News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Research

January 25, 2012

Pew: Young adults especially interested in web blackout news

The past week saw several major news stories, from the Italian shipwreck to coverage of the Republican presidential primaries to Eastman Kodak’s bankruptcy. But Pew found that U.S. adults under 30 were especially likely to follow news of the Jan. 18 widespread blackouts of several popular websites to protest two bills aimed at stopping online piracy…

In its latest weekly News Interest Index survey, conducted Jan. 19-22, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found: “Nearly one quarter (23%) of those younger than 30 say they followed news about the online piracy fight most closely. That is about the same as the percentage [within that age group] following the 2012 elections most closely (21%). Among the public as a whole, just 7% say they followed news about the web protests ...more closely than any other story.”

This isn’t necessarily surprising, but it does underscore the fact that coverage of this high-profile example of digital activism achieved notable traction with younger news consumers. And this story isn’t over yet—the struggle in Congress over online piracy legislation continues to unfold.

Consequently, news publishers who seek to expand their reach among younger news consumers might do well to emphasize ongoing coverage of online piracy legislation and related activism in their mobile offerings—which includes the mobile web, smartphone and tablet apps, and social media.

Last summer, Pew found that over half of U.S. adults aged 29 and under own a smartphone. Nearly 95% of these Americans go online from their phones, and over 80% do so daily. Also, social media (where people often share or discuss news) is one of the most popular things people do with their cell phones.

Your mobile strategy is as much about content choices as technology and design choices. Understanding which stories appeal to younger news consumers—as well as other key avidly mobile demographics, such as U.S. Hispanics—can help you choose which stories to promote most through mobile channels. Your story lineup need not be identical from one media channel to the next.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

February 07, 2012

Internet is only campaign news source to show gains this election season, Pew finds

Maybe this year’s presidential campaigns just aren’t very interesting. A new Pew study found that, compared to the 2008 campaigns, relatively fewer Americans are getting campaign news and information from almost every type of news media—except the internet, which showed only a modest gain…

Cable news is by far the most popular source of news and information about this year’s presidential campaigns, according to a study by the Pew Research Center on People and the Press. 36% of Americans say they regularly learn about the candidates or campaign on cable news networks. However, cable news is in the lead this year only due to sharp declines in local and network TV news, and local newspapers, as campaign news sources. And even cable’s share has declined by 2% since 2008.

Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who use the internet to get campaign news and info rose by 1% (now at 25%) since 2008. According to Pew:

All the campaign action so far is about the Republican primaries, and Republicans are more likely to be older and to watch more cable TV. Pew noted “a lack of interest in the early 2012 campaign among younger Americans, who have traditionally been the broadest internet news consumers, and who also are less apt to be Republicans.”

Social media is showing similar lethargy as a campaign news source. According to the report: “Many of the newest internet tools for getting campaign information, including social networking, are being used by a relatively limited audience. One fifth of Americans say they regularly or sometimes get campaign information from Facebook, and just 5% say the same about Twitter. Even among Facebook and Twitter users, most say they hardly ever or never learn about the campaign or candidates through those sources.”

Also: “About half (52%) of Americans say they at least sometimes learn about the campaign from websites or apps of TV, newspaper, magazine or radio news organizations. Slightly more than a third (36%) regularly or sometimes learn from websites or apps of news sources that are only available online.

“When respondents are asked to name the specific internet sources they turn to for campaign news and information, the most frequently cited are CNN (by 24% of those who get campaign news online), Yahoo (22%), Google (13%), Fox News (10%), MSN (9%) and MSNBC (8%). Politically-oriented sites like Huffington Post and the Drudge Report are each mentioned by only 2% of those who get campaign news online.”

February 08, 2012

How the internet is changing us: CDF report looks back, ahead

Over the past decade, the Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School has studied how the use (or non-use) of online technology affects actions and opinions in the U.S. Recently CDF published a special report noting 10 key themes that have emerged from this body of research. Here are a few highlights of special interest to news and information providers…

Trust is harder to come by online. CDF found that U.S. internet users are becoming less credulous. As of June 2011, “only 40% of users said that most or all of the information on the internet is reliable—a decline from 55% in 2000.” Also, currently 60% of U.S. internet users say that “about half or less of information online is reliable”—up from 45% in 2000. About 15% currently think that “only a small portion or none of online information is reliable.”

But mainstream media sites tend to attract more trust: 73-80% said most or all of the information these sites post is “generally reliable and accurate.”

Internet users value daily newspapers—but not enough to keep print editions alive. According to CDF: “The 2011 study found that internet users give high marks to newspapers for many characteristics, among them the quality of news content, local and national coverage, and providing trustworthy information. And 63% of internet users report they would miss the print edition of their newspaper if it was no longer available—up from 56% in 2007. However, internet users also report spending less than two hours a week reading print newspapers—an amount that has declined steadily since 2005.”

