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Audience

Audience

By the Project for Excellence in Journalism

How many people now get news online?

The best estimate at the end of 2004 was that somewhere between 42% and 59% of Americans over 18 – 92 million to 128 million people – had gone online for news at some point.1 Those numbers are virtually unchanged from a year earlier.

To understand what these figures mean – and why they can vary so much – it is useful to look at how they are derived.

The Number of Americans Online

Online news consumption estimates are based on survey research. To arrive at them, most polling firms first determine the number of people going online for any activity. Then they ask that online population about its consumption of news in particular.

How many Americans were online for any reason in 2004? The answer varies depending on the source, but between 63% and 76% of Americans reported “ever” going online.2 That range generally appears to have stabilized since 2003.3

Percentage of Population Ever Going Online
1995-2004
Design Your Own Chart
Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, ’’Pew Research Biennial News Consumption Survey,’’ June 8, 2004
qu: Do you ever go online to access the Internet or World Wide Web or to send and receive email?

The more meaningful number may be how many people go online regularly – many surveys ask about going online yesterday. Here the number appears to be closer to half of all Americans – 47%, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and 53% according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.4

Percentage of Population Going Online “Yesterday’’
Design Your Own Chart
Source: Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, ’’Pew Research Biennial News Consumption Survey,’’ June 8, 2004
qu: As I read from a list tell me if you did this yesterday or not. Yesterday did you go online from home? Go online from work?

Online News Use

How many of those people online go there for news? The answer, too, varies depending on how the question is asked, but the data suggest an online news environment that is showing only the slightest signs of growth.

As of June 2004, fully 72% of online users reported “ever” going online for news, up slightly from 70% in 2003, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.5

When respondents are probed further, about whether they went online for news yesterday or every day, the percentages drop to anywhere from 24% to 27%.6 Those numbers are also not increasing much.

Percent of Internet Users Who Access News Online
Percent accessing news online ever or yesterday, 2000 to 2004
Design Your Own Chart
Source: Pew Internet and American Life Project tracking surveys

But when people are asked about frequent but less than daily consumption, things seem to be growing. The percentage of Americans who say they go online for news three or more times a week stood at 29%, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, up from 25% in 2002 and 23% in 2000.7

Some observers say such numbers may undercount online news consumption somewhat. People get news online from a variety of places they might not think of as news sites – from checking e-mail on Yahoo! to electronic newsletters to the various browser home pages used when logging on. Consider, for instance, the millions of people who every day look at MSN.com, AOL.com, Yahoo.com – those three portal homepages alone – and see news headlines. The users may not be going online to read news, but they get it. Using news as a feature to draw and keep users has long been a key element of portal strategy since it was developed by AOL and Yahoo with Reuters news in the early 1990s. Now other sites, even company and industry sites, are using customized news in this way.8

Observational research also suggests that surveys undercount consumption because people often cannot remember getting news or do it unawares.

When it comes to the Internet, another limitation of most survey research comes into play. Most surveys poll people 18 and over, missing younger teenagers. To assess the impact of the Internet and news it would be interesting to get statistics on this younger cohort as well.

Looking Ahead

What do the numbers suggest about whether online news consumption will continue to grow? Has the universe of online news consumers – and online population overall – reached something of a ceiling? If so, will the growth now be in the time people spend getting news online rather than in the number of people doing it?

Answering those questions is difficult, but three factors – Internet household penetration, demographics, and broadband growth – point to growth both in the online population and the time it spends online.

First, the online population overall is expected to keep growing. In 2004, the percentage of households with Internet access had reached nearly 67%, up from 64% in 2003, according to Forrester Research, a technology research company.9 As long as this household penetration keeps increasing, meaning more people online, the number of online news consumers will likely grow. Forrester Research projects that overall Internet penetration – for those with either broadband or dial-up connections- will continue to grow over the next few years.

Second, demographics are likely to fuel growth in the online population as younger, Internet-adopting generations replace older, more resistant populations.

The third issue is expansion of broadband technology, which provides high-speed connection to the Internet. Web professionals have usually predicted that people will use the Internet more when they have higher-speed connections because of the significantly greater ease of use. Broadband use is growing steadily both in the number of subscriptions to broadband services and the number of people accessing the Web via broadband (see more on broadband technology section in Economics). Further, at least two studies suggest that the expectation that broadband technology encourages online news consumption is correct.10

Those three factors – overall Internet penetration trends, the age factor, and growth in broadband use – seem to offer evidence that online news consumption will grow.

