News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Research

June 04, 2010

Online videos: Comedy now more popular than news, says Pew

Just over half of all US adults have used the internet to watch or download video. But their online video habits are evolving fast. In 2007, news videos were the most popular type of online video viewed by US adults. But by 2009, comedy videos claimed that lead.

A new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, The State of Online Video, says that in 2009, 43% of US internet users over age 18 reported watching comedy videos online (up from 37% in 2007)—but in that same span online viewership of comedy videos jumped from 31% to 50% of adult net users…

The biggest news/comedy gap in 2009 was among 18-29 year old net users: 93% reported watching comedy videos, 56% reported watching news videos. For 30-49 year old net users, comedy’s lead was negligible: 74% vs. 72% for news videos. News still holds the online video lead with the over-50 online crowd: 59%, vs. 52% for comedy videos.

The report did not mention whether Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” was counted as news or comedy.

It may be tempting to use these findings to dismiss the preferences of younger internet users—but it’s important to note that news is still one of the most popular types of online videos among the 18-29 crowd. Clearly, younger internet users have a growing demand for online video, and news is an important part of what they want. If you want to keep up with where your online audience wants to go, more and better video is probably a good bet.

June 14, 2010

Neighbors Online: Pew report on digital media’s role in local community

The internet’s reputation for fostering alienation and weakening community ties may be an undeserved bad rap. According to a new report from the Pew Internet and American Life project, one in five Americans use digital tools to communicate with neighbors and monitor community developments.

News organizations, community organizers, journalists, bloggers, and others should read Neighbors Online for current context and ideas on using the web to build local community.

Here are some highlights…

  • Local alerts. 22% of all US adults (28% of internet users) have opted to receive text or e-mail alerts about traffic, school events, weather warnings, crime, and other key local issues. Except for crime alerts, rural dwellers are just as likely as urban dwellers to sign up for local alerts.
  • Local blogs. While individual hyperlocal blogs often attract a small readership, taken as a genre they are surprisingly popular. 14% of internet users (11% of US adults) reported read a blog dealing with community issues in the past year.
  • Neighborhood e-mail lists. About 7% of US adults subscribe to an ongoing neighborhood e-mail list.
  • Face-to-face still most important. Nearly half of those surveyed reported talking face-to-face with neighbors about community issues in the last year. Telephone is another key channel for neighbors communicating.

July 02, 2010

Pew research: Internet is mostly good for society, community

The Internet has been getting a bad rap for allegedly destroying the fabric of society and community—but new research from Pew and Elon University suggest that the social benefits of internet use will far outweigh the negatives over the next decade…

For The Future of Social Relations report, researchers from the Pew Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center surveyed nearly 900 internet experts and other internet users. (Disclosure: I was one of the experts surveyed, and I am quoted in the report.)

The results were most, but not completely, positive about the impacts of the internet on social and community life. In all, 85% or respondents agreed with this statement: “In 2020, when I look at the big picture and consider my personal friendships, marriage and other relationships, I see that the internet has mostly been a positive force on my social world. And this will only grow more true in the future.”

This research indicates the importance of recognizing how people’s sense of society, community, and connection has been changing because of the internet. This could be especially important for geographically-focused news organizations (like local papers, TV, or radio) to recognize and reflect in their coverage. Understanding what members of your community have in common besides geography—and following the patterns of how and where they’re connecting online, and with whom—could help you provide news that continues to be uniquely relevant and compelling.

July 07, 2010

Mobile internet access is now mainstream, Pew research shows

Here’s further proof why news organizations need a robust mobile strategy now: According to research published today by the Pew Internet and American Life Project (Mobile Access 2010) in the past year 40% of US cell phone users accessed the internet from their phones—and more than half of them do so daily. This is a sharp jump: last year, only 25% of cell users reported mobile internet access.

Speaking of strategic considerations, where will your future audience be? A strong majority (65%) of cell users aged 18-29 reported using their phones for internet access. Not far behind, 40% of cell users aged 30-49 also are going online from their phones…

African Americans and Latinos continue to lead the charge on US mobile internet use, says Pew: “Cell phone ownership is higher among African-Americans and Latinos than among whites (87% vs. 80%) and minority cell phone owners take advantage of a much greater range of their phones’ features… In total, 64% of African-Americans access the internet from a laptop or mobile phone, up from the 57% who did so at a similar point in 2009.”

Another point with clear implications for how cell phones can bridge the mobile digital divide: This year, 46% of cell users earning $30,000 or less per year reported accessing the internet from their phones—up from 35% last year. Also, 20% of cell users report that their phone is their sole internet access tool. People with lower incomes tend not to buy fancy smartphones with costly data plans; they tend to use inexpensive feature phones with simple web browsers and limited/no ability to run apps. This is why lean mobile strategies (such as WAP sites, which I discussed yesterday) should be an important part of any news organization’s online strategy.

