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89% of Americans get news online, and other key findings from Pew Research

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An overwhelming majority of Americans (89%) get at least some of their news online, according to the Pew Research Center. The Center has noted a growing preference for online news consumption across surveys done over the last few years.

More Americans are consuming news online

When it comes to favorite modes of news consumption 63% of those who prefer reading, go online to get their news while only 17% like to read in print.

Among news watchers, around 44% Americans get their news via television compared to 34% who prefer online platforms. However, the gap is narrowing as online news consumption increases, while television’s popularity as a news source declines.

Around 20% news watchers said they preferred to view news online compared to 12% in 2016. When it comes to local news, preference for online channels (37%) is closer to that of television (41%). 

Younger readers prefer online sources

Nearly one-in-five adults say they often get news through social media—where Facebook is the dominant source—with 43% Americans saying they use it to get news. In general, adults under 50 prefer online sources regardless of their desired format (audio, video or print).

“There are no reasons to believe that a generation that has grown up with and enjoys digital, on-demand, social, and mobile video viewing across a range of connected devices will come to prefer live, linear, scheduled programming tied to a single device just because they grow older,” remarked Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Director of the Reuters Institute in an earlier study

Those over 50 are also warming up to the web. In 2016, 32% of the news readers in the 50+ age group expressed a preference for the web. This has increased to 43% in the latest survey. Moreover, nearly all Americans get some news through digital means.

Digital news consumers also place a high value on an easy-to-use website. 82% of those who get local news online say that an easy-to-use website is the most important feature.

It’s way ahead of other features like schedules of local events (59%), regularly updated social media accounts (51%), customizable news (45%), videos (43%) and comment sections (31%). Additionally, 51% of Americans who get their local news online do so through a mobile device. 

57% concerned about fake news

While there is a growing preference for online channels, 57% of those who access it on social media are also concerned about the quality and authenticity of the information. 

Among those who have ever used social media for news, nearly half say they stopped following a news source because they thought it was posting made-up news.

This is good for trusted news brands. According to Reuters’ 2019 Digital News Report, 26% of respondents across different countries say they have started relying on more ‘reputable’ sources of news. The figure rises to 40% in the US.

In fact, trusted brands like The New York Times, the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times continue to record impressive digital subscription growth

As journalists have embraced digital media and evolved various new formats, the best journalism in many countries today is in some ways better than ever – more independent of elite sources, more accessible, more timely, more informative, more interactive, more engaged with its audience.

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen and Meera Selva, Directors at the Reuters Institute

Nielsen and Selva add, “At its best, independent professional journalism is essential for both the public good, politics, and private enterprise – and as it adapts to the digital media people all over the world are embracing, it can help ensure that this communications revolution results not in chaos, but in change for the better.”