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Though print newspaper readership continues to fall and reliance on online news is rising, TV still remains the dominant source of news in America, according to the 2008 biennial news consumption survey (PDF) by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

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At the same time, news consumption patterns are changing. A growing, relatively younger, educated, engaged and affluent portion of the US news audience now turns to a blend of traditional and online sources for different types of information during the day.

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Survey findings led Pew to divide the American public into four distinct segments based upon how they receive news:

  • Integrators – who turn to a blend of traditional and internet sources for news (23% of the US public)
  • Net-Newsers – who get news primarily from the internet (13%) during the day
  • Traditionalists – who favor television over all other media (46%)
  • Disengaged – who have low overall levels of interest in the news and news consumption (14%)

Integrators:

  • Are affluent, highly educated and older than those who consider the internet their main source of news.
  • Spend more time with and enjoy the news more on a typical day than those who rely more on either traditional or internet sources.
  • Are heavier consumers of national news – especially news about politics and Washington – and avid sports news consumers.
  • Turn to TV as their main news source, but more than a third cite the internet as their main news source during the day, primarily because they log onto the internet from work (45%).

Net-Newsers:

  • Have a median age of 35, and are the youngest news user segment
  • Are affluent and better educated than Integrators. More than eight-in-ten have at least attended college.
  • Primarily rely on the internet for news, and are early adopters of new web features and technologies.
  • Watch news clips on the internet at nearly twice the rate as they watch nightly network news broadcasts (30% vs. 18%).
  • Fewer than half (47%) watch television news on a typical day.
  • Read an online newspaper at twice the rate than a printed newspaper on a typical day (17% vs. 8%). 10% read both.
  • Get news during the course of the day (82%), and go online for it (92%).
  • Still use traditional sources at other times of the day; nearly two-thirds get news late in the evening and of these, more rely on television news than the internet.

Traditionalists:

  • Are the oldest (median age 52) and largest segment of the overall news audience.
  • Are downscale economically, when compared with Integrators and Net-Newsers. Some 43% are not employed and 60% have no more than a high school education.
  • Overwhelmingly cite television as their main source of news.

Disengaged:

  • Are less educated than other groups and exhibit extremely low interest in – and knowledge of – current events.
  • Only 55% get any news on a typical day
  • Just 20% know that the Democrats have a majority in the US House of Representatives.

Traditional News Sources in Decline

Since the early 1990s, the proportion of Americans who say they read a newspaper on a typical day has declined by about 40%, with most of the loss coming from the print version of the newspaper, according to Pew.

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Though the proportion of Americans regularly nightly network news has fallen by half since the early 1990s, it has remained stable since 2006, and the proportion regularly watching cable news has increased (from 34% to 39%). A majority of Integrators (56%) get news online on a typical day while an even larger share (66%) got news from television.

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Cable news draws substantial numbers of viewers among Integrators and Net-Newsers. More than four-in-ten Net-Newsers (43%) regularly watch cable news, far more than the proportion that regularly watches network or local news. A majority of Integrators also regularly watches cable news (53%), while just 37% say they regularly watch one of the nightly network news broadcasts.

Nearly half (46%) of Integrators listen to radio news during a typical day. While the internet is the main news source for Integrators during the course of the day, about as many in this segment rely on radio news as TV news during the day (32% radio vs. 36% TV news).

Online News Still Growing

Since 2006, the proportion of Americans who say they get news online at least three days a week has increased from 31% to 37%. About as many people now say they go online for news regularly (at least three days a week) as say they regularly watch cable news (39%). More people also regularly get news online than watch one of the nightly network news broadcasts (37% vs. 29%).

Daily online news use has increased by about a third since 2006, from 18% to 25%. However, as the online news audience grows, the educational divide in online news use also is increasing. Some 44% of college graduates say they get news online every day, compared with just 11% of those with a high school education or less.

Net-Newsers and Integrators rely on news and political blogs for news. Roughly a quarter of Net-Newsers (26%) and somewhat fewer Integrators (19%) say they regularly read blogs on politics or current events. Only 10% of the public regularly reads political and news blogs.

Additional Findings

  • The proportion of young people getting no news has increased substantially over the past decade. About a third of those younger than 25 (34%) say they get no news on a typical day, up from 25% in 1998.
  • A slim majority of Americans (51%) consider themselves “news grazers,” and say they check in on the news from time to time during the day, rather than get the news at regular times.
  • Social networking sites, though popular with young people, have not become a major source of news. Just 10% of those with social networking profiles say they regularly get news from these sites.
  • Audiences for specific cable news outlets remain divided along political lines. Currently 51% of regular CNN viewers are Democrats, up from 45% two years ago. Nearly four-in-ten regular Fox News viewers are Republicans (39%), about the same as in 2006.
  • Regular readers of magazines such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Harper’s Magazine stand out for their high level of political knowledge. Nearly half (47%) answered three political-knowledge questions correctly – the highest percentage of any news audience.
  • 15% of Americans say they have a smart phone, such as an iPhone or a Blackberry. More than a third of smart phone owners (37%) say they get news from these devices.
  • Believability ratings for national news organizations remain very low. Ratings for major online news outlets – including news aggregators such as Google News and AOL News – are lower than for major print, cable and broadcast outlets.
  • Though the audience for nightly network news broadcasts are smaller than they were a decade ago, regular viewers of these broadcasts are loyal. Nearly seven-in-ten (69%) say they would miss these broadcasts a lot if they were no longer available.

About the survey: The telephone survey – which included landline and cell-phone users – was conducted by Princeton Survey Research associates from April 30 to June 1 among 3,612 adults nationwide.

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