Besides the mobile web, other internet-based functions are also becoming commonplace among cell phone users: 34% reported using e-mail from their phones this year (up from 25% last year), and 30% reported using mobile instant messaging (from 20% last year). These features, plus podcasting or streaming audio/video, call-in audio, and text/multimedia messaging also can be important parts of a robust mobile news strategy.

July 13, 2010

NAA: Youth Migrating to Smartphones, Newspapers Should Be There

In the news business, it’s important to know not just where your market is, but where it’s going—and to make sure you’re ready to serve your communities and advertisers at future preferred news destinations.

This means that newspapers should fast-track and hone their smartphone strategies now, according to a recent survey by the Newspaper Association of America Foundation and the New Media Innovation Lab at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University .

They surveyed 1500 US Americans aged 16-20. Some findings from this research…

Many youth are willing to pay a lot for smartphones. More than 60% bought their smartphones themselves, and 58% pay the monthly bill themselves. This is a significant expenditure: According to the report, carrier-subsidized smartphones cost an average of $300 up front.

News apps are not especially popular with young smartphone users. Less than 18% of respondents reported that general news apps were among their five favorite types of smartphone apps. This demographic is more likely to visit a web site focused on news than use a news app—28% reported that news sites are among their five favorite places to get information.

Social media is an important source of mobile news. Over 47% of smartphone users aged 16-20 reported that social media apps are among their favorite apps, and 40% said that social media sites are among their favorite mobile web sites. Many also reported getting via social media various kinds of information that could include news: about their school (35%), town/city (32%), current US/world events (32%), and the economy (21%). Which suggest that social media should be a strong part of any news organization’s mobile strategy.

Young women seem to especially like mobile news. “59% of males and 69% of females had browsed or visited a newspaper web site in the previous 30 days. Asked what device they used, 49% of females said they had used only their smartphones, compared to 27% of males.”

While smartphones are getting considerable media attention, they are far from the biggest part of the mobile media market. The vast majority of mobile phones (about 80% by most statistics) currently in use in the US are not smartphones—so the mobile news potential of feature phones was ignored by this research. The report did note that according to comScore MobiLens, Americans aged 18-24 currently lag behind older users in smartphone adoption.

Furthermore, this report did not specify how the researchers defined what a smartphone is. The line between smart and feature phones is blurring. These days, many inexpensive phones physically resemble smartphones more—with touchscreens, wifi, and sometimes the ability to run simple apps. But their capabilities for sophisticated apps and web browsing often fall far short of true smartphones.

This kind of research can be helpful, but it’s crucial to know the kinds of devices used by most mobile users in your community in order to craft an effective mobile strategy.

August 20, 2010

Knight News Challenge: Dissertation probes contest’s impact

he Knight News Challenge is a flagship program to spur innovation in journalism, now entering its fifth year. But what is it accomplishing?

Recently Seth Lewis, who just earned his PhD in journalism from the University of Texas-Austin, published his dissertation exploring exactly that question…

Here are some highlights from Journalism Innovation and the Ethic of Participation: A Case Study of the Knight Foundation and its News Challenge:

“I found that the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation altered the rhetorical and actual boundaries of journalism jurisdiction. Knight moved away from ‘journalism’ and toward ‘information’ as a way of seeking the wisdom of the crowd to solve journalism’s problems. This opening up of journalism’s boundaries created crucial space in which innovators, from inside and outside journalism, could step in and bring change to the field.

“The result of these efforts has been the emergence of a new rendering of journalism—one that straddles the professional-participatory tension by attempting to ‘ferry the values’ of professional ideals even while embracing new practices more suited to a digital environment. Ultimately, this case study matters for what it suggests about professions in turbulent times.”

The dissertation features both quantitative and qualitative analysis of the News Challenge, including lengthy excerpts from discussions with grantees and other key players in the contest.

Lewis lists three key takeaways from his research:

  1. “The Knight Foundation, to accomplish innovation, backed away from journalism, but these innovators [the News Challenge winners] brought journalism back in.”
  2. “In seeking to reform journalism, news innovators are not de-professionalizing journalism so much as re-energizing its ideals.”
  3. “It used to be hard to start a news organization but relatively easier to sustain one. Now that the equation has flipped—news innovators are struggling to institutionalize.”


August 27, 2010

Older Americans flocking to social media, says Pew

Today’s typical social media user may be grayer than you’d expect—perhaps as gray as a typical newspaper reader or public radio listener.

