The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project conducted a survey to find out how Americans get their news, and the results are actually a bit surprising at times–especially the fact that both local and national TV news are significantly more popular than online news. And yet somehow, nobody seems concerned about the grave threat local news poses to our venerable institution of online news. Wake up, America! Turn off the TV and read this!
Really, though, almost everybody (92%) gets their news from multiple platforms. For 78%, that includes local news; national news (including both cable news like CNN and network broadcast news) comes in at 73%; online news manages 61%; radio sneaks away with 54%; local newspapers snag 50%; and national (non-local) newspapers like USA Today get only 17%.
But the important takeaway here isn’t only that local news is extremely popular, it’s a continuing movement toward a dissemination of sources. 60% of Americans take advantage of both online and offline news, and even within those platforms, there’s a noticeable trending towards a multitude of sources. Online, few (35%) even identify a single favorite news site, and the majority (57%) visit two to five sources online, mostly deciding on “regulars” by age, political party and ideology. That selection of different sources can be read a few different ways; sure, it’s an overload of information, without one decisive voice, but it also allows the audience to see events from a few different angles, which is all the better. 70% do find the amount of information available to be “overwhelming,” but hardly anyone chooses to restrict themselves, which is telling.
The power of local TV news is pretty interesting, especially since local online news is not particularly popular–most online readers opt for national or international coverage rather than local. But in the big picture, local TV news is still the most popular source in this country.