And: “We believe that most major U.S. daily newspapers as we know them today as print editions will be gone in about five years; eventually the only print newspapers that will survive will be at the extremes of the medium—the largest and the smallest. ...Local weekly and twice-weekly newspapers may continue in print form, as well as the Sunday print editions of metropolitan newspapers that otherwise may exist only in online editions.”

Tablets will take over in three years. This point is presented more as a prediction rather than a research-based finding, but if true it would significantly affect how news and information get presented online: “We believe that over the next three years, the tablet will become the primary tool for personal computing needs. Use of a desktop PC may well dwindle to only 4-6% of computer users ...and laptop use will probably decline as well. ...We do not see a downside in the move to tablets, but the coming dominance of tablets will create major shifts in how, when, and why Americans go online—changes even more significant than the emergence of the laptop.”

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

February 29, 2012

Prompt, obvious in-line corrections work best online, research indicates

As this year’s election season hits its stride, the misinformation is flying thick and fast. Every news publisher will have to make lots of corrections. A new social science research report suggests how to make online corrections that really work…

The report this month from the New America Foundation, Misinformation and Fact-checking: Research Findings from Social Science (by Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifle), offers an overview of social science findings about how people perceive the accuracy of information—and how misinformation spreads and takes root.

They offer nine recommendations for how journalists and news publishers can combat the spread of misinformation.

Here’s recommendation #2 [emphasis added]:

“Early corrections are better. News organizations should strive to correct their errors as quickly as possible and to notify the media outlets that disseminated them further. It is difficult to undo the damage from an initial error, but rapid corrections of online articles or video can ensure that future readers and other journalists are not misled.

“In particular, media outlets should correct online versions of their stories directly (with appropriate disclosures of how they were changed) rather than posting corrections at the end (which are likely to be ineffective).

“They should also take responsibility for ensuring that corrections are made to articles in news databases such as Nexis and Factiva.”

In effect, this report advocates a Wikipedia-style approach to updating information and making corrections—yet another way that news publishers can learn from Wikipedia.

Unfortunately, in-line corrections are not easily supported by the inflexible content management systems still in use at many major news organizations—but they’re easier to implement with more modern platforms.

The current value of news databases such as Nexis is a bit sketchy, given the predominant role of the internet (especially search engines and social media) in facilitating the spread of information and misinformation alike among the general public. While this report did not mention search engines or social media, news publishers might consider how to leverage these tools to highlight corrections as a way to curb the spread of misinformation.

Standard news practices which effectively bury or sequester corrections to stories are unlikely to gain visibility to the general public, and thus are ineffective tools for combatting the spread of misinformation.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

April 10, 2012

To grow your mobile audience, focus on mobile web, not apps, says NPR

“Here’s the truth: If your app is the only component of your mobile strategy, you’re missing the boat. Mobile-optimized web pages are rapidly becoming the most important way to grow your online audience,” NPR’s Steve Mulder and Keith Hopper recently wrote.

That’s why NPR is building a prototype mobile-optimized site for affiliate stations…

Mulder is director of user experience and analytics, and Hopper is director of product strategy and development, for NPR Digital Services. So they’re always watching the numbers. In their post on the NPR blog, they noted:

“When we look at the numbers for 50+ NPR stations across the country that are using Digital Services’ Core Publisher content management systems, the trend is clear. Last July, 9% of traffic to station web sites came from mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). As of March, it’s already up to 14%.

“We see the same thing for NPR.org traffic. Mobile now represents 17% of the unique visitors to NPR.org. (That’s mobile site traffic, not including all the NPR apps.) And it’s rising quickly.

Other recent research bears this out. This year’s State of the News Media report from Pew’s Project on Excellence in Journalism found that nearly one in four U.S. adults now get news on at least two digital media devices (computer, tablet, and/or smartphone).

Also, a recent survey conducted by Roger Fidler of the Digital Publishing Alliance at the Reynolds School of Journalism (Univ. Mo.-Columbia) found that more than twice as many mobile users prefer the mobile websites of new outlets compared to their apps.

News apps are still important, but “not a silver bullet” Mulder and Hopper observe.

“For all their success, the benefits of having an app (especially as an engine for capturing new audience) are starting to plateau. ...Research is showing that apps attract the particularly loyal segment of your audience who is already consuming a lot more news. ...But of course, stations want to reach a wider audience of casual users as well. And for this larger segment of casual users, mobile-optimized web pages are the preferred way to access your content.”

They offer three reasons why NPR stations (and probably any news outlet) should focus on enhancing their mobile web offerings and experience even if their apps appear successful:

  1. The mobile web is where the audience is. (They offer ample data to back this up.)
  2. The mobile web user experience has greatly improved in the last couple of years.
  3. Mobile web offerings are easier and less expensive to build.


The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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