Americans Turn to TV for News

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TV represents the easiest way to get news, if the person seeking the news wants to expend as little effort as possible. Tapping the Internet or newspapers requires effort, and the desire to pick one source of news rather than another. The Internet, actually, allows users to choose from a nearly infinite number of sources, if the consumer is willing to turn information gathering into work. Apparently, Americans do not want to make that effort. They want to watch TV to get news, which means they are willing to passively accept what television gives them.

According to a Gallup poll on new source preferences:

Television is the main place Americans say they turn to for news about current events (55%), leading the Internet, at 21%. Nine percent say newspapers or other print publications are their main news source, followed by radio, at 6%.

The data supports the long-held notion that newspapers have died and will not be resurrected. To make matters worse, readership of newspaper content online not only competes with many other sources. Advertisers and readers usually are unwilling to support papers online. Ad revenue at many newspaper companies is flat and cannot support the attrition of print ads. The only two papers in the United States that have had large success charging for online subscriptions are the flagship of The New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT) and News Corp’s (NASDAQ: NWS) The Wall Street Journal.

The Internet was supposed to supplant all other sources of news, but clearly it has not. It should have, at least because of the variety it offers. Why it has not isn’t clear. Visits to the large news sites of the online portals and online news sites, dominated by CNN.com, the websites of the networks and free newspaper sites should close the gap with TV. Instead, TV holds an advantage of two to one.

TV viewership ought to be less dominant among the well to do and younger people, it would seem. These people are either used to tapping the Internet for its plethora of news options or they come from a generation in which consumption of all information tilts toward that online. Gallup shows otherwise. While television viewership of news does increase by age, it is not by much. Even among people with post-graduate degrees, TV dominates.

The Gallup conclusion about the wide use of television as a source of news only take into account part of the reason:

Americans have an abundance of sources at their disposal for acquiring news, and accordingly, Gallup received various answers when asking respondents what they consider to be their main source. Still, the television medium leads all others, and by a wide margin over the Internet, while print and radio lag well behind. This does not mean Americans get no news from print, radio, or to a lesser degree the Internet; just that relatively few see these as their main source.

That is not much more of an answer than the raw data from the survey already shows.

A better explanation is the TV is universally available and takes almost no effort to access as a way to get information about the world.