News for Digital Journalists

December 16, 2010

Pew: Older Americans getting more digitally savvy

The conventional wisdom in the media business has been that digital media are mainly something that younger people use—and younger people are not the typical core audience for most non-entertainment news organizations.

However, new research from Pew indicates that more people of all ages are doing all kinds of things online, including checking the news…

According to the Generations 2010 report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, more Americans than ever before are using the internet. Also, this boost appears across all age groups. Pew reports that in 2009, 74% of all American adults used the internet; this grew by 5% to reach 79% in 2010.

So the digital divide is becoming less and less about age. According to Pew, “The biggest online trend is that, while the very youngest and oldest cohorts may differ, certain key internet uses are becoming more uniformly popular across all age groups.”

Getting online news is one of these internet uses. But what’s interesting here is that while more people are using the internet overall, online news usage actually decreased slightly across all age groups (except teenagers) over the past year.

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To put this in perspective, some other popular online activities saw similar declines in terms of the percentage of use per age group. While these numbers may indicate that online news has lost some ground in the last year, it’s important to recognize that online news consumption across age groups is starting to level out.

That is, online news audiences are becoming more representative of age diversity.

This is good news, since people tend to consume more news as they reach their 30s and higher. So increasingly digital channels are becoming a more effective way to reach news audiences of all ages.

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