TV Reigns In News Consumption and More Surprises in ‘Personal News Cycle’ Study

Fewer than 50 percent of the API's sample set said they used an online-only reporting service to find news. Eighty-two percent said they went straight to local TV news.
Fewer than 50 percent of the API’s sample set said they used an online-only reporting service to find news. Eighty-two percent said they went straight to local TV news.

An exciting new partnership between the American Press Institute (API) and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research called the Media Insight Project has produced a study called “The Personal News Cycle: How Americans choose to get their news”.

The Media Insight Project’s main goal is to “understand changing news audiences” through a series of polls and studies, the initiative’s leaders announced in a press release last week.

“We created the AP-NORC Center to serve the news industry by making the best social science research available to journalists and the public in order to promote a greater understanding of social trends,” AP-NORC Center Director Trevor Tompson said.

Based on a telephone survey of 1,492 adults across the nation conducted from Jan. 9 to Feb. 16, 2014, here are a few of the study’s key takeaways, published on March 17:

Consumers will find the news they want on the technology that is most convenient

According to the Media Insight Project, traditional media is still relevant for sifting through the news. Respondents used at least four devices to either discover or follow up on stories in a single week, but the tools used may surprise you. “The most frequently utilized devices include television (87 percent), laptops/computers (69 percent), radio (65 percent), and print newspapers or magazines (61 percent),” reported API. The same people said they preferred television to computers for consuming news 24 percent to 12 percent, with cell phones and tablets at 12 and four percent, respectively. “People who own and use more devices are no more or less likely to use print publications, television, or radio to access the news,” read the study.

Local news matters

So, Americans like TV news over digital, the API said, but 82 percent go straight to their local TV news stations for local news, arts and culture, weather/traffic and education news, whether on the tube or online, before combing through national outlets. When they do turn to national broadcasters, 73 percent say they flip the dial to trusted giants like ABC, NBC or CBS, and 62 percent watch 24-hour cable channels like Fox News, CNN and MSNBC for ongoing news, politics, business or international updates. Less than half of those polled (47 percent) said they relied on online-only news services like Yahoo News, BuzzFeed, HuffPo and others.

Social media isn’t a preferred method for discovering news, especially not for folks over 29

People ages 18-29 are much more likely to find and follow news events through social media, as opposed to age 60+ adults (71 percent vs. 21 percent). “A majority of 30-39 year olds also discover news through social media (64 percent), as do 41 percent of 40-59 year olds. Similarly, people under 40 are more likely than those 40 and over to discover news through internet searches and online news aggregators,” read the API study. Still, the study reports that no matter the age group, readers like to consume news directly from the media organization, even if it’s on social media, rather than via search or a curator. A surprisingly low number of 18-29 year olds (13 percent) said social media is their “preferred way to find news”.

People aren’t crazy about paying for their news (unless it’s in print)

“Only 26 percent of Americans report that they currently pay for one or more news subscriptions,” read the report. That 26 percent is “most likely to pay for print newspapers and magazines,” though. The news consumers who invest in media organizations via subscriptions mostly pay for newspaper access. 64 percent subscribe to papers, 44 percent to print magazines, and only 40 percent to an online newspaper. The API said 23 percent have paid subscriptions to magazine websites, 16 percent have tablet apps specifically for news and 15 percent purchase access to phone-specific news apps.

What surprises you most about the results of this study? Is it in line with your personal news consumption habits?

To read the full report compiled by the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, click here.