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Online news readership overtakes newspapers

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For the first time, more of us are getting our news from the Web than from newspapers, according to a new report, which finds that the Internet now "trails only television among American adults as a destination for the news."

And that "gap" between the Internet and TV is "closing," according to a new report on "The State of the News Media 2011" by Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism.

"Financially the tipping point also has come," wrote Tom Rosenstiel and Amy Mitchell in the report. "When the final tally is in, online ad revenue in 2010 is projected to surpass print newspaper ad revenue for the first time. The problem for news is that by far the largest share of that online ad revenue goes to non-news sources, particularly to aggregators," such as Google and Yahoo news.

Nearly half of all American Adults — 47 percent — report getting "at least some local news and information" on their cell phones or tablets. But when it comes to paying for online local news, be it via subscription or buying "apps," few of us are doing that or are thinking of doing it.

If we were to dig into our pockets, 23 percent of us would be willing to pay $5 a month for full access to a local newspaper online. Another 18 percent would be open to paying $10 a month.

"Both figures are substantially higher than the percentage of adults (5 percent) who currently pay for online local news content. Nonetheless, roughly three-quarters say they would not pay anything," according to "How mobile devices are changing community information environments." The report was done by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, Pew Internet & American Life Project and the Knight Foundation as part of "The State of the News Media" research.

The findings are of keen interest, especially to struggling newspapers. The report found that 46 percent of those surveyed said they get their news online at least three times a week, compared to 40 percent who say they get their news from newspapers and the papers' websites.

So far, "of the three dozen newspapers that have moved to some sort of online pay model, only 1 percent of users opted to pay," the "State of the News Media" report noted.

"Many news organizations are looking to mobile platforms, in particular mobile apps, to provide new ways to generate subscriber and advertising revenues in local markets," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. "The survey suggests there is a long way to go before that happens."

Right now, 10 percent of adults who use mobile apps to get local news and information pay for those apps. That equates to "just 1 percent" of all adults in the U.S., the study found.

And when it comes to buying apps, or programs, for cell phones or tablets, 13 percent of "all mobile device owners report having an app that helps them get local information or news, which represents 11 percent of the total American adult population," the study says.

So, "while almost half of adults get local news on mobile devices, just 1 in 10 use apps to do so. Call it the 'app gap.' "

Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, said as more Americans use tablets, as well as smart phones for news and information, "it will be fascinating to see whether that changes whether people will pay for content online, but for now it hasn’t happened."

The survey was done in January; 2,251 Americans, age 18 and older participated.

Among some of the findings:

When asked about the value of their local newspaper:

  • 28 percent of Americans say the loss of the local newspaper would have a major impact on their ability to keep up with local information.
  • 30 percent say it would have a minor impact.
  • 39 percent say the loss of the newspaper would have no impact. 

When it comes to local news and information, here is the material people get:

  • 42 percent of those who own cell phones or tablet computers use those devices to check local weather reports.
  • 37 percent use the devices to find local restaurants or other businesses.
  • 30 percent get information or news about their local community.
  • 24 percent check local sports scores and get updates.
  • 22 percent get information about local traffic or public transportation.
  • 19 percent get or use coupons or discounts from local stores.
  • 15 percent get news alerts about community sent via text or e-mail.
  • 13 percent have an app on their device that helps them get information about their local community.

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