Newspapers Hit New Low as an Information Source

The number of Americans who say that newspapers are an important source of information continues to decline, according to a survey by the The Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. Only 56 percent of Internet users surveyed agreed with the statement that newspapers were an important or very important source of information, while 68 percent said that television was, and 78 percent said that the Internet was. The findings are part of the Annenberg School’s ongoing Digital Future Project, which has been surveying Americans on their views and behavior related to the Internet for 10 years.

To make matters worse for the industry, the Center’s survey also found that newspapers are continuing to decline as a source of entertainment as well — only 29 percent of those surveyed said that newspapers were an important source of entertainment, down from 32 percent in 2008. Almost 20 percent of users said that they had canceled a subscription to a newspaper or magazine because they now get the same or related content online, and 59 percent said that if the print edition of their newspaper stopped publishing they would read the online version. Only 37 percent said that they would read the print edition of another newspaper.

In an interesting counterpoint to the numbers on newspaper readership, however, the Annenberg survey also found that a growing number of Internet users do not believe that information they find online is reliable. A majority of users said that less than half of the information they get from the Internet is reliable, a new low for the 10-year-old study, and 14 percent of users said that only a small portion of the information they find online is reliable. Less than half of those surveyed said that they had some trust or a lot of trust in the Internet in general.

In other words, Americans increasingly see the Internet as an important source of information, despite the fact that they view much of that information as unreliable. Depending on how you feel about Internet users in general, that’s either a baffling example of contradictory behavior, or a sign of healthy skepticism about online media.

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Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Zarko Drincic