It was only a matter of time: A Pew Research Center survey conducted in early December found that the Internet has now overtaken newspapers as the second-most preferred news source among Americans.
According to the study: “The Internet, which emerged this year as a leading source for campaign news, has now surpassed all other media except television as an outlet for national and international news. Currently, 40% say they get most of their news about national and international issues from the Internet, up from just 24% in September 2007. 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%.
“For young people, however, the Internet now rivals television as a main source of national and international news. Nearly six-in-ten Americans younger than 30 (59%) say they get most of their national and international news online; 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%).”
Of course, the study doesn’t take into account which online news sources people are flocking to — we hope that people are using the Web sites of established news providers, with track records for comprehensive coverage and fact-checking — rather than relying on blogs and sites that deal in word-of-mouth, innuendo and rumors. What is the quality of the news that people are accessing online?
What does this mean for the future of newsprint? More and more newspapers will cut back on their “hard copy,”* using newsprint as “loss leaders” to “push” readers to their Web-based product. News providers will have to figure out ways to differentiate their product from the voluminous other voices online. There will always be a need for comprehensive and fair news reporting — it just may be more difficult in the future to hold it in your hands.
For more info, jump on over to “Internet Overtakes Newspapers as News Outlet.”
* After a century of continuous publication, The Christian Science Monitor abandoned its weekday print edition in late October to focus on their innovative online publication; the cost-cutting measure made The Monitor the first national newspaper to largely give up on print (though they will be publishing a weekend paper “magazine”). According to The Monitor, the shift will take place in April.
Disclaimer: This entry was prompted by David Sarno’s “Free news comes at a cost” Web Scout column in the Calendar section of the Los Angeles Times, January 14, 2009.