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Think Young People Get Their News Online? Think Again.



Consider yourself among a rareified crowd: according to a new poll by the Pew Center for the People and the Press, just 4 percent of Americans say they read online blogs where people discuss news events -- though the figure jumps to 9 percent for those aged 18 to 24.

But the biggest surprise from Pew's poll may come to those news executives who see online services as the best way to hook young consumers -- according to Pew's figures, nearly all the growth of Internet news users since the year 2000 has come among those aged 25 to 64.

This dovetails results of an extensive study by Ball State University last year; really young folks use the web for IM-ing friends, playing games, watching porn -- just about anything but gathering news. Another Pew nugget: the same percentage of 18 to 24 year olds get their news online three days a week in 2006 as they did in 2000 -- about 30 percent -- and as many people aged 50 to 64 get their news online as people in their late teens and early 20s.

Pew surveyed 3,204 adults from the end of April to the beginning of May for its biennial news consumption survey, aimed at uncovering how people say they are consuming news (which, every media-savvy person knows may differ from how they actually consume news and other media).

What their figures uncover, is that online news sources are more often a supplement rather than a substitution for news consumers, newspaper circulation, while eroding, is boosted a bit by those reading newsapepr Web sites, and people mostly use Internet news for quick headlines and updates.

Forty percent of Americans said they read a newspaper the day before they were polled, with 6 percent reading online. But combine online and print newspaper readership and you get 43 percent of the sample, compared to 50 percent who read just a newspaper 10 years ago.

In 1993, 77 percent regularly watched a local TV newscast, compared to 54 percent in 2006; 60 percent regularly watched network evening news in 1993, compared to 28 percent this year; 58 percent regularly read a newspaper in 1993, compared to 40 percent who read this year (even among those aged 65 and older -- newspapers' reliable audience core these days -- the percentage of regular readers has dropped from 70 percent ten years ago to 58 percent in 2006).

What do we make of all this? That young people don't read news because it doesn't yet matter in their lives; they don't own homes, so they don't care about taxes, they don't have kids in school, so they don't care about local education issues, they don't have homes so they don't care about property values or how their community is developed and they're too young to care about health issues.

Newspapers are losing the people who should care about their content -- 25 to 40 year olds -- mostly because of the convenience factor. It takes too much effort to read the newspaper, and people who are building careers and building families have less time than ever for it.

National Public Radio's audience has doubled since 1994 to 17 percent, while Fox News Channels audience has stayed level over the past two years at 23 percent. And 13 percent of those aged 18 to 29 get news by cellphone, PDA, CrackBerry, iPod or similar portable device.

Hmmm. Sounds like a trend for the future...

Back to the Future for Deggans on Aug. 7

As you may have guessed if you read the comment from the Times' previous  TV critic, Chase Squires, I'm taking Chase's place as the newspaper's TV critic, starting next Monday, Aug. 7.

It is, I'll admit, an odd career trajectory for me. But I told my editors back when I left the job two years ago, that I wished it was possible to take a two year break from the job, rather than leave it for good. So, in an odd, roundabout way, I got my wish.

Put simply, I missed arts criticism. And I realized what our executive editor told me when I first considered leaving the TV gig for the editorial board: I already had the best job at the newspaper.

I'm coming back with renewed enthusiasm and a better understanding of my own abilities and the newspaper. So this should be a fun ride.

But the open question for us all, is what will happen to this space?

I expect the blog to reflect more  TV stuff and entertainment stuff, but I'll also try to keep up the substance. Dunno if I'm going to tackle  the Lost recap -- no one could do that like Chase did -- and I have a feeling my approach won't be quite as funny.

I don't even know if i'm going to change the name of this blog once I move back to TV criticism -- but I'm open for suggestions.

Got any?

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:36pm]


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