Online Papers Modestly Boost Newspaper Readership

A decade ago, just one-in-fifty Americans got the news with some regularity from the Internet. Today, nearly one-in-three regularly get news online. But the growth of the online news audience has slowed considerably since 2000, particularly among the very young. For the most part, online news has evolved as a supplemental source that is used along with traditional news media outlets. It is valued most for headlines and convenience, not detailed, in-depth reporting, according to the biennial news consumption survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

The audience for online news is fairly broad, but not particularly deep. Those who use the web for news still spend more time getting news from other sources than they do getting news online. And while nearly half of Americans (48 percent) spend at least 30 minutes getting news on television, just 9 percent spend that long getting news online.

The news consumption survey, conducted among 3,204 adults from April 27 to May 22, finds that newspapers, which have seen their audience decline in recent decades, are now stemming further losses with the help of their online editions. However, the discrete online-only newspaper audience is quite modest in size. Even the highest estimate of daily newspaper readership -- 43 percent for both print and online readers -- is still well below the number reading a print newspaper on a typical day 10 years ago (50 percent).

This survey provides a comprehensive look at the American news audience in 2006:

  • As Internet news has gone more mainstream, its audience has aged. Since 2000, there has been virtually no growth in the percentage of 18-24 year-olds saying they get regularly get news online (30 percent now, 29 percent then). Currently, about as many people ages 50 to 64 regularly get news on the Internet as do those in their late teens and early 20s.
  • The views and habits that continue to constrain the size of most news audiences are shared widely among younger people. They are much less likely than older Americans to get great enjoyment from keeping up with the news, or to get the news at regular times. These opinions and news habits are strongly associated with less usage of all types of news sources -- except online news.
  • Online newspapers have extended the reach of national newspapers -- such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and USA Today. While more than nine-in-ten readers of print newspapers read local newspapers, only about half of readers of online newspapers do so -- with many of the rest reading the New York Times and other national newspapers.
  • The credibility ratings for most major news organizations are either flat or have slipped since 2004. These ratings are highly partisan, though the political differences for most sources have narrowed over the past year as Democrats take a more negative view in the believability of several leading news outlets.
  • The long-standing generation gap in newspaper reading has narrowed over the past decade, in part because of online newspapers, but this is a decidedly mixed blessing for newspapers. While newspapers continue to draw anemic numbers of young readers, that figure has remained stable since 1996, as some young people have turned to online papers. However, newspaper readership among older age groups has fallen significantly over that period.
  • Far fewer Republicans say they regularly follow international news -- and pay very close attention to news from Iraq -- than in the spring of 2004. Just 36 percent of Republicans say they follow overseas news most of the time -- and not just when something important is happening -- down from 56 percent two years ago. Declines among Democrats and independents have been more modest.

Read the full report Online Papers Modestly Boost Newspaper Readership on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.

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