Internet overtakes newspapers as primary source of news

If you didn’t already realize this was coming, you’ve probably been on a desert island since 1999.  According to Pew Research, more people got their national and international news from the Internet rather than newspapers for the first time since polling began on this question in 2001.  The bad news is that television still far outranks either:

The internet, which emerged this year as a leading source for campaign news, has now surpassed all other media except television as an outlet for national and international news.

Currently, 40% say they get most of their news about national and international issues from the internet, up from just 24% in September 2007. For the first time in a Pew survey, more people say they rely mostly on the internet for news than cite newspapers (35%). Television continues to be cited most frequently as a main source for national and international news, at 70%.

For young people, however, the internet now rivals television as a main source of national and international news. Nearly six-in-ten Americans younger than 30 (59%) say they get most of their national and international news online; an identical percentage cites television. In September 2007, twice as many young people said they relied mostly on television for news than mentioned the internet (68% vs. 34%).

The Internet “emerged” this year as a leading source for campaign news?  Hardly.  The Internet got a 24% rating in 2004, the last presidential cycle, which was the real “emergence” of the medium.  In fact, the percentages dipped slightly after the last presidential election cycle, rebounding back to 24% only last year before rapidly increasing to 40% this year.

However, don’t pop the champagne corks just yet.  The Internet is a medium, not a provider, and the shift doesn’t represent a rejection of traditional news organizations as much as a preference for delivery.  People want on-demand news and interactive experiences in order to free themselves as much as possible from the decisions of editors and producers on publication priority.  They use the Internet to access a wide variety of resources, including those which had been accessed only by newsprint or broadcast a decade ago.

Will television have the same problems with their economic model in the future as newspapers do now?  Perhaps, unless they can translate advertising revenues seamlessly to their on-line sites.  It seems obvious that as broadband becomes more and more available, traditional spoon-fed delivery of news will fall farther and farther out of favor.  Those news organizations that can adapt will thrive, while those that cannot …. will probably demand bailouts.