What newsrooms need to know about Americans’ news habits

July 31, 2019 01:30

OK, so I’m a few months late in reading this year’s global digital news study from Reuters. But if you’re like me, someone who prints things out and sets them aside to read when I have a free moment, I’ll bet it’s still sitting unread somewhere in your inbox or office as well.

At 156 pages it’s a long read, but full of fascinating tidbits, especially if you like to pay attention to what’s happening to journalism internationally.

But for newsmakers and journalism students in the USA, there is some interesting information as well. I won’t attempt to encapsulate the whole report here, but there are three takeaways I found particularly interesting.

Americans still want their online news for free
Sure they might pay for Netflix to watch Stranger Things, but Americans do not want to spend money to watch a newscast, read a newspaper, or listen to your political podcast. Only 16% of Americans spend money for any online news. That includes paywalls, subscriptions, or donations.  Most of that money goes to The New York Times and Washington Post, and most people who do pay for online news are only paying for one news site.

So who are these people who will pay for their news online? Wealthy news junkies with college degrees.

Television still rules the morning news
One third of Americans get their first news of the day each morning from their television. After television, the next largest group (23%) reports they first encounter news each day on their smartphone. The study doesn’t report whether that’s listening to NPR One, or reading the local paper, or seeing a headline someone shared on Facebook, but whatever it is, people are seeing it on their phones.

Behind phones are the larger screens of computers at 15%, where the content is probably the same that others are consuming on their phones.

Radio is only the first news encounter for 11% of Americans. Doesn’t anyone use radios as alarm clocks anymore? I suspect these are people who don’t encounter any news until they get into their car for their commute.

And the cliché of the morning newspaper, with the ritual cup of coffee to start your day? Only six percent of Americans are getting their news first from print.

And who is watching all that TV? “People with populist attitudes are more likely to identify television as their main source of news, more likely to rely on Facebook for online news, and less likely to trust the media overall.”

Not as many people as you might think are getting news from partisan and alternative web sites
Many of the folks who write the hate mail to our station don’t believe the news we provide and offer as evidence of our “journalism 101 failures” the information they have found on sites such as Info Wars or Occupy Democrats.

Maybe I have odd Facebook friends, but when I scroll on my page it sometimes seems like a lot of people are sharing information from these types of sites. But the Reuters study suggests otherwise.

In the survey, only 7 percent of US news consumers had read an item from Breitbart in the survey week, and even fewer had read sites like the Daily Caller, The Blaze, Occupy Democrats and InfoWars or Being Liberal.

Who do we trust?
Local television news again tops the list of the most trusted media outlet for news across all platforms, followed by the Wall Street Journal and NPR.

There is a lot more fascinating stuff in the report. You can find it for yourself here.


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