Kids these days

May 25, 2009 / How me and my friends are getting our news these days.

Here’s how some of the kids I know are getting their news these days. This highly scientific study was based on responses I received to an e-mail sent to some friends. It’s intended as a rough indicator of the everyday news consumption practices of people I know. These are the main counts, Harpers-style (full results in the table, below):

  • 32 people were asked for their top three news sources
  • 95 total news sources were indicated
  • 51 of them are web (all free, as far as I know)
  • 17 are tv
  • 16 are radio
  • 5 are conversation-based, and
  • 9 are print, of which:
    • three are free (YDN, Middletown Press, UK Metro)
    • six cost money (Les Echos, “various magazines,” Courier Mail, Hartford Courant, Boston Globe and New Yorker)

Of the six paid news sources, three of them are someone’s primary source (Les Echos, various mags, and the Courant). One of those is a French newspaper, and another the available magazines in my friend’s break room. This means that one of my friends (out of 31 who responded) pays for their primary source of news, and only five people out of 32 pay for any of their top three news sources, none of which have a revenue stream that is Internet-based.

What does this mean? Among my friends news is important, but paying for it directly—in the sense of buying bread and milk—is not. (Of course, people in the group I asked might be paying for something, such as a monthly cable bill or donations to a radio station.) The dominant medium for news is the Internet and its ascendent form is the web, as opposed to e-mail, newsgroups or RSS. And people tend to get their news from a variety of media. The variety aspect is probably not new, and I suspect newspapers would have dominated in a poll like this twenty years ago the way that the web does now. But these days my friends aren’t spending much time turning pages.

One of my friends works for a newspaper and seems to think his current job is not long for this world. It’s hard to watch what is happening to newspapers as they decline, and much harder still to be a part of it. This is all anecdotal, but some things are now obvious: technological change has rendered the businesses built on the previous system obsolete. Clay Shirky’s magnificent essay has become the canonical statement.

Good luck with the micropayments, Rupert.

Top Three News Sources
Indivdual Main source Second source Third source
Adrian BBC News (rss) The Daily Show and The Colbert Report (tv) Facebook and Twitter (web)
Amy NPR (radio) New York Times (web) Bill (conversation)
Anne Google News (web) New York Times (web) NPR (radio)
Becky Les Echos (print) TF1 et France 2 (tv) CNN Europe (tv)
Ben ABC News (rss) BBC News (rss) various tech news (rss)
Brian Yahoo! News and New York Times (web) NPR (radio) various blogs (rss)
Bryce ABC News (web) New Scientist (web) The Onion (web)
Chris NPR (radio) The Daily Show (tv) PBS (tv)
Dan Jody (conversation) Adrian (conversation) ABC RN (radio)
Doug NPR (radio) The Today Show (tv) Google News (web)
Edward SBS (tv) ABC (tv) ABC RN (radio)
Elena NPR (radio) Yale Daily News (print) New York Times (web)
Geoff Channel Nine News (tv) The Courier Mail (print) various Internet sources (web, e-mail)
Izzi WNPR and WESU (radio) Middletown Press and Hartford Courant (print) Middletown Eye (web)
Jahn various magazines (print) Channel 7 news (tv) ABC News (web)
Jenny AP (rss) Howard Stern (web) NPR (radio) and classroom (conversation)
Jody Twitter (web) The Courier Mail (web) Australian Financial Review (web)
Julia New York Times (web) NPR (web) The Daily Show and The Colbert Report (web)
Kezam NPR (radio) Young Turks (web) n/a
Kris ABC RN (radio) Feministing (web) ABC News (web)
Lydia New York Times (web) Google News (rss) Gawker (web)
Marcy New York Times (web) The Today Show (tv) People and Facebook (web)
Mary MSNBC (tv) Politico (web) NPR (radio)
Michael various politics sites (rss) NPR (radio) Facebook (web)
Murray (web) (web) various online discussion forums (web)
Natalie BBC (tv) UK Metro (print) Sydney Morning Herald (web)
Olivia Hartford Courant (print) Channel 8 News (tv) colleagues (conversation) and Twitter (web)
Sally NPR (radio) Boston Globe (print) WMUR (tv)
Sari Sky News (tv) NYTimes iPhone app (web/mobile) PRI iPhone app (web/mobile)
Scott New York Times (web) Washington Post (web) Boston Globe (web)
Tim New York Times (web) Rachel Maddow Show (tv) Reddit (web)
Yve New York Times (web) NPR (radio) Google News (web) and New Yorker (print)

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