According to a new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, in the past year social networking use among Americans age 50 and up nearly doubled—from 22% to 42%. Half of internet users age 50-64, and a quarter of users 65 and older, now regularly use social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr…

“Although e-mail continues to be the primary way that older users maintain contact with friends, families and colleagues, many users now rely on social network platforms to help manage their daily communications—sharing links, photos, videos, news and status updates with a growing network of contacts,” says the report.

The report also notes that older internet users also tend to like online news: “76% of internet users ages 50-64 get news online, and 42% do so on a typical day. Among internet users ages 65 and older, 62% look for news online and 34% do so on a typical day.”

If older adults are a key part of your news organization’s core audience (which is true for most news orgs), consider ways to use social media to deepen and extend your connections with this demographic. In addition to reaching out online to older parts of your community via social networking sites, also consider integrating social media more thoroughly on your web site—and promote and explain your social media efforts more often in print or on the air.

If your news org has been lagging on social media so far, this research could provide even more impetus to get more active in social media. Also, if you’ve assumed social media appeals almost exclusively to younger audiences—think again.

October 19, 2010

Americans and their Gadgets: Pew report on US digital media device trends

These days, cell phones are as prevalent among US seniors as game consoles are among 18-29 year olds. That’s one of several insights in a new Pew Internet and American Life Project, American and Their Gadgets, which offers an overview of current trends in the digital media devices that Americans own.

Here are some more insights that should interest anyone who’s publishing any kind of digital media…

  • Ubiquitous cell phones. “85% of all US adults (and three-quarters of teens) now own a mobile phone.”
  • Computers: Desktops still have a slight edge. “Six in ten of Americans own a desktop computer, and half own a laptop.” Also: “Rural residents are just as likely as non-rural residents to own a desktop computer (56% of rural residents and 61% of non-rural residents do so) but are significantly less likely than non-rural dwellers to own a laptop computer (39% vs. 55%)”
  • Mobilized seniors. “Seniors are roughly 50% more likely to own a cell phone than to use the internet (40% of seniors are internet users).”
  • Other devices. “Just under half of all adults own an mp3 player (47%) or console gaming device (42%), while e-book readers and tablet computers are currently each owned by around one in 20 adults.”
  • Multiple gadgets. “78% of American adults own two or more of these devices, and the median adult owns three of the seven gadgets we asked about in our survey. ...The typical adult under the age of 45 owns four devices, while the typical adult age 55-64 owns two.”


November 30, 2010

Don’t blame the net for news biz woes, says Reuters Institute

The news business has hit hard times, and often the internet gets the blame for that. But that blame is misplaced, according to a new book from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism…

The Changing Business of Journalism and its Implications for Democracy assesses how the news business has fared in seven nations: Brazil, Germany, Finland, France, India, the UK, and the US.

From the executive summary:

“While the industry has certainly suffered severe declines in revenues in several countries in recent years, the latest downturns seem to be more closely connected with the relative degree of dependence on volatile revenue sources like advertising and on the differential impact of the global recession than with the spread of the internet.

“This is illustrated perhaps most forcefully by the difference between countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, where the private media sector have struggled in recent years—whereas countries like Germany and Finland (with comparable levels of internet penetration and use and strong public service media organisations operating on several platforms) have seen much more stable developments in the business of journalism.

“Both the industry and the profession are changing rapidly as new tools are being appropriated by journalists, sources and audiences, but the supposed crisis is far from universal, and the outcomes of current transformations far from certain.

“The differences identified and documented in this book not only highlight the enduring relevance of inherited national differences in audience demand, market structure and media regulation, but also that, despite deterministic (and often fatalistic) claims to the contrary, there is still time for the business of journalism to reinvent itself and move into the twenty- first century, provided media managers, professional journalists, and policy-makers and the citizens they represent are willing to learn from different developments around the world.”

Purchase this book (hardcover edition, £19.95 plus shipping) from Oxford University Press.

December 07, 2010

Application deadlines near for Harvard’s prestigious Neiman Fellowship

It’s one of the oldest and most storied laurels in journalism, essentially a year at Harvard University to do whatever you want. But despite Neiman Fellowship’s deep roots (it’s been around for more than 70 years), the program actually has quite a futuristic bent these days.

That’s in part because it allows practitioners on leave from the rough-and-tumble of the news industry to explore new business models at Harvard Business School or online media law at Harvard Law School. Or you could spend your fellowship delving more fully into the world of digital media at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, reknowned for a wide range of research projects, events and teaching.

Deadline for international applicants is Dec. 15 and for U.S. applicants Jan. 31. Here’s more detail on the Neiman program.

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