It is no surprise that there is a divide in opinions between whether the digital age is good for newspapers. Many in the media industry believe that technology is the way of the future for newspapers, yet it is frustrating that newspapers are in limbo between declining print circulation and online consumption not quite full-fledged. In Pew Research Center's biennial report on news trends that was released yesterday, the survey reveals how new technologies are slowly moving towards improving news consumption. Newspapers might not be in competition with the online revolution, but previously separate news mediums might prove to rival newspapers in the future.
New technologies are not completely eradicating traditional forms of news. Rather, consumers are integrating the two forms of media. Thirty-nine percent of Americans in the survey sample said they got their news from solely from traditional sources of news, while 36% of people received news from both online and traditional media. Interestingly, only 9% of people surveyed consumed news from only digital sources.
As print newspaper consumption's downward trend continues, online consumers are slowly growing in number. When asked about their news habits for the previous day, around 26% of Americans stated they read a print form of the paper. This statistic is down 30% from 2008 and 38% from 2006. Yet the percentage of people who are logging on to newspapers' websites is increasing, with 17% of people claiming they read news on a paper's website. In 2008 the percentage was only 13% and 9% in 2006, thus there is a strong upward trend in online readership. Pew notes that its data did not include news read through aggregators or search engines, so the real online news consumption might be higher. While online news still does not offset the decrease in print circulation, there is hope that over time online news will catch up.
Concerning traditional media, television and radio are still ahead of newspapers in terms of consumption. While previously the lines between traditional news outlets were clearly defined, the territory of the three traditional sources overlap in the digital age. Newspapers's websites are competing against televisions' websites, and it appears that latter already is a step ahead in concerns to popularity. "Cable television news organizations also are among the most common websites for news and information," reports Pew Research. "16% cite CNN, 8% mention FOX, and 7% name MSNBC among the websites they use most often. Far fewer cite BBC (2%), ABC (2%), NBC (2%), NPR (1%) and CBS (1%)." Meanwhile, The New York Times leads the pack of newspapers at only 6%, while The Wall Street Journal and USA Today both had 2% of the population who logged onto their website to get national news. Yahoo and Google were noted as being popular sources of news, thus newspapers might benefit from partnerships with news aggregators in the future.
How can the media explain the shortcomings of the digital age in concerns with newspaper consumption? One possible reason is the start-up cost for consumers to buy the necessary technologies to access news is expensive. Younger readers statistically consume more digital news, yet they may not have settled into careers that can support expensive news habits such as buying an e-reader or iPad. In the meantime, newspapers might do well to focus on how to be competitive online and embrace digital trends.
Source: Pew Research Center