News for Digital Journalists

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.

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