September 12, 2010

Americans Spending More Time Following the News

Section 2: Online and Digital News

The internet is a regular news source for a majority of Americans – 57% regularly get news from at least one internet or digital source. Over the past several years, there has been a rise in the use of more traditional online technologies, like search engines, and a proliferation of new technologies, like news applications for mobile phones, and tablet computers, such as the iPad.

Nearly half (46%) of the public says they get news online three or more days a week, up from 29% in 2004 and 37% just two years ago.
About a third (32%) gets news online every day, which is double the percentage that reported going online for news daily four years ago.

The use of search engines to find news has also increased substantially. A third (33%) of the public employs search engines, such as Google, Yahoo or Bing, three or more days a week to search for news on a particular subject of interest. That is up from 19% in 2008 and has tripled since 2004, when only 11% used search engines for news that frequently.

The public turns to other online technologies for news far less often. About one-in-ten regularly get news or news headlines by email (12%), through a customizable webpage or RSS reader (10%), or read blogs about politics or current events (9%). When it comes to newer technologies, 8% regularly get news on their cell phone or smartphone, 7% regularly get news through social networking sites and 5% regularly watch or listen to news podcasts. Only 2% of the public regularly gets news through Twitter, and 1% uses their iPad or other tablet computer for news regularly.

Regular Online News Consumption

There continue to be age, education, gender and racial differences in online news consumption. Although young adults are often on the leading edge of internet and digital technology adoption, those in their 30s and 40s – who are the most avid news consumers – are also the most likely to get news online. A majority (58%) of those ages 30 to 49 get news online at least three days a week, compared with 48% of those under 30 and 46% of people ages 50 to 64. Just 22% of those 65 and older regularly get news online.

College graduates continue to go online for news at much higher rates than do those with less education. About seven-in-ten (69%) college graduates get news online at least three days a week (including 53% who do so every day). By comparison, only 27% of those with a high school education or less regularly get news online at least three days a week.

More men than women regularly get news online (51% vs. 41%). Non-Hispanic whites (49%) also are significantly more likely than non-Hispanic blacks (31%) to get news online at least three days a week. Many of these demographic patterns partly reflect variations in internet use; still, there are substantial educational, racial and gender differences in going online for news even when internet use is taken into account.

Online News Sources

Many familiar names dominate the list of websites people go to most often for news and information. More than a quarter (28%) mention Yahoo – the most frequently mentioned website – and another 15% cite Google and 14% name MSN as one of the websites they use most often. Fewer mention AOL (7%) and their internet service provider (4%) as their top online sources for news.

Cable television news organizations also are among the most common websites for news and information – 16% cite CNN, 8% mention FOX, and 7% name MSNBC among the websites they use most often. Far fewer cite BBC (2%), ABC (2%), NBC (2%), NPR (1%) and CBS (1%).

Online news consumers also turn to the websites of national newspapers; 6% name the New York Times website, but USA Today (2%), the Wall Street Journal (2%) and the Washington Post (1%) are mentioned less often.

Only 2% cite the Drudge Report and 1% volunteer the Huffington Post as one of the websites they go to most often for news and information. And 1% mention Facebook as one of their top sources for news.

Searching for News Online

Not only are Yahoo and Google among the most frequently mentioned websites for online news, but two-thirds of the public say they use search engines to find news on a particular subject. And Americans are using search engines more frequently than they were just two years ago. About a third (34%) of the public now use search engines at least three days a week, up from 19% in 2008. The increase is evident across most demographic groups.

Similar to two years ago, far more college graduates than those with a high school education or less use search engines at least three days a week (50% vs. 20%). Those 65 and older are the least likely to use search engines.

Far fewer regularly get news through a customizable webpage or RSS reader than search for news. One-in-ten (10%) regularly get news through a customizable webpage, such as iGoogle or MyYahoo, or through an RSS reader. About two-thirds of the public (67%) never gets news through a customized webpage or RSS reader.

People under 50 are more than twice as likely as those 50 and older to regularly get news through a customized webpage or RSS reader (14% vs. 6%). And 14% of college graduates get customized news through a webpage or RSS reader, compared with 6% of those with a high school education or less.