Is the Net Cannibalizing Traditional Media?

The next major question involving the growth of online news is whether consumers are substituting it for old media. The economic implications of the question are enormous.

A year earlier, the evidence pointed to the conclusion that rather than substituting online news for other forms, the majority of people – though not all – were mostly adding the Internet to the news they already consumed.

Has anything changed?

There is no simple answer. When asked directly, most people say they do not substitute online news for other news media. The Pew Research Center’s Biennial News Consumption Survey from the spring of 2004 found that seven out of ten people (71%) who got news online at least once a week reported using other news media, such as TV, radio or print, as often as before. Just 15% reported using other media less, and 9% said they used traditional media more.11

Other survey data suggest those responses may not be the whole story. Looking specifically at television use, three surveys in 2004 found that online news users consume fewer minutes of television news than the population over all.12 Those findings add to evidence in earlier years that online use comes at the expense of TV viewing.

The situation for newspapers appears more complicated. Here most surveys find newspaper reading time to be roughly equal for online and non-online users. But one survey in 2004 found that readers of online newspaper Web sites were less likely than in the past to also read newspapers in print form. While those users were at least staying in the same genre – newspapers – the shift represented a sign that newspaper Web sites were cannibalizing print editions.13 That is confirmed by a host of other evidence, from continuing declines in readership, survey data and anecdotal reports from publishers that their online editions appear to be growing at the expense of their print editions.

Another intriguing piece of the puzzle may have more to do with citizen interest in news over all rather than a choice of one medium over another. Two years’ data from the USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future (formerly the UCLA Center for Communication Policy) suggest that the Web does not change the basic nature of a person’s news consumption. Both the 2002 and 2003 surveys found that levels of online news consumption tend to mirror consumption levels of other news media. Heavy online news consumers, in other words, are also the heaviest readers of newspapers and magazines and the heaviest watchers of television.

Similarly, medium-level users of online news report medium use of newspapers, television and magazines. And light online news users are light users of the other three media.

Amount of Time Online News Users Spent Reading Newspapers Offline, 2003
Weekly minutes

Design Your Own Chart
Source: The Digital Future Report, USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future, September 2004
Light use is under 60 minutes a week, medium is 60 to 119 minutes, heavy is 120 minutes or more.
Amount of Time Online News Users Spent Reading Magazines Offline, 2003
Weekly minutes

Design Your Own Chart
Source: The Digital Future Report, USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future, September 2004
Light use is under 60 minutes a week, medium is 60 to 119 minutes, heavy is 120 minutes or more.
Amount of Time Online News Users Spent Watching Television, 2003
Weekly minutes
Design Your Own Chart
Source: The Digital Future Report, USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future
Light use is under 60 minutes a week, medium is 60 to 199, and heavy is 120 minutes or more

If the Web is just beginning to show signs of cannibalizing the old media, another factor may soon accelerate the move – the next generation of consumers.

Demographics: The Young Rule the Web

Perhaps the most important aspect of online news is that it is attracting the most elusive news audience of all, the young.

The 2004 news consumption data reveal that what we have been watching for a generation is continuing: news consumption skews old, and the young consume newspapers and TV news less than their predecessors did at similar ages. In 2004, this was even the subject of a new book by an academic, David Mindich, called “Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don’t Follow the News.”

The Internet, however, challenges the notion that the young are uninterested. It is the exception to the idea of news consumption’s being an older person’s behavior, and this makes it the hope for growth of the overall news audience.

In fact, the young “regularly” go online for news as often as all other age groups, or more often. What’s more, as of 2004 regular online news consumption among younger consumers appears to growing (it increased among every other age group as well). Fully 36% of young adults, people aged 18 to 29, reported going online regularly for news in spring 2004, up from 31% in 2002 and 30% in 2000, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. A different survey, from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, showed that in June of 2004, roughly seven in ten (71%) of Internet users 18 to 29 reported having “ever” gotten news online, up seven percentage points from just four months earlier.15

Thus the Internet explodes the notion that the young are uninterested in news. The interest of younger Americans in the presidential election may suggest the same thing. Younger Americans may be less interested in the way news is traditionally presented than they used to be. They may want the news they want, when they want it. That presents its own challenges, culturally and to industry. But it is different from apathy or disengagement.

