Web Overtakes All Media Except TV as News Source

Web Overtakes All Media Except TV as News Source

The internet has surpassed all other media except TV as Americans’ main source for national and international news and now rivals TV as the top news outlet for young people, according to research from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Some 40% of Americans say they currently get most of their news about national and international issues from the internet, up from just 24% in September 2007, the study finds. For the first time in a Pew survey, more people say they rely mostly on the internet for news than cite newspapers (35%). Television continues to be cited most frequently as a main source for national and international news, at 70%.

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For people under age 30, the internet is now tied with TV as the main source of national and international news. Nearly six-in-ten young Americans (59%) say they get most of their national and international news online, while an identical percentage cites television. In September 2007, twice as many young people said they relied mostly on television for news than mentioned the internet (68% vs. 34%).

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The percentage of people younger than 30 citing television as a main news source has declined from 68% in September 2007 to 59% currently. This mirrors a trend seen earlier this year in campaign news consumption, Pew said.

Regarding TV channel selection, the study finds there has been little change in the individual TV news outlets that people rely on for national and international news. Nearly a quarter of the public (23%) says they get most of their news from CNN, while 17% cite Fox News; smaller shares mention other cable and broadcast outlets.

Top News Stories of 2008

While the 2008 presidential campaign attracted high levels of public attention, the economy was the top story of the year in terms of news interest, according to data from Pew’s Weekly News Interest Index. In late September, as the nation’s financial crisis deepened, 70% said they were following news about the economy very closely. This attention ranks among the highest levels of news interest for any story in the past two decades.

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News about gas prices – both rising and falling – also attracted considerable public attention. In early June, two-thirds of Americans (66%) said they were tracking news about the rising price of gasoline very closely.  The falling price of gas drew broad interest as well (53% followed it very closely in October).

The congressional debate over legislation to stabilize financial markets also drew extensive interest. In early October, just after President Bush signed the financial rescue measure, 62% followed this story very closely.

Interest in election news remained at historically high levels throughout the lengthy campaign. Interest in the general election peaked in mid-October (at 61%), but approached that level at other points in the campaign. Public interest in the primary campaigns also was higher than during previous primary contests. In mid-February, 44% said they were following news about the candidates for the presidential election very closely.

The war in Iraq was not among this year’s 15 most closely followed news stories, Pew reports. In mid-July, a third of Americans (33%) said they were following news about the current situation and events in Iraq, the highest percentage measured this year. In 2007, interest in news about the war reached 40% in early January, just before President Bush announced his troop surge; the war in Iraq was the sixth-ranked story last year.

In Pew’s final Weekly News Interest Index for 2008, conducted Dec. 15-21, nearly four-in-ten Americans (37%) say they followed news about the Bush administration’s plan to provide emergency loans to US automakers. That is in line with previous measures of public interest in the debate over whether to aid the struggling automakers.

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During the same period, three-in-ten (30%) paid very close attention to news about Wall Street investor Bernard Madoff, who allegedly cheated people out of billions of dollars. Nearly as many (28%) tracked news about an Iraqi journalist throwing his shoes at President Bush very closely, and 25% said they followed news about slumping retail sales during the holiday season very closely.

About the research: The internet/TV news source survey was conducted Dec. 3-7 among 1,489 adults. The research about the top news stories of 2008 is based on Pew’s News Coverage Index, which monitors the news reported by major newspaper, television, radio and online news outlets on an ongoing basis.