The Web Eclipses Print Newspapers as a News Source

Newspaper vending machines
Newspaper vending machines

It was inevitable, and now it's official: The Internet has overtaken printed newspapers as a source of news for Americans.

According to the latest edition of the news consumption survey conducted biennially by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 34% of those polled said they had gone online for news the previous day, while 31% said they had read a newspaper. That represents a reversal from 2008, when 29% of respondents had gotten news online the day before while 34% had read a newspaper. It's the first time since Pew began asking people about the online news consumption that the Internet outpolled newspapers as a news source.

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That shouldn't necessarily be bad news for newspaper publishers, since presumably many of those who have stopped consuming newsprint are instead reading the same stories on the websites of the same newspapers (even if those publishers haven't yet quite figured out how to effectively monetize their digital audiences). But the rise in online readership of newspapers isn't happening fast enough to offset the precipitous fall in print readership. While the proportion of respondents saying they read newspaper content online the day before nearly doubled between 2006 and 2010, from 9% to 17%, the proportion reporting having read a newspaper in any format dropped from 43% in 2006 to 39% in 2008 to 37% this year.

Newspapers may be losing audience share, but Americans are nevertheless consuming more news overall, thanks not only to the growing popularity of nontraditional channels including social networks, mobile phones and podcasts but also to a modest increase in TV news viewership. Overall, survey takers reported spending 70 minutes a day with the news, up 3% from 2008.