to worry about, if this survey is any indication. With fewer people reading the actual paper, and online revenue opportunities dwindling, it may take more than a giant iPod to save that industry. Organizations like The New York Times and News Corp. (NYSE: NWS) are beginning to experiment with paid models, but consumers have expressed little to no interest in shelling out cash just yet. (When Newsday.com moved to a subscription model, it gained only 35 subscribers in three months, and lost nearly 1 million unique visitors to its site.)
So where will this leave us? Not in the new media world of blogs and citizen journalism, as many have suspected: Despite the news consumers' move to the Internet, the Pew study shows that people are still more interested in "traditional" journalism, rather than unconventional news sources like Twitter or blogs. While 46 percent of all online news users are likely to visit Websites of TV news organizations, only 11 percent said they'll visit the Website of an individual blogger, 10 percent follow Twitter updates of journalists and non-journalists alike, and 7 percent said they visit sites like Digg.
In fact, what Pew's findings really suggest is that people prefer to consume the same news they always did, but on the Internet or mobile phones, thereby making it a social/customizable experience. While it's a thumbs-up in technology's direction, this will continue to present a growing problem for the media industry as it loses television viewers and paper subscribers and unsuccessfully chases online revenue opportunities.
With more people moving to the Internet to consume news content, be sure to take Internet Evolution's latest poll asking: How soon will the four major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox) transition to Web-only operations? Weigh in with your thoughts here.
— Nicole Ferraro, Site Editor, Internet Evolution