The Future of News

Student Perspectives on the State of Journalism

News Media Consumption Among Gen Y: Findings

with 5 comments

The audio component of this story can be found here.

Research objectives and a link to the online survey can be found here.

Written By Adam Eucker and Reisha Abolofia

Part One: The Survey

Media is currently undergoing a sweeping transformation.  Due to rapid technological advancements, evolving consumer preferences and a struggling economy, journalists are left asking, “Where is my paycheck?”

To investigate how journalists may earn a living in the future, we decided that the first step is to study an important and emerging demographic: current college-aged students.  This generation of 18 to 24-year-olds can be considered the first generation to have used a computer their entire lives, basically growing up as the Internet established itself as one of the most significant forces on the globe.

To assess how this age group is consuming media and utilizing social networking sites, four students of Communications 466 – Digital Journalism created a poll and linked to it on their personal Twitter and Facebook pages.  For the results, 54 people responded to the poll, with 41 of them being in the 18 to 24-year-old demographic.

The survey consisted of basic questions focusing on media consumption.  The questions included which sources consumers choose when looking for news and how often consumers use social networking and micro-blogging sites.  Our findings are similar to other surveys and consumer data focusing on the same topics.

Respondents were first asked “Where do you get your news and how often”? A matrix allowed participants to rate their level of consumption in four categories: newspapers, TV news, radio or on-line – by specifying either never, rarely, sometimes, usually or always. Results show that nearly 13 percent of respondents usually or always consume news from newspapers, compared to 85 percent who usually or always receive news from an on-line source.

The results among young people reading the newspaper correspond with the findings by Thomas S. Patterson in his article for Television Quarterly.  In his research, Patterson estimates that about 1 in 5 adults is reasonably close with a newspaper everyday – a figure that is 1 in 12 for young adults and 1 in 20 for teens.

Respondents were then asked “What is your primary on-line news source?” and given four options: a traditional news source, a blog, a micro-blog, or no on-line news source. The majority—88 percent—consumes on-line news from a traditional news website, such as Seattletimes.com.

When asked “How often do you use the following social networking sites?” (Facebook, MySpace and Twitter) 92 percent answered to using Facebook often, and only one respondent answered to not having an account. Only six percent of respondents use Twitter often and 54 percent don’t have an account.  According to information from Alexa.com, a web trafficking and information site, 18 to 24-year-olds on Facebook are considered overrepresented compared to the general Internet population. The audience for Twitter among 18 to 24-year-olds is similar or slightly underrepresented to the general Internet population.

We also asked “Would you care if all physical newspapers disappeared tomorrow?” and 70 percent of respondents answered yes.  Johnny Banchero, a 21-year-old UW student who took the quiz, said, “No one from our generation is subscribing anymore because it’s not what we use to get our news but there’s so much history in America behind the newspaper.”  It is an interesting notion that college-aged students, who do not actively rely on the newspaper, care so strongly about its survival and understand its important role in society.

David Folkenflik, a reporter for NPR, wrote an article imagining what would happen to a typical American city if the newspaper completely disappeared.  He examined Hartford, Conn. and pointed out how the community would suffer without the paper.  The Hartford Courant is one of the nation’s oldest newspapers – older than the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

In recent months, the paper uncovered a scandal involving Hartford’s mayor, who was recently indicted on bribery charges.  It has also uncovered polluters in the region and the exposed the deployment of mentally-ill troops to Iraq.

This is just one example of a newspaper serving a vital role in its community.  Young people recognize the important role that newspapers play in society, but now news organizations must figure out how to effectively connect with this newer demographic.

Our survey and all the research focusing on this emerging audience only tell part of the story.  What do these results mean for journalists who are looking for ways to earn a living in the future?  The second half of our story holds some of the possible conclusions.

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5 Responses

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  1. post edited and links added.

    ryanboulanger

    June 9, 2009 at 1:16 pm

  2. […] a result of our survey, we found that 85 percent of current college-aged students get most of their news from on-line […]

  3. Hey guys, the research objectives and a link to the online survey is inaccessible. Good work though!

    sew28

    June 9, 2009 at 7:26 pm

  4. […] The findings and analysis of this survey can be found here. […]

  5. I think some of this has to do with college kids being removed from a setting that feels like “home.” College is a transition to stability and not quite the real world for the 18-24 year old demo. Newspapers have a strong importance for reporting local news and often can’t get the international news on the spot. Students don’t have ties to the community of their college and therefore since they are online already they are seeking world/national news, gossip, social networking, etc. If there is something important to know about the campus/community, they can often get that through a university newsletter or school website.

    Jessi

    July 2, 2009 at 2:06 pm


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