Monday, February 4, 2008

The Internet as Information Source

Good Morning,

I received this in a weekly newsletter put together by a Lecturer and Media Consultant at Grady. I thought it was interesting and not too surprising.

DIGITAL SUPER FUTURE: The Internet has officially taken over as the most important source of information – at least among Internet users, according to a study by the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication. But even among Internet users, there is still a question of trust and reliability. With the number of hours spent online rising a full hour per week from 2006 to 2007 to an average of 15.3 hours per week, four out of five Internet users (80%) consider the Internet to be an important source of information for them. That’s up dramatically from 66% the year before and is significantly higher than television (68%), radio or newspapers (both 63%). Yet less than half (46%) say that ‘most or all’ of the information online is generally reliable, although the same people say their particular, favorite Web sites are reliable by a margin of 83% and almost the same number (80%) say the established media websites are reliable.

The study which is in its seventh year found that more than half of the Internet users (55%) who are members of an online community feel as strongly about their online communities as they do about their real-world communities. That’s an increase from 43% just a year ago. And membership in online communities has more than doubled in the past three years. Of course that’s only 15%. More than half of the online community members (56%) reported meeting their online counterparts in person, but they also said they have an average of 5.2 friends online whom they have never met in person. Despite this, Internet users report spending slightly more time per week socializing with friends and family in person. When they are online they are buying things, with 60% saying they have bought something (usually under $100) online, and that they make an average of 36 purchases a year online; and yes, they do say it comes at the expense of retail stores.

And in a sort of good news, bad news cliché, the good news is that three out of five Internet users (60%) report looking for news online. Of course that’s still lower than the percentage (71%) who say they are just surfing with no specific destination. The bad news, at least for my newspaper brethren, is that one in five (21%) report they have stopped a subscription for a newspaper or magazine because they can get it, or related content, online. Some consolation comes from a new question in the poll which showed that half (52%) said they would miss the offline edition of the newspaper if it was no longer available while a quarter (27%) said they would not. Another new question in the poll showed that somewhere between a quarter and a third (29%) of Internet users say they have time shifted their TV viewing, using either a VCR or DVR.

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