The young also differ from their elders in the kinds of sites they visit. People 18 to 29 are more likely than the overall population to have gone to news sites in general. They are also more likely in particular to visit such sites as Yahoo! and AOL News (43% of 18-to-29-year-olds, 30% of the population over all). After these sites, young users seem most drawn to TV Web sites such as CNN.com and ABCNews.com (36% regularly or sometimes among those 18 to 29 versus 29% of the population over all), or major national newspaper Web sites (22% versus 20% over all). They are also more likely than the general population to go to national newspaper sites as well as both local newspaper and television Web sites.16

Diversity Online

Another big story from 2004 is evidence of increasing diversity on the Internet in terms of race and ethnicity, and, to a lesser extent, gender.

The race gap appears to be narrowing. In 2002, the difference in regular online news use between whites and African Americans was 11 percentage points; in 2004, the difference narrowed to just 4 points.

Interestingly, Hispanics reported the highest percentage of regular online news use in 2004, increasing to 32% from 22% in 2002.17 And they seemed to be going to sites in English rather than Spanish.18

Although men are still more likely than women to be regular consumers of online news, that gap, too, has narrowed, though less dramatically. In 2004, 33% of men described themselves as regular online news consumers, compared to 25% of women, a gap of eight percentage points. Two years earlier, the gap was ten points. The ratio of men to women going online less often is slightly narrower, just four percentage points (68% of men, 64% of women).19

Education, however, remains the biggest indicator of online news use. Half of all college graduates are regular news consumers, which dwarfs those with less education.

And it appears that the gap appears may persist. The number of college graduates and those with some college getting news online continues to show impressive growth. The number of people with only high school diplomas or less getting news online shows very little growth.20

Demographics of “Regular” Online News Consumers, 2004

2000
2002
2004
Total
23%
25%
29%
Men
28%
30%
33%
Women
18%
20%
25%
White
23%
26%
29%
Black
16%
15%
25%
Hispanic
21%
22%
32%
18-29 Years Old
30%
31%
36%
30-49 Years Old
26%
29%
36%
50-64 Years Old
19%
24%
28%
65+ Years Old
8%
7%
8%
College Graduate
40%
44%
50%
Some College
29%
29%
35%
High School Graduate
13%
16%
18%
Less Than High School
8%
7%
8%
“Regular” online news consumers are defined as those who go online for news three or more days a week.
Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, “Pew Research Biennial News Consumption Survey,” June 8, 2004.

When Are People Going Online to Read News?

Another change the Internet has created is turning news consumption into an all-day activity for a large number of Americans. We mentioned that pattern in last year’s report, and there was evidence in 2004 that it continued to grow.

Before the Internet, news consumption tended to be confined to three distinct time periods, the morning, around the dinner hour, and late at night. The Web made it possible – and socially acceptable – for people to get updated news throughout the day, particularly at work. In May and June of 2004, the Pew Research Center found that nearly three quarters (73%) of the public typically gets news during the day, up twelve percentage points since 2002 (61%).21

What Are People Reading Online?

When people say they get news online, do we know what they mean? Is it news about Iraq, or teenage pop singers like Ashlee Simpson?

While the Web sites people are turning to may have changed a bit over the year, the kinds of information users are searching for has remained roughly the same. It also appears to be quite similar to the kinds of news people get from traditional news media.

While most surveys just ask if people go online for news – and leave the definition of news to the imagination of the person being surveyed – there was at least one major attempt in 2004 to get more specific. It came in the biennial news consumption survey of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Weather, always among the top reasons people consume more traditional news, is at the top in online news consumption as well. Fully three-quarters (76%) of online news users go online for weather. The next most-sought news is science and health, at 58%, followed by political and international news, 54% each.22

Types of News Topics

1996
1998
2000
2002
2004
Weather
47%
48%
66%
70%
76%
Science and Health
58%
64%
63%
60%
58%
Political News
46%
40%
39%
50%
54%
International News
45%
41%
45%
55%
54%
Technology
64%
60%
59%
54%
53%
Business News
53%
58%
53%
48%
46%
Entertainment News
50%
45%
44%
44%
46%
Sports News
46%
39%
42%
47%
45%
Local News
27%
28%
37%
42%
45%
Data based on those who “ever” go online for news
Source: Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, “Pew Research Biennial News Consumption Survey,” June 8, 2004.

