With swine flu the top topic on the public's mind last week, local television news stations and cable news networks remained the most frequented sources of information for Americans (cited as a news source on the subject by 69% and 63%, respectively). But the latest Pew Research News Interest Index survey also finds that about half the public (49%) turned to the internet for information about the virus. Moreover, asked which news source had been most useful in this regard, 25% of respondents named the internet, putting it at the top of the list of information sources in terms of utility. Which websites were the most frequented sources?
Health information sites on the internet are numerous and popular. A September 2008 report by the web-tracking service comScore, Inc. found that the health website category grew by 21% in terms of visits over the preceding year, more than four times as fast as total internet usage. But individual private health sites do not appear to have been the primary recourse of swine flu fact-seekers. When in search of flu facts—or, indeed, of ailment-related information generally—the experts say that most people start with ... a search. "Google is the top "health" site on the internet because of the long tail of health questions," says Susannah Fox, associate director for digital strategy at the Pew Internet & American Life Project. "Our data consistently finds that people start their health inquiry at a general search site."
Read the full commentary Search: "Swine Flu" on the Pew Research Center's Web site.