Americans are consuming more news, but printed newspapers are losing market share to digital competitors, says a new Pew Research Center report.
The bad news for printed newspapers is that 34 percent of the public said they went online for news, while only 31 percent said they read a newspaper - the first time that online sources exceeded printed newspapers. Television was listed as a source of news by 58 percent of the respondents, while 34 percent listed radio as a source of news. Three-quarters of Americans say they consume news from TV, radio and/or newspapers.
"In short, instead of replacing traditional news platforms, Americans are increasingly integrating new technologies into their news consumption habits," the Pew report said. "More than a third (36 percent) of Americans said they got news from both digital and traditional sources..., just shy of the number who relied solely on traditional sources (39 percent). Only 9 percent of Americans got their news through the internet and mobile technology without also using traditional sources."
Daily print newspaper readership, the report said, fell from 38 percent in 2006 and 30 percent in 2008 to 26 percent in 2010. Combined readership of print and online newspapers total 37 percent - down from 43 percent in 2006 and 39 percent in 2008.
The numbers were grim for Americans younger than 30; only 8 percent of those under 30 reported reading a newspaper yesterday. Worse, the Pew report said, among all respondents under age 50, the number reading a print newspaper has fallen by nearly half, from 29 percent in 2006 to 15 percent in 2010, the report said.
"Meanwhile, online newspaper readership has grown, though not enough to counterbalance the print decline," the Pew report said. Seventeen percent of Americans say they read a newspaper online yesterday or visited a newspaper web site. This is up from 9 percent in 2006 and 13 percent in 2008.
The average number of minutes spent reading a newspaper, the report said, fell to 10 minutes in 2010 - down from 19 minutes in 1994, 17 in 2000 and 2004, and 11 minutes in 2008.
The report said community weekly newspapers also have lost readership. "The share regularly reading local weekly community newspapers has fallen from 35 percent in 2006 to 33 percent in 2008 to 30 percent today," the report added.
Readers older than 50 are newspapers' best customers. Readers 50-64 say they regularly read a daily newspaper while 38 percent say they regularly read a weekly community newspaper. Daily newspaper consumption climbs to 55 percent among readers 65 and older, while 39 percent of the same group read a weekly.
The report said 50 percent of men, compared to 39 percent of women, get news from digital platforms, which include the Web, mobile, search and social media sites. The report said "most Facebook and Twitter users say they hardly every get news there."
The Pew study said "your daily newspaper" has a trust factor of 21 percent of Americans. That's lower than 60 Minutes (33 percent), CNN (29), local TV news (29), NPR (28), Fox news (28), the Wall Street Journal (25), and C-Span (23). Local newspapers tied with CBS and ABC News. Only NBC News (20), the New York times (20), and USA Today (17) rated lower.
Newspaper "believability" trends have steadily fallen from 29 percent in 1998 to 21 percent today (although up from 19 in 2004 and 2006). Twenty-seven percent of Democrats said they believe "all or most" of what daily newspapers report, while only 18 percent of Republicans and 17 percent of independents trust newspapers' content.
In my opinion, these numbers don't accurately reflect the role of newspapers in gathering and reporting news. An earlier Pew report showed that some 75 percent of all news is generated by newspapers. Americans consume this news without always knowing that the real content generators are newspapers.
I attended a newspaper convention last year where researchers were puzzled to find that Americans liked news, but didn't give credit to the news producer - usually a newspaper. Many consumers thought they were getting news from Google or Bing or Microsoft - search engines that mine the Internet for content.
Pay walls are controversial methods that bar consumers from reaching news without subscriptions. As more pay walls - and other creators' rights protections -- are erected by newspapers, consumers may learn to understand the source of news.
Perhaps more importantly, newspaper publishers and editors need to continue to offer more choices for readers and advertisers. Newspapers no longer own/control the major news distribution channels.
Audiences have been shattered and scattered. Media companies need to understand these trends and offer readers and advertisers new and better alternatives. Readers aren't going to come to the newspapers as they did in the "good old days." Today and in the future, media companies are going to have to worker harder to please readers and advertisers - in print, on the Web, via mobile devices and through social networks.