The Internet has turned daily news into a social experience and has become a more popular way for Americans to get news than the local newspaper or news radio, according to the latest report from the Pew Internet & American Life project.
In fact, the Internet is the third most popular way to consume news, coming in after local and national TV news broadcasts. The survey indicates 61 percent of people get their news online, 73 percent watch national news broadcasts and 78 percent hear the news from local TV stations.
As expected, the decline of newspaper revenue is reflected in the number of people who get their news from a paper: Only 50 percent of the people surveyed read the local newspaper and only 17 percent read national newspapers.
Even more interesting, however, is the idea that the Internet has made the news a social experience. The Pew survey found that 75 percent of people who find their news online get it from email and social networking sites such as Facebook. And 52 percent send the news on to others by email and social networks.
This indicates a shift in the way people consume news, Pew says. Instead of getting it from one or two dedicated sources, such as the TV and the newspaper, people are now getting news from many different outlets by way of their friends and family.
The Internet has also democratized the creation of news for many people. The Pew survey revealed that 37 percent of Internet users have participated in the creation of news, commented on it, or helped to distribute it.
One of the big contributions to this shift in news consumption has been the cell phone. "The impact of this new mobile technology on news gathering is unmistakable," the report says.
The survey shows that 26 percent of Americans get their news through Internet-enabled cell phones, which translates to approximately one-third of cell phone owners. Weather and current events are the most common types of news people get via cell phone, but sports scores, traffic info and financial news all see significant traffic from cell phone users.
"Wireless news consumers have fitted this 'on-the-go' access to news into their already voracious news-gathering habits," the Pew report said.
"They use multiple news media platforms on a typical day, forage widely on news topics, and browse the web for a host of subjects."