Skip to main content

Recent cutbacks in the world’s largest news operations can perhaps be better understood when viewing how the audience for news has radically changed in the past five years.

Today’s news junkie is likely to scan the headlines on an iPhone in the morning, check a handful of Web sites during the day and click on links that friends have e-mailed or posted on Facebook or Twitter. Now, more people get their news from the Internet than from newspapers or radio.

It’s a changed world, with only television news still leading the Internet in news distribution. But even television news is down to about of 25 percent of the total audience. Video news is quickly moving to the Internet, and the audience for the television medium itself is shrinking.

A new report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project examines how people consume news. Ninety-nine percent of American adults get news each day, but they are getting it from an increasingly wider variety of sources and in many different forms.

Pew said the Internet now outranks print newspapers and radio in popularity as a source of news. Sixty-one percent of Americans said they read news online, while 54 percent said they listen to news on the radio, 50 percent read a local newspaper and just 17 percent read a national newspaper. One-third of mobile telephone owners read the news on their phones.

Many news startups and existing news organizations have been making a push into local news online. Yet, only half of Internet users told Pew that they read local news on the Web, while three-quarters said they read national news online.

Social media is also having a major effect on news. News consumers have turned to their friends to serve as their editors. Today, conversations about the news are occurring all over the Web. More than 80 percent of people receive or share links in e-mail messages or on social networks. One-quarter discuss the news of the day in the comment sections on Web sites.

About 40 percent of Internet users said it is important to them that news Web sites allow them customize the type of news they get, and 36 percent said they like multimedia features, like graphics and quizzes, which they can manipulate themselves.

Still, news consumers appreciate even more segmentation of the news. Seventy percent of people reported feeling overwhelmed with the endless stream of content.