How People Learn About Their Local Community in a Digital Age


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Kristen will be presenting Pew Internet data on local news information ecosystems at a conference from February 21-22 called "Informing (In)Stability: The Security Implications of a Shifting News and Media Environment". The conference is being hosted by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service at the CSIS National Headquarters in Ottawa. The two-day, invitation-only conference is meant to inform the government’s appreciation of existing and potential security-related consequences of a rapidly evolving information environment globally. The conference brings together an international line-up of speakers, and Kristen will be part of a panel entitled "Gauging the New Information Era" with Ethan Zuckerman of the Center for Civil Media at MIT, and Mark Graham from the Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University.

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How People Learn About Their Local Community in a Digital Age

  1. 1. How People Learn AboutTheir Local Community in a Digital Age Kristen Purcell, Ph.D. Associate Director, Research Pew Internet ProjectCanadian Security Intelligence Service Informing (In)Stability Conference February 21-22, 2012 Ottawa, Canada
  2. 2. • Part of the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan “fact tank” based in Washington, DC that provides high quality, objective data to thought leaders and policymakers• PRC is funded primarily by the Pew Charitable Trusts• Data for this talk is from nationally representative telephone survey of 2,251 U.S. adults age 18+ (on landlines and cell phones) conducted in January 2011• The survey was done in partnership with Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, and was funded by the Knight Foundation
  3. 3. The Internet in 2000 Slow, stationary connections46% of US adults used the internet built around a desktop computer 5% had home broadband connections <20% watched video online 53% owned a cell phone0% connected to internet wirelessly 0% used social network sites
  4. 4. The Internet in 2012 Mobile devices have changed the relationship between82% of US adults use the internet, 76% information, time and space of whom are online on any given day 2/3 have broadband at home 87% have a cell phone; 19% have a tablet computer 2/3 are wireless internet users 71% of adult internet users watch We live in a networked world, video online information is embedded and 65% of online adults use SNS ambient
  5. 5. What Makes This Study Unique?Past research tended to ask a single question:“Where do you go most often to get local news?’”This survey asked about 16 different local topics andthe sources people relied on most for each topicResulting picture is a complex local news ecosystem;people rely on different platforms for different topicsA few important notes…. ”Local newspaper” includes print and web version “TV news” includes broadcast and website “Internet” includes web-only sources such as search engines, special topic sites, and social networking sites
  6. 6. Headlines from the Local News Survey Local TV news remains most popular source for local news in the US, yet adults rely on it primarily for just 3 subjects—weather, breaking news and traffic American adults turn to local newspapers for a wider range of information than any other source, yet for topics followed by fewer people The internet is now the top source on subjects such as education, local businesses and restaurants/bars/clubs Disruption lies ahead…For the 79% of online American adults, the internet is the 1st or 2nd most relied- upon source for 15 of 16 local topics For adults under 40, the web is first for 11 of the top 16 topics—and a close second on four others
  7. 7. Bottom Line – Local News is a Complex Ecosystem Different people rely on different sources for different topics Local news consumption habits vary widely by age, as well as race/ethnicity, community type, and other key factors No one platform is outpacing another in delivering all types of community news and information Roughly 2/3 use at least 3 media sources every week to get local news — and 15% rely on at least six weekly 45% do not have a favorite local news source
  8. 8. Popular Local TopicsThe most popular of the 16 topics asked about are… weather (89%) breaking news (80%) local politics (67%) crime (66%) The least popular are… government activities (42%) local job openings (39%) social services (35%) zoning and development (30%)
  9. 9. Most Frequently Used Local News SourcesUsed at least weekly for any local news… Local TV Word of Mouth Radio Newspaper Internet Print Newsletter
  10. 10. Source by Topic:The Preferred Source for 16 Local News Topics
  11. 11. When Do Newspapers Top the List? If your local newspaper no longer existed, would that have a major impact, minor impact, or no impact on your ability to keep up with information and news about your local community? 69% say losing the local paper would have no impact (39%) or only a minor impact (30%) Among adults age 18-29, 74% say losing their local paper would not significantly affect their ability to get local information Similarly, 74% of home broadband users say losing their paper would have only a minor impact, if at all
  12. 12. When Does Local TV Top the List? Local TV is a critical source for everyday news and the most popular local topics But, the internet is beginning to creep into these territories
  13. 13. When is the Internet a Top Source for Local News? The internet has surpassed newspapers as a source for national and international news… and is now emerging as a significant source for local news Among all adults, the internet is the most relied upon source for 5 of 16 local topics Among online adults, the internet ranks first or second on all but one topic (crime)
  14. 14. The Impact of Mobile Devices and Geolocation Mobile is slowly becoming a local news medium 47% of US adults use mobile devices to get local news and information of some kind, but it’s still largely supplemental Yet even now, 5% of US adults rely on a mobile app as their main source for weather informationPercent of US adults who use a mobile device to… check local weather (36%) find local restaurants/businesses (31%) get general news about their community (25%) check local sports scores/updates (20%) get local traffic/transportation info (19%) get discounts/coupons for local stores (16%) get local news alerts by text or email (13%)
  15. 15. 41% of US Adults are “Local News Participators” They do at least one of the following: 25% share links to local stories/videos 16% comment on local news stories or blogs they read online 16% post news or info about their local community on a social networking site like Facebook 8% contribute to online discussions or message boards about their community SNS are not yet a main source for local info 6% “tag” online local news contentVery small percentages named SNS as the place they turn to most for any of the 16 local topics 5% contribute articles, opinion pieces, photos Social networks ranked highest as a source for… or videos about their local community online local restaurants (2%) 2% post news or info about their local community events (2%) community on Twitter
  16. 16. Into the Future: Apps and Augmented Reality
  17. 17. The Future is Already HereAge 18-39 Age 40+ weather politics restaurants crime local businesses arts/cultural events The local businesses internet schools is the community events restaurants main traffic source taxes for these housing topics local government jobs social serviceszoning/development
  18. 18. All data available at Kristen Purcell, Ph.D. Associate Director, Research Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project Twitter: @pewinternet @kristenpurcell