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Pew: Internet now leading news source for Americans under 50

by: Amy Gahran |

It's not exactly a surprise, but now we have data. According to the Pew Research Center's biennial media attitudes survey, the internet is now the leading source of national and international news for Americans under age 50.

And the younger you are, the more likely you'll turn to the internet first for news. According to Pew: "Overall, 71% of those 18-29 cite the internet as a main news source, more than the percentage that cites television (55%). Among those 30-49, 63% say the internet is where they go to get most of their news, up 13 points from 2011 and, for the first time, the percentage of this group citing the internet as their main source matches the percentage who say television is their top news source. (Respondents were allowed to name up to two sources)."

Given this, the recent purchase of the Washington post by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos is starting to make more sense.

This is a fairly rigorous study, conducted July 17-21, 2013, among 1,480 U.S. adults. While it focuses more on attitudes toward national and international news organizations, some findings also might be useful context for news outlets of any size -- including at the community level. A couple of highlights:

Watchdogs are valued. "In the wake of revelations about government activities (including the NSA surveillance program and the IRS targeting of political groups) 68% say press criticism of political leaders keeps them from doing things that should not be done -- while just 21% say press criticism keeps leaders from doing their job. Support for the media's watchdog role has risen 10 points since 2011 even as other press ratings have shown little sign of improvement."

Television still is very important; print newspapers less so. "Television (69%) remains the public's top source for news. Far fewer cite newspapers (28%) or radio (23%) as their main source." This may indicate that partnerships with local television stations may prove particularly valuable to community news and engagement efforts, in addition to digital ventures.

Amy Gahran

Amy Gahran is a journalist, editor, trainer, entrepreneur, strategist, and media consultant based in Boulder, Colorado. In addition to writing
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