While 69% of the 2,251 adults who participated in the study say the death of their local newspaper would either have no effect or only a minor effect on their ability to get local information, newspapers (both print and online) are still the top source for 11 of 16 specific information categories including crime, taxes, local government activities, school, local politics and local jobs.
This raises questions about what would happen if (or as some people might phrase it, “when”) local newspapers shut down their presses.
“…will television begin to cover taxes and zoning and education if the local newspaper no longer exists?,” the Pew researchers wonder. “Would new digital sources emerge to cover the hole if a local newspaper cut back its coverage or vanished altogether? And would the approach of these new sources be fully journalistic in nature?”
Despite popular belief, social networks have not gained much steam as an alternative to local news either. In the topics for which they ranked highest, restaurants and community events, just 2% of respondents named social networks a top source.
Young people are, however, turning to online sources (not including websites of newspapers or television stations) for information about many topics newspapers traditionally have provided in one comprehensive publication. While the Internet was the top source for just five of 16 information categories among all adults, it was the top source for 12 of these categories among adults under age 40.
The Internet is replacing newspapers for local news for the 79% of Americans online, which includes young people. Among online Americans, the Internet was the first or second most important source for news about all but one information category. As that young group gets older and more people connect, reliance on the Internet for local information will likely emerge as the leader in most categories newspapers currently dominate.
Right now, however, local newspapers are still the most important source of local news in the majority of local topics — and their disappearance would leave a hole that might never be filled again in the same way.
“The strength of newspapers comes from aggregating an audience by offering a wide range of information, even if each subject or story has limited audience,” the researchers write. “That model may be vital from a civic standpoint, but it is traditionally expensive and it is not clear what the incentive is to replicate it if newspapers were to disappear. ”
Image courtesy of Flickr, Zoetnet
Date: Friday, Nov. 4, 2011
Location: TheTimesCenter, 242 West 41st Street, New York, NY
The Mashable Media Summit 2011 will spotlight how technology is reinventing journalism, advancing the relationship between news organizations and their communities, reinvigorating advertising and creating new business models.
The one-day conference will bring together thought leaders and influencers from across the media landscape. We'll discuss how media organizations, journalism professionals and the advertising industry are seizing the opportunities created by the innovations and innovators in the space.
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