Pew has released their State of the News Media 2012 study and it shows a real shift is at work in US news, driven by social and mobile trends, and the changing perceptions about news sources:
Amy Mitchell, Tom Rosenstiel, and Leah Christian via
Among the major findings of this research:
- The majority of Americans now get news through at least one digital, web-based device. While the desktop or laptop computer remains the primary digital platform for news (54% of Americans get news there), the number of consumers who get news on multiple digital devices is growing. Nearly a quarter of U.S. adults, 23%, now get news on at least two devices–a desktop/laptop computer and smartphone, a computer and a tablet, a tablet and a smartphone, or on all three.
- The most common way that people get news is by going directly to a news organization’s website or app. About a third of desktop/laptop news consumers and smartphone news consumers get news this way “very often.” Even more tablet news users, 38%, follow this path. On desktop/laptop computers, going to a news site directly is statistically tied with search (30%). Yet even these numbers may understate those seeking out news home pages. Previous PEJ studies have shown that many people who access news through search engines are typing in some variation of the home page name, not searching by topic across different news sources.
- Social media, while clearly a part of the digital news experience, is not nearly the driver of news that many have suggested. Just 9% of digital news consumers follow news recommendations from either Facebook or Twitter “very often” on at least one of the devices asked about here. Of the two networks, Facebook garners about twice as many news followers than Twitter. Still, though, the rapid growth is striking. As written about in the Digital chapter of this report [LINK] the percent of traffic that comes to news sites from social media platforms increased 57% since 2009.
- For those who get news on both the smartphone and tablet, social networking is a much more popular way to get news. Among that group (13% of all digital news consumers), fully two-thirds (67%) have ever gotten news recommendations from Facebook. That compares to 59% who get news on just one of those devices and 41% who only get digital news via the desktop/laptop. Similarly, 39% follow news recommendations on Twitter, compared with 24% who just use a smartphone or a tablet and 9% who use only the desktop/laptop.
- Consumers who still only get digital news on the desktop/laptop computer have a very different set of behaviors. This group is less likely to get news in any of the ways asked about in the survey than those who get some digital news on a smartphone, a tablet or both. Only about half (48%) get news using key word search “very or somewhat often” compared with at least 70% of those who use a smartphone, tablet or both for news. Similarly, 54% go directly to news websites or apps somewhat or very often, while 80% or more of those who get news on other devices do so.
- Commercial data tracking online usage reinforce the findings of this survey. Localytics shared its proprietary data with researchers involved in this study, and that information shows that people using mobile devices tend to spend more time with news on mobile devices than they do on computers. They go to news sites more often, spend more time per session and read more articles per session.
I find the 57% increase in social media-related traffic since 2009 intriguing, and I bet it is accelerating. But the big story here is that multiple devices appear to increase reading in an additive way.