US: Online medium outpacing TV in some segments, finds poll

Wednesday, September 26, 2012
New York: Americans are today faced with a vast and ever-increasing number of options as to where to get their news, but those choices begin with a simpler question:  how to get it.  Would they rather watch their news on TV, read it in print or seek it out online?  The results are in, and while TV is the preferred mode among half (50%) of Americans, online (36%) is in a strong second position nationally and is even equaling or besting TV among some segments.  Print is a distant third, with only one in ten Americans (10%) citing it as their preferred mode.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll  of 2,307 adults surveyed online between August 13 and 20, 2012 by Harris Interactive .

News interest

More than two-thirds of Americans (69%) display a moderate interest in the news, indicating that keeping up with the news is one of many ways they like to spend their leisure time.  The remainder are somewhat split between being self-described "news junkies" (13%) and indicating that they are "not really interested in the news" (18%).  Males (17%) are roughly twice as likely as females (9%) to describe themselves as news junkies, while younger adults are especially likely to express a lack of interest in following the news (31% Echo Boomers, 23% Gen X, 10% Baby Boomers, 6% Matures).

Although TV is the preferred news mode overall, online is an equal or even dominant presence among some segments.  Both news junkies and those "not interested" show nearly even preferences between online (42% news junkies, 43% not interested) and TV (47% and 41%, respectively), whereas moderately interested adults favor TV (53%) over online (34%).  Furthermore, online is the dominant mode among Echo Boomers (55% online, 34% TV), while TV remains the dominant mode for Gen Xers and older (52%-60% TV, 17%-38% online); TV's margin over online grows consistently with age.

The level of attention paid when reading news (either online or in print) varies widely, though less than half of adults (43%) either read every word of an article (19%) or skim full articles (25%). 
Those who prefer getting their news online are more likely than other preference groups to limit their reading to headlines, plus one to two stories in full (41%); those favoring TV (34%) are in turn more likely than print "consumers" (14%) to report the same. 
Additionally, older respondents (particularly Matures) display more attention when reading news; they are less likely to read headlines only (11% Echo Boomers, 12% Gen X, 5% Baby Boomers, 2% Matures) or headlines plus one to two stories (39%, 38%, 32% and 20%, respectively), and they are more likely to skim full articles (22%, 19%, 25% and 38%, respectively).

Attention getters

A catchy headline is the top influencer on Americans' likelihood to read an online or print article in full (54%), though the inclusion of interesting pictures (44%) and interesting data or research (43%) are also strong lures. 
News junkies are less likely to be lured into reading an article by the presence of an interesting picture (32% junkies, 46% moderate, 41% not interested), but are more likely to be attracted by an interesting graphical data representation or "infographic" (40%, 29% and 17%, respectively).
Those who prefer getting their news online (51%) and in print (53%) are considerably more likely than those preferring TV (37%) to be lured in by interesting data or research.
Females (58%) are more likely than males (50%) to be drawn in by a catchy headline, while males (47%) are more likely than females (40%) to be attracted by interesting data or research.
Matures are lured more strongly than any other age group by interesting data or research (55%, vs. 38%-44%) and interesting pictures (52%, vs. 42%-45%).

So What?

"Americans are inundated with information," says Harris Poll Insights Vice President Jill Gress, "and that assault of information is impacting, and will continue to impact, where Americans get their news from."

"Furthermore," continues Gress, "with the expectation being that online news will further displace TV over time, incorporating online news consumers' habits and predilections into reporting will be increasingly important:  this means concise reporting, given online news consumers' stronger tendency to read articles more selectively; and increased use of supporting data, as online news consumers are much more interested in this than those preferring TV."
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