What role do photo images have? In the period immediately following the murder of American contract workers in Fallujah, the Abu Ghraib prison-torture photos, and the beheading of Nicholas Berg, a quarter of the public (24%) went online to view graphic war images from Iraq that mainstream newspapers and television generally considered too harsh to display, according to The Pew Internet & American Life Project.23

Another wrinkle is video images. When Reuters put up a section of raw video called Reuters Raw in March 2003, tens of thousand of people watched unedited streaming video of big events like developments in Iraq. Those viewers, Reuters reported, said they preferred seeing what’s “really” happening unfiltered by editors. That raises various tough questions, including whether it’s appropriate to help terrorists who want to produce horrifying images. And the issue will only intensify with the growth of broadband, which can make it possible for people to search for video in the same way that today they can search for keywords of text.24

Blogs

The year 2004 is likely to be recalled as a turning point in the evolution of Weblogs, blogs for short, or whatever name eventually sticks for citizen-based, personal-journal postings. Given space at the political conventions, credited with helping unmask errors at CBS News, placed on the cover of the New York Times magazine, blogs last year were anointed as the next new step in the evolution of the non-establishment media that have found a home on the Web. By January 2005, bloggers and journalism leaders were meeting at Harvard for a conference on ethics and credibility.

Has the role of bloggers changed? How are they different from the traditional press? What concerns should the public have about their vulnerability – as with all media forms – to rushing a story to press without verification?

The birth date of blogs depends on who’s telling the tale. Some say the first Web log25 was Mosaic’s What’s New Page in 1993. According to Rebecca Blood’s September 2000 essay “Weblogs: A History and Perspective,” John Barger introduced the term “Weblog” in December 1997. Then when Blogger, a Weblog application, was made available to the public in 1999, the number of blogs exploded as the user-friendly technology facilitated the medium’s growth.26

In 2004, the signs of arrival were everywhere. Blogs began to receive heightened media exposure early in the year with Howard Dean’s spirited campaign for the presidency. Dean’s blog, the Blog for America, still lives on among so-called Deaniacs despite the candidate’s exit from the presidential race in the spring. As of late summer 2004, it was still receiving 33,000 visits27 a day. In July, Michael Powell, then the FCC chairman, began one, and Michael Moore started a blog to promote “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Several news organs, including The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic and National Review developed blogs that started to attract readers (UPI, June 2004). Bloggers received press credentials at the presidential conventions of 2004, and some delegates at the Democratic convention used blogs to share their experiences with fellow Democrats back home. The American Society of Newspaper Editors scheduled a session on blogs at its annual convention. In late September, the New York Times magazine featured the prominent blogger Ana Maria Cox – aka the Wonkette – on its cover and explored how bloggers were making an impact on the world of political journalism. Time magazine named its first Blog of the Year, honoring the Power Line for its role in questioning the authenticity of the memos used by “60 Minutes” in its feature on President Bush’s National Guard service.

As the number of blogs grows, so do blog readership numbers. A study conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project showed that blog readership among Internet users increased 58% in 2004. Blog readership now stands at 27% of Internet users (or 32 million Americans), up from 17% in February 2004.28 Blog readers are more likely to be young, male, well educated, and long-time Internet users (online for six or more years). But the Pew Internet Project also shows there has been considerable growth in blog readership among women, minorities, and those between 30 and 49 years old.29

Blogads, a Web ad network, conducted a survey of 17,159 blog readers in May 2004. The results reflect the youthful and highly educated nature of blog readers, but also challenge the assumption that those who read blogs are exclusively twenty-somethings who campaigned for Howard Dean. A majority (61%) of blog readers who participated in the survey were over 30. Many make online purchases and get their news from online sources, especially in comparison to television, which they find much less useful as a source of news and opinion. Many are also heavy media consumers who often subscribe to such highbrow magazines as The New Yorker, the Economist and Atlantic Monthly.30

When it comes to setting up blogs, just 7% of Internet users, or approximately eight million Americans, said they have done so, up from 5% in February 2004. Bloggers tend to be young and Internet-savvy, and to connect to the Web via broadband. Finally, it should be noted that the vast majority of blogs are created and then quickly abandoned; only a small percentage ever develop a substantial audience.31

Growth of Bloggers and Blog Readers in 2004
Design Your Own Chart
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, ’’The State of Blogging,’’ January 2, 2005.
Internet users

In addition to being “imbued with the temper of their writer,” in the words of blogger, writer and editor Andrew Sullivan, blogs are generally valued because of their reputation for presenting stories that are perceived to be outside the realm of mainstream reportage.32 Bloggers speculated on the authenticity of documents that CBS presented questioning the President’s National Guard record in the 1970s. And Trent Lott’s controversial comments on Strom Thurmond gained wide attention after several prominent blogs highlighted his speech when the traditional media did not.

