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Poll on US media sees trouble for traditional media

Press release from the issuing company

New York, N.Y. - Traditional media is in trouble. Newspapers are struggling with circulation and magazines like Newsweek are being sold for $1. And, while two-thirds of online Americans (67%) still agree that they prefer to get their news in more traditional ways such as network television and/or reading newspapers or magazines in print, over half of Americans online (55%) say traditional media as we currently know it will no longer exist in ten years. Additionally, half (50%) say they tend to get almost all their news online.

These are some of the findings of a new 24/7 Wall St./Harris Poll survey of 2,095 U.S. adults surveyed online between October 8 and 12, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

Focusing on specific media sources, when Americans who use the Internet are looking for news, almost half (46%) say they go to local television news all the time while about one-third say they go to local newspapers (35%) and network television news (31%). Two in five online adults, however, say they never go to national newspapers like the New York Times or weekly news magazines (42% each) when they are looking for news.

Additionally, in looking at the amount of time people are spending with print media, one-quarter of online adults say over the past year, the time they have spent reading newspapers in print and reading magazines in print has declined (25% and 23% respectively). Conversely, three in ten online adults (28%) say the time they have spent visiting online news and information sites has increased over the past year.

Age matters for media consumption

One reason traditional media should be worried is that media consumption and attitudes towards media are very different by age, among adults who are online. Only one-third (33%) of those 55 and older who use the Internet say they tend to get almost all their news online compared to almost two-thirds (65%) of those 18-34 years old. And, while four in five of those 55 and older (81%) prefer to get their news in more traditional ways, just over half of 18-34 year olds (57%) feel the same way.

Where people go for news also changes by age. Online adults 55 and older are much more likely than 18-34 year olds to go to local television news all the time or occasionally (88% vs. 63%) and to local newspapers (81% vs. 56%) when they are looking for news. However over half of 18-34 year olds go to websites that aggregate news (52%) compared to two in five adults 55 and older (39%).

Network TV versus Cable TV versus watching online

Besides traditional print media, network television also has to face many battles - both against people watching more television online and watching more cable television shows. Currently, two-thirds of Americans (67%) say they watch television shows primarily on television, while 5% watch them primarily or mostly on their computer. If this is examined by age, again, there is a large difference with over four in five adults 55 and older watching primarily on television (84%) compared to less than half of those 18-34 (48%).

When it comes to cable versus network television, there is an even split. Three in ten Americans (30%) say they watch shows primarily or mostly on network TV while three in ten say they watch shows primarily or mostly on cable (29%); one-third (36%) watch cable and network shows equally. While four in five U.S. adults (82%) believe that network television shows will always be a large part of Americans' viewing habits, two-thirds (65%) believe people will watch more television on cable than on the networks in the near future. One reason may be quality. Over half of Americans (51%) say cable television shows are much higher quality than network television shows.

So What?

While they might not have abandoned print media or network television completely, Americans are welcoming and embracing other media in leaps and bounds. And, as one might expect, younger Americans are setting the pace as they are getting their news online and not through local newspapers. In fact, for local newspapers, readership is clearly being driven by those who are 45 and older. Traditional media may need to reinvent themselves to give younger Americans a reason to buy local papers or turn on their local news. Network television may not be in as much trouble as print, but they also have to watch their backs as cable television is clearly winning eyes and the counter-programming they did that was once mocked by the networks is now being copied.