Monday, September 26, 2011

If only they could do something about it ...

If we want to know about the weather, television is the place we turn.

Traffic? We turn on the radio.

But if our interests run to community events, crime, taxes, arts and culture, social services or zoning and development, the local newspaper is where we go.

This information is part of the latest survey by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Of the 16 topics surveyed by Pew, respondents were most likely to rely on local newspapers for 11 of them (and newspapers tied with the Internet or television on four others). In addition to weather, TV was the top choice for breaking news.

“This sense from the public that newspapers are a place where they can turn to for information on a wide range of local topics, more so than other sources, confirms findings from other Pew Research Center studies, particularly a report on which news organizations tend to break new information in local news reporting conducted in Baltimore and research on what news is available from different sources produced as part of the State of the News Media 2006 report,” the study concluded.

The younger the respondent, the more likely he or she is to rely more on the Internet than more traditional information sources. No surprise there. Among all age groups, however, the Internet was a distant second to newspapers in terms of use and value.

Interestingly, these young information consumers believe they are turning to web-only sources when they seek news online. What they likely don’t know is that most news – including that found online – originates with newspapers (this was the finding of another Pew survey a few years ago).

To be fair, the survey also shows that more Americans watch TV news than read newspapers. However, they rely on TV for just a handful of topics – weather being at the top of the list. People who are serious about specific types of news, from crime to culture and most things in-between, are most likely to be newspaper readers.

There’s nothing particularly startling about any of these findings, unless you’ve been listening to those who continue to say that newspapers are dead or dying (though that drumbeat seems to be growing fainter).

One portion of the study offers a particular challenge to all media – nearly half of all adults, the survey found, use some type of mobile device to get some of their local news and information. Weather, again, is the most common, but nearly a third use a mobile device to find local businesses or restaurants and a quarter use one to get local news.

The challenge is this – how do information providers support this trend and still stay in business?

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