Thursday, January 6, 2011

Move Over TV News

A new Pew study shows that, among college grads, the Internet has begun to rival television news as a source of information.

First off, let's establish that a historical point -- the greater the education, the less the reliance on TV for news and information.  It's that whole delusions of adequacy thing.  The audience for TV news, local especially, tends to skew to the less educated.  So the Pew report is not all that surprising, but it does document quite nicely the growing power of the Net when it comes to how the educated keep informed.

Blogger is in one of its moods, so I'm having trouble dropping in a key graphic from the report.  Here's a few key numbers.  For those with a high school education or less, 75 percent said they rely on TV news and 29 percent said they rely on the Internet.  For those with a college degree, the same numbers are 54 and 51 percent.  That's huge, and telling.  And problematic for the TV folks. 

What I find interesting is the lack of a partisan effect.  Dems, GOPers, Independents, they all break down more or less the same in the aggregate media use columns.  Now if we get into the nitty gritty, not provided here, we'd find the usual partisan migration to Fox or MSNBC, but it's interesting as hell to see that at the aggregate media use level, your partisan leanings don't seem to correlate with a general preference for TV news versus that of the Net or other sources.

In terms of what people know, we can make a few assumptions based on these results.  First, TV news appeals to the less educated not because TV news is dumb, but because it's more easily consumed, provides less detail, but makes the world's events more understandable given the way TV tells a story.  We know from other studies that TV news seems to inform only those with little or no information in the first place -- which is a fine and useful mission, though it might raise certain issues when it comes to selling advertising that appeals to a prime audience.  Print, especially, seems to require a lot more background knowledge and certainly motivation in order to grasp the content. 

What we may see, as this migration among media continues, is a growing knowledge gap between those of less and more education. 

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