Encountering Digital News

Encountering Digital News

A new report issued by The Pew Research Center reveals some interesting insight into how readers consume and interpret digital news. The Columbia Journalism Review summarizes the report: “By a statistically insignificant margin, the most common way for people to get their news is still by visiting a news organization directly. In these cases, findings showed that people are more aware of the source of the news, and they’re less likely to share it with others.

“However, when people get their news through social media—or from friends via email or text—they’re less likely to remember the source, and they’re more likely to share it online or send it to friends.”

According to the study: “When asked how they arrived at news content in their most recent web interaction, online news consumers were about equally likely to get news by going directly to a news website (36% of the times they got news, on average) as getting it through social media (35%). They were less likely to access news through emails, text messages or search engines. And most people favored one pathway over another. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of online news consumers had one preferred pathway for getting most of their online news.”

The study addresses recent questions about fake news as well: “When consumers click on a link to get to news, they can often recall the news source’s name. Individuals who said they followed a link to a news story were asked if they could write down the name of the news outlet they landed on. On average, they provided a name 56% of the time. But they were far more able to do so when that link came directly from a news organization – such as through an email or text alert from the news organization itself – than when it came from social media or an email or text from a friend. It was also the case that 10% of consumers, when asked to name the source of the news, wrote in “Facebook” as a specific news outlet.”

There are some very interesting findings in the report, including how gender and age play a role in how people consume news. Younger and older consumers follow news links at the same rate but younger consumers are more likely to forget the source. According to The Columbia Journalsim Review summary of the report, younger and female news consumers are more likely to get their news through social media, while older and male consumers are more likely to seek it out directly from a news organization.

This chart highlights another interesting detail: how certain topics are more likely to be learned about through one method over another. It is an interesting study for those who work in journalism or marketing.

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