News on the Go

About a third of the public (34%) and 42% of cell phone owners access the internet or email on their cell phones or smartphones. But far fewer people are getting news on their cell phones; 8% regularly get news or news headlines on their cell phones; 6% sometimes do this. About one-in-ten (9%) say they got news on their cell phone yesterday.

Among those who access the internet on their cell phones, 24% regularly and 18% sometimes get news on their cell phones. More than a quarter of this group (27%) say they used their cell phones to get news yesterday.

Fewer than one-in-five (16%) Americans have downloaded an application or “app” to access news or news headlines on their cell phone, but 44% of cell phone internet users have downloaded a news-related application for their phone.

More men than women regularly get news on their cell phone. College graduates are more likely than those with less education to use their cell phone for news. And although Americans under 50 are more likely than those ages 50 and older to regularly get news on their cell phones, much of this reflects that those over 50 are far less likely to use the internet on their cell phones. There are no significant age differences on this question among cell internet users.

Getting News from Social Networking Sites

Nearly half (45%) of the public has created a profile on a social networking site like MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn. Far fewer use Twitter (9%). Not surprisingly, more get news through social networking sites than from Twitter.

About one-in-five (19%) regularly (7%) or sometimes (12%) get news or news headlines through social networking sites. By comparison, only 3% of the public regularly or sometimes gets news from Twitter. Similarly, 9% say they got news yesterday through social networking sites, compared with only 2% who got news-related tweets yesterday.

However, among users of each of these sites, there are fewer differences in news consumption. As many Twitter users say they regularly get tweets about the news as social networking users who regularly get news through social networking sites (17% vs. 16%). But more social networking users get news sometimes than Twitter users (26% vs. 15%). Similarly, 18% of Twitter users got news yesterday through Twitter, while 19% of social networking users turned to these sites for news.

Twitter users are more likely to follow news organizations or individual journalists; 24% of Twitter users do this compared with 16% of social networking users. And, as is the case with cell phones and news consumption, far fewer send news through social networking sites or Twitter than receive news; 21% of social networking users regularly (4%) or sometimes (17%) send news through these sites. Somewhat fewer Twitter users send news tweets: 15% of Twitter users regularly (6%) or sometimes (9%) send news or news headlines through Twitter.

As with other types of online news consumption, there are demographic differences in the use of social networking sites and Twitter for news. Combining those who get news through social networking sites or Twitter, Americans under 30 are the most likely to get news through these sites at least sometimes (36%). About a quarter (26%) of those ages 30-49 also gets news through these sites regularly or sometimes. But far fewer (6%) who are 50 and older turn to these sites for news. However, among social networking or Twitter users, these age differences are smaller – only those 65 and older lag far behind other age groups in getting news through these sites.

Women are slightly more likely than men to get news through social networking sites or Twitter – 22% of women get news through social networking sites or Twitter regularly or sometimes, compared with 18% of men.

More college graduates (13%) regularly get news through social networking sites or Twitter than those with a high school education or less (4%). But both groups are equally likely to sometimes get news through these sites.

Little Partisan Difference in Blog Reading

About one-in-ten (9%) Americans regularly read blogs about politics or current events, another 19% sometimes turn to blogs for their news and 22% hardly ever read blogs. About half (49%) never read blogs or do not use the internet. Among internet users, 35% regularly (11%) or sometimes (24%) read political or news blogs. This is similar to 2008, when 14% of internet users regularly read blogs and 20% sometimes turned to blogs for news.

There are virtually no partisan differences in blog reading; 10% of Republicans, 10% of Democrats and 9% of independents regularly read political blogs. Conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are slightly more likely than their moderate counterparts to regularly read blogs about politics or current events.

There are only modest age differences in blog reading; those under 30 are the least likely to read blogs. And although far fewer people age 65 and older engage in many online activities, seniors who go online are just as likely as their younger counterparts to read blogs. Similar to the pattern for other online behaviors, college graduates (13%) are more likely to regularly read political or news blogs than those with some college experience (9%) and those with a high school education or less (7%).

