The Internet is gaining momentum among news consumers -- but 92 percent of Americans use multiple platforms to get their daily fix of news, sports and weather. So says a new survey by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project and the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
The survey found the Internet is the third most popular news platform, behind local and national television news and ahead of national print newspapers, local print newspapers, and radio. Reading news online fits into a broad pattern of news consumption by Americans, the survey reported, with 59 percent getting news from a combination of online and off-line sources on a typical day.
"People are not replacing traditional media sources with the Internet -- at least not right now," said Kristin Purcell, an associate director for research at the Pew project. "The Internet is just another platform they turn to. People use the combination of platforms that's available and convenient for them."
Portable, Personalized, Participatory
According to the survey, the Internet and mobile technologies offer strong signals about how people's relationship to news is changing. In today's multi-platform media environment, for example, news is becoming portable, personalized and participatory.
Specifically, 33 percent of cell-phone owners now access news on their cell phones. What's more, 28 percent of Internet users have customized their home page to include news from sources and on topics that particularly 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.
The survey also reveals that people use their social networks and social-networking technology to filter, assess and react to news. They rely on traditional e-mail and other tools to swap stories and comment on them. Among those who get news online, 75 percent get news forwarded through e-mail or posts on social-networking sites and 52 percent share links to news with others via those means.
"The takeaway for the news industry is to understand that the core news consumer likes a participatory experience and gravitates toward sites that provide it," Purcell said. "The highest-ranking features are interactive tools, like links to related material and the ability to easily share the content."
Slim Online News Pickings
Despite all this online activity, the typical online news consumer routinely uses just a handful of news sites and doesn't have a particular favorite, the survey found. Most use between two and five online sources to access news on a regular basis -- and two-thirds do not have a favorite.
"People like to go to sites where they can get a lot of news about a lot of different topics in one place. The most popular online news sites are news aggregators and the sites of major news organizations like CNN and Fox News," Purcell said. "Consumers tend toward sites where they can graze the news."
Finally, Americans report mixed feelings about this "new" news environment. Fifty-five percent say it's easier to keep up with news and information today than it was five years ago, but 70 percent feel the amount of news and information available from different sources is overwhelming.