Internet News on the Rise

A study released by the Pew Research Center finds the audience for Internet news is growing, but says many of those sites could be taking away from their print or broadcast counterparts.

According to the study, 33 percent of Americans now regularly get their news online, up from 20 percent two years ago. Sixty-one percent of regular Internet users get their news from Web sites at least once a week, and 27 percent told Pew they used the Internet for news daily.

Meanwhile, the audience for newspapers and television news programs is shrinking, the survey says. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed regularly watched a broadcast news program, down from 57 percent in 1998. Cable news viewership has remained steady at 40 percent, but specialty networks like the Weather Channel and ESPN have seen a small increase from 60 percent in 1998 to 61 percent.

Only 55 percent of respondents told Pew they had watched a news program the previous day. That’s down from 59 percent in 1996 and 1998 and 74 percent in 1994.

What these numbers add up to, Pew says, is a shift from newspapers and networks to the Web.

“The Internet holds up among people who don’t like the news because it’s easy — you get the headlines you click on, you get just that bit of news you want,” Andrew Kohut, the Pew Center’s director, told The Washington Post. “If there’s any hand-wringing, it’s about the loss of the national square that newspapers and the networks once provided.”

According to the survey, Americans not only prefer Internet news, they also find Internet news sites more believable than their newspaper or television counterparts.

Forty-four percent of users said they found highly believable, but only 29 percent gave ABC News the same ranking. A similar believability coup struck CNN, with its Web site garnering 54 percent to its 40. beat parent NBC News 40 to 27 percent, and beat its newsprint counterpart 37 to 21 percent.

Most people still turn to television and newspapers for their business news, the survey says, but nearly half of active stock traders say they turn to the Internet first for market information, while only 24 percent pick television.

The survey of 3,142 people found that less than half — 45 percent — say they enjoy keeping up with the news, a decline from 50 percent two years ago.