News about News


The Pew Internet Project studies the social impact of the internet. It is an initiative of the Pew Research Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. Their most recent report is called “Understanding The Participatory News Costumer” and deals with the way people organize their access to news sources. It contains a lot of interesting facts. I will discuss a few in this post.

First, they provide an answer to the million dollar question: why do people read the news at all? Here are the Pew figures.

l 72% of the news-consumer cohort said one reason they consume news is because
they enjoyed talking about it with family, friends and colleagues
l 69% of this group say they feel they have a social or civic obligation to stay informed
l 61% say they often find information in the news that helps them improve their lives
l 44% say news provides a relaxing diversion or personal entertainment
l 19% say they need to follow the news for their jobs

So it is a social thing: news. The most important reason to consume it is to talk about it with peers also the second reason is to maintain a sense of community. A other cluster of reasons is personal, such as relaxation or improving your life. Pew does not report changes in these figures over time but my best estimate would be that these have not changed much. These reasons seem legitimate for consuming news in any media-ecology.

Something that has changed is that news is consumed more and more ‘on the go’. According to Pew , 53% of the US adults access the internet wirelessly either through a laptop or a cell phone, BlackBerry or other handheld device. Mobile news users are more likely to engage in all online activities (blogging e-mail etc) and all cell phone activities (taking pictures, text messaging etc) and they are more likely to be ‘participatory’ news users, commenting, bookmarking and sharing news with others. I guess many news sites are following a cross media strategy, but considering the Pew figures the on the go news users may be a group to target with specific services.

News has also become participatory. The report defines news participators as peole who Tagor categorize online news content, Contribute their own article, opinion piece, picture or video to an online news site, Comment on a news story or blog they read online, Post a link to a news story or blog on a social networking site, use Twitter to post or re-tweet a news story or blog. The report presents daunting figures about how much people engage in these activities, causing blogger Dave Pell to call America the “curation nation” . Personally I feel the high figures are partly due to types of questions asked, and I would like to see a bit more research on this.

Finally a development is that news gets more personal or customized. 28% of the respondents said they had personalized their home page to include their favorite news sources or topics. In particular heavy news users are likely to customize, probably because they care enough to take the effort. I think is an interesting figure, because there could be a growth market for customization solutions. Related to this it is an interesting finding that people differ in how they prefer to have their news presented to them. There are: (1) neutrals – who want their news presented without a point of view, (2) perspective confirmers – who want news that confirms their outlook on the world and there are (3) perspective switchers, who want news presented with a point of view but want to see different opinions about it. Clearly these groups differ in terms of their motivations to read the news, and possibly this gives opportunities for news developers. Personally I think customization and selection of news is something that can be made more accessible to end users. This would really be an improvement of the news service.


2 Responses to “News about News”

  1. Check out my article on modern day news stories:

  1. 1 Social News Needs a Nuanced ‘Like’, Quickly « @koenvanturnhout MacroBlog

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