Pew Research Center

The Modern News Consumer

Wave after wave of digital innovation has introduced a new set of influences on the public’s news habits. Social media, messaging apps, texts and e-mail provide a constant stream of news from people we’re close to as well as total strangers. News stories can now come piecemeal, as links or shares, putting less emphasis on the publisher. And, hyper levels of immediacy and mobility can create an expectation that the news will come to us whether we look for it or not. How have these influences shaped Americans’ appetite for and attitudes toward the news? What, in other words, are the defining traits of the modern news consumer?

A new, two-part survey by Pew Research Center, conducted in early 2016 in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, reveals a public that is cautious as it moves into this more complex news environment and discerning in its evaluation of available news sources. To be sure, news remains an important part of public life. More than seven-in-ten US adults follow national and local news somewhat or very closely – 65% follow international news with the same regularity. Fully 81% of Americans get at least some of this news through websites, apps or social networking sites. And, this digital news intake is increasingly mobile. Among those who get news both on desktop computers and mobile devices, more than half prefer mobile. In this digital news environment, the role of friends and family is amplified, but Americans still reveal strong ties to news organizations. The data also reinforce how, despite the dramatic changes witnessed over the last decade, the digital news era is still very much in its adolescence.

Time spinoff reflects a troubled magazine business

Time will officially become a separate company, completing a spinoff from parent Time Warner that has been in the works for over a year.

With a portfolio of more than 70 overseas and 23 domestic magazines -- including Time, People and Sports Illustrated -- Time has created a widely renowned publishing brand. But over the past decade, it has also suffered from an economic decline that reduced its revenues by 34% and cut its operating profit by 59%.

Time’s troubles are emblematic of the economic challenges facing the consumer magazine industry. While the digital side of the business has been making some gains, overall magazine print circulation (including single-copy sales, subscriptions and even digital replicas) has been down each of the past six years, while the number of print ad pages fell for the eighth year in a row in 2013.

The most recent data show that total magazine circulation dropped 1.4% in the second half of 2013 compared with the second half of 2012, according to the Alliance for Audited Media, which tracks 417 consumer magazines. Paid subscriptions, which make up 90% of total circulation, were essentially flat in the second half of 2013 (down 0.3%) at 158 million copies. Meanwhile single-copy sales dropped around 10% for the second half of 2013 -- to 18 million -- after an 8% and 9% decline in 2012 and 2011 respectively.

The news is somewhat positive on the digital side. Consumer magazines’ online and mobile ad revenue is expected to increase by 22.4% to $3.9 billion in 2014, while digital circulation revenues, including digital subscriptions, are projected to enjoy a 42% boost to $743 million, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. But for now, digital dollars remain just about 10% of the overall revenue pie for magazines and have not offset the print losses, according to the latest data from the investment firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson.

As Jill Abramson exits the NY Times, a look at how women are faring in newsrooms

The departure of Jill Abramson marked an abrupt end to the reign of the first woman to run The New York Times, a role that made her a journalistic pioneer in her own right.

Her dismissal comes during the same week as the retirement of Barbara Walters, who broke a glass ceiling at ABC in 1976 by becoming the first woman to sit at a network anchor desk. Both events have prompted a debate about the role of women in American journalism and how much -- or how little -- has changed over the years.

Our data analysis finds that overall there has been little significant change in the share of women newsroom employees and news managers in recent years. Female journalists are generally paid less than their male counterparts, an issue that may have played a role in Abramson’s exit, according to some media accounts, although the New York Times has denied that.

In the past 15 years, the percentage of women who work in newspaper newsrooms has barely budged. Women made up 36% of all newspaper staff in 2012 (the last year for which data are available), a slight decline from 37% in 1998, according to The American Society of News Editors’ annual census.

More online Americans say they’ve experienced a personal data breach

As news of large-scale data breaches and vulnerabilities grows, new findings from the Pew Research Center suggest that growing numbers of online Americans have had important personal information stolen and many have had an account compromised.

Findings from a January 2014 survey show that:

  • 18% of online adults have had important personal information stolen such as their Social Security Number, credit card, or bank account information. That’s an increase from the 11% who reported personal information theft in July 2013.
  • 21% of online adults said they had an email or social networking account compromised or taken over without their permission. The same number reported this experience in a July 2013 survey.

Support in Principle for US-EU Trade Pact

The European Union and the United States are negotiating the most economically significant regional free trade agreement in history: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Publics in Germany and the United States support TTIP and trade expansion in general, especially with each other. But when it comes to specifics, both Americans and Germans oppose many details of this far-reaching initiative. Moreover, they disagree with one another on making transatlantic regulatory standards similar.

And, in the United States, there is a striking generation gap in attitudes relating to TTIP.

For instance, roughly eight-in-ten Americans under age 30 also back the idea of making product and service standards as similar as possible between the US and EU, perhaps not surprising given the fact that this generation is far less trusting than their parents and grandparents of the US government’s ability to set strong safety and privacy standards. A significant share (85%) of Germans prefers European regulation of data privacy, trusting more in their own government’s capacity in this realm than in US regulation.

And, in the United States, men, the young, those with a college degree and high-income persons disproportionately lack faith in American standards protecting their data’s confidentiality. Overall, roughly half (49%) of Americans trust US privacy standards. But only about four-in-ten high-income Americans (39%) share that trust compared with nearly six-in-ten low-income people (58%), a 19 percentage point difference in views. There is a similar 14 point divide on the issue between those who have graduated from college (39%) and those without a college degree (53%).

Social, Search & Direct -- Pathways to Digital News

In this study of US Internet traffic to 26 of the most popular news websites, direct visitors -- those who type in the news outlet’s specific address (URL) or have the address bookmarked -- spend much more time on that news site, view many more pages of content and come back far more often than visitors who arrive from a search engine or a Facebook referral.

The data also suggest that turning social media or search eyeballs into equally dedicated readers is no easy task. These are among the key findings that detail how 1 million people enrolled in one of the nation’s most popular commercial Internet panels have been connecting through their desktop and laptop computers with the most accessed or shared news sites of our time.

An analysis by Pew Research of three months of comScore data finds that among users coming to these news sites through a desktop or laptop computer, direct visitors spend, on average, 4 minutes and 36 seconds per visit. That is roughly three times as long as those who wind up on a news media website through a search engine (1 minute 42 seconds) or from Facebook (1 minute 41 seconds). Direct visitors also view roughly five times as many pages per month (24.8 on average) as those coming via Facebook referrals (4.2 pages) or through search engines (4.9 pages). And they visit a site three times as often (10.9) as Facebook and search visitors.