News

The problem with more and more Americans getting their news online

Posted July 14

A new survey from the Pew Research Center reports that four out of every 10 Americans (38 percent) now read their news online, though television is still the dominant way most people get their news at 57 percent.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, online news was king among younger demographics, with 50 percent of 18-29-year-olds and 49 percent of 30-49-year-olds preferring to get their news via news websites, social media or other online sources.

Just 20 percent of Americans now get their news via print newspapers, the survey found.

This trend may not be surprising, but it's a problem on a few levels. As the Atlantic reported in its coverage of Pew's findings, given Facebook's algorithm changes that put the onus on the user to prioritize news content seen in user feeds, fewer Americans may be exposed to news via social media unless they go out of their way to see it.

"While a decisive majority of Americans appear to get their news through social networks, very few of them actually engage with stories in ways that would signal to Facebook’s algorithms they want to see news," the Atlantic reported.

Even if users are what the New York Times calls "news hounds" — those who are rigorous and enthusiastic in their search for news — they may not be getting the most out of the news if they read it on a screen.

Some research has called into question whether readers comprehend information taken in on a screen the same way they do information gathered from a physical page.

Another recent study, from the International Journal of Business Administration, highlighted the need for what's called "deep reading" to fully absorb the information being read. The study found that students who read more online content demonstrated less sophisticated writing abilities than those who read other material.

"Light reading is equated to what one might read in online blogs, or 'headline news' ... websites, particularly those that breezily rely on lists or punchy headlines," Quartz reported. "These types of light reading lack a genuine voice, a viewpoint, or the sort of analyses that might stimulate thought. It’s light and breezy reading that you can skim through and will likely forget within minutes."

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: ChandraMJohnson

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