On the Record

Insights and Analysis from Gallatin Public Affairs

How do Americans get their news? Four surprising research findings and what they mean for you.

October 9, 2017

by Hannah Smith



Each year the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank, studies how Americans get their news.  On October 4, 2017, Pew Research Center published a report entitled, Key Trends in Social and Digital News Media, outlining ten key findings about digital news media today. We selected four of the most surprising findings and explained what they mean for anyone who wants to communicate effectively.

Finding 1: The gap between television and online news consumption is narrowing. With a gap of only seven percentage points between those getting their news online verses through television, the reign of television news may soon be over. According to Pew, 43 percent of Americans report often getting news online, just seven points lower than the 50 percent who often get news on television.
What it means: While television news continues to be an important part of your media relations strategy, it’s not enough. You must engage in digital outreach, or you will miss a major part of your audience. That audience is also much easier to find, engage and activate using digital tools.

Finding 2: More people get their news from a mobile device. Yes, even older adults. The growth in mobile is hardly surprising, but it’s who is driving it that might raise a few eyebrows. More than two-thirds (67 percent) of those 65+ now get news on a mobile device, a substantial increase from 43 percent in 2016.
What it means: Assuming that only millennials use mobile is just plain wrong. What do you need to do, ASAP? Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. If it is not, we can help you fix that.

Finding 3: Minority and the less-educated adults are increasingly using social media for news. Conventional wisdom would be that these groups receive much of their news via television, but the data tells a different story. Latinos, African Americans and Asians are actually more likely to get their news on social media, as are those with low levels of education.
What it means: Do you need to reach a diverse population for your public affairs campaign? You need social media. In fact, given the rich demographic information available online, it’s much easier to target and tailor your message for your different audiences.

Finding 4: Many Americans have witnessed fake news, and trust in news found via social media is very low. OK. Not a huge surprise, but something worth attending to. With nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults reporting they’ve seen fabricated news online, it is not surprising that only 5 percent of those surveyed place a high degree of trust in the news online.
What it means: Self-publishing news and information can be a great way to reach your target audience, but suspicion and distrust can be obstacles. The key is providing consistently high-quality, well-researched and cited information. We have a research team that help you with that, too.

Final thoughts: Digital media is changing the way we live, learn and communicate, and it must be a part of any good public affairs strategy. We can help.

Hannah Smith

Associate, Oregon

Hannah Smith is a relentless cheerleader for clients at Gallatin Public Affairs. She listens and works collaboratively with clients to develop custom solutions that fit their needs. She has a deep knowledge of digital communications and a proven record of helping businesses, organizations and nonprofits use social media. With a keen eye for visual design, Hannah helps clients tell their stories in compelling ways.