Emailing News

About a quarter (27%) of the public regularly (12%) or sometimes (15%) get news or news headlines by email. Another 20% hardly ever receives news in their inboxes and 54% never get news by email or are not online. Meanwhile, 14% say they got news or news headlines by email yesterday. And 10% of the public says they get news emailed to them directly from news organizations or journalists.

Fewer send news by email than receive it; only 3% regularly and 11% sometimes send news by email. About two-thirds of Americans (67%) never send news by email (49%) or do not use the internet (18%). Even among internet users, only 4% regularly send news by email, compared with 14% who receive news in their inboxes regularly.

Young People Most Likely to Happen Across News Online

A majority of the public (62%) and about three-quarters of internet users (76%) say they come across news online even when they are on the internet for purposes other than getting news. The proportion of internet users who happen across news online is virtually unchanged over the last six years.

Young people are the most likely to come across news when online for other purposes – 85% of those under 30 say this, compared with 70% of those ages 30 to 49 and 56% of those ages 50 to 64. Seniors are the least likely to happen across news online (29%). These age differences are similar but less pronounced when looking only at internet users.

Far more college graduates (82%) come across news when online for other purposes than those with some college education (68%) or those with a high school degree or less (46%). And 67% of men happen across news when online for other reasons, compared with 58% of women.

Regular News Consumption Among Young People

While nearly half (48%) of those younger than 30 get news online regularly (three or more days a week), many young people also continue to rely on traditional news sources – particularly television. About three-in-ten (31%) regularly watch local news and nearly as many (29%) watch cable news.

Among specific television outlets and programs, 17% say they regularly watch Fox News while 13% say they regularly watch CNN.
About as many young people regularly watch the Daily Show (13%) and the Colbert Report (13%) as watch the national network evening news (14%) and the morning news shows (12%).

After local TV and cable news, newspapers are near the top of the list. About a quarter (23%) of those under 30 read a daily newspaper regularly and 17% are regular consumers of weekly community newspapers.

Young people also regularly turn to many online or digital sources for news; 16% get news on a customized webpage or through an RSS reader, 13% use their cell phones for news and 13% get news through social networking sites or Twitter. About one-in-ten (11%) young people regularly get news by email.

Gender, Age and Online News Consumption

Among young people, men are more likely than women to regularly get news online and to use many online technologies for news. More than half (54%) of men under the age of 30 get news online at least three days a week, compared with 41% of young women. Similarly, 48% of young men use search engines to find news on a particular subject while 33% of women under 30 get news by using search engines.

More than twice as many young men as young women get news through a customizable webpage or a RSS reader (20% vs. 9%). Men under 30 also are more avid consumers of news on their cell phone or smartphone than young women. About one-in-five (19%) young men get news or news headlines on their cell phone, compared with only 7% of women under 30. Men under 30 also are more likely to regularly read blogs about politics or current events. But there are no significant differences among young men and women in their use of social networking sites or Twitter and the use of email for news.

Recording the News

More Americans have the technology to digitally record television programs – 45% now have a TiVo or DVR, up from 35% just two years ago, and nearly double the proportion that had one in 2006. But only 24% of those with a TiVo or DVR have programmed it to regularly record any news programs. This is little changed from two years ago (22%), even though the share of Americans who have a TiVo or DVR has grown.

There are very few demographic differences among those who program their TiVo or DVR to regularly record news programs. Men are as likely as women to regularly record news programs and similar proportions of whites and blacks have programmed their TiVo or DVR to record news programs. There are only modest differences by age – those 65 and older are slightly less likely than those in other age groups to record news programs using a TiVo or DVR.

More college graduates (31%) regularly record news programs using a TiVo or DVR than those with some college (24%) and people with a high school education or less (17%). And there is a similar pattern by income – those with the highest family incomes are the most likely to have programmed their TiVo or DVR to regularly record news programs.

About a quarter of Republicans (23%), Democrats (24%) and independents (26%) regularly record news programs with a digital video recorder. And there are no significant differences among Republicans or Democrats along ideological lines.