But just how different are political news blogs from the mainstream press? At the Democratic national convention in July 2004 there was much fanfare about the bloggers who were given press passes and were themselves the subjects of many media reports. But with expectations sky high and many waiting for the bloggers to break a big story, some wondered how different the bloggers’ reporting was from the traditional press at the convention. According to Paul Andrews of The Seattle Times, the majority of blogs “regurgitated quotes and reported themes that were meaningful only if you failed to watch the speech or see TV and newspaper coverage.”33

During the presidential debates this fall, the Project for Excellence in Journalism looked at the content of five prominent political blogs to see how they mirrored or diverged from the mainstream press. The study found that the bloggers studied were generally writing and framing stories in the same manner as the mainstream press, but in a more “personal and frankly blunt” tone.34

Questions have also arisen about the reliability and accuracy of blogs. Doug Clifton, editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, told Editor& Publisher in September that “The bloggers cover an incredible spectrum of credibility and authenticity, just like newspapers. We have the National Enquirer and The New York Times and a lot in between.”35 According to research done by the USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future, only 10% of Internet users say all or most of the information on Web sites posted by individuals is reliable and accurate.36 Meanwhile, 61% of blog readers – again, a small percentage of the public – say they read blogs because they are more honest.37

As Jay Rosen, a professor at NYU and blogger, put it at the conference at Harvard on blogging and credibility, the traditional press tries to verify the news before publication. Bloggers tend to verify after publication, through the debate and responses of other citizen bloggers.38

Despite the growing popularity of blogs, there is only limited evidence about how they might become commercially viable. Lee Rainie, founding director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, told Media Post, “We’re not concluding that there’s a market here.” Ryan McConnell, a consumer strategist at Aegis Group’s Carat Insight, is also uncertain about the economic future of blogs. “It’s yet to be seen whether blogs keep up the momentum now that the political season is beyond us,” he said.39

The two most common reasons people read blogs, according to the survey of blog users, is to provide a better perspective, and get news faster.40 Those preferences generally reflect public opinion in general on why people go the Web for news: for diversity and variety of content as well as the speed with which the Internet posts news developments. And while few would doubt the potential of blogs, they are still experiencing growing pains that will force them to live up to the highest standards of ethics and credibility – not to mention potentially dealing with lawsuits for posting unwanted publicity – if they are to become a central part of the online media experience.

For now, blogs are largely an echo chamber and commentary channel, rather than a “news” source. Every so often a critical mass of blog chatter or a really newsworthy fact will emerge from the blogosphere, but their impact on the traditional media dialogue is still occasional. Instead, the overall impact of blogs flows in other directions.

First, the ease of creating a blog (“push-button publishing”) allows millions of new people to throw their voices into the online “commons.” It is even easier to grab a virtual soapbox using a blogger site than it is to create a Web site. Most blogs are probably not focused on politics at all, or even news in the broader sense, but rather are public journals. Not all of them gain an audience. Still, the most prominent of them have audiences rivaling some of the most influential columnists.

Second, even if bloggers aren’t all newshounds, they represent a parallel culture that makes life more interesting and complicated for credentialed, mainstream journalists. In pre-blog days, the only real feedback journalists got was the occasional angry phone call or letter to the editor. Now every word Dan Rather utters and every sentence in The New York Times is dissected in the blogosphere. That must make journalists think twice about what they decide to publish – and what they decide not to publish. Journalists now live in the same panopticon environment – always being watched – as celebrities and public officials.

Third, bloggers have a substantial capacity to keep a story alive. The real-time nature of blogging shortens the news cycle to a nano-second, but the drumbeat of bloggers can keep a story alive for much longer than one news cycle. Look at how the Swift Boat Veterans worked for weeks before there was much attention to their campaign against Kerry. Look at how the constant humming in blogs and other online places about the return of the military draft kept the story alive even without much comment from the campaigns.

Fourth, it is so easy to measure things in the blogosphere using technology that provides an almost daily tracking “poll” on our culture. We know from a variety of measuring tools online (the Google Zeitgeist for keyword searches, DayPop for blog content, etc.) what the “buzz” is.

The larger cultural impact is that blogging has shattered the traditional boundary between “consumers” and “producers” of news. The audience is also a kind of newsroom, where ideas are absorbed, remixed, and republished.

The 2004 Election and the Online World

During the 2004 election season, the Internet continued its evolution.

The Web still trails television and newspapers as the public’s primary source of news, and that appeared to hold true in 2004 for election news. Nearly eight in ten (78%) indicated television as one of their main sources of campaign news, followed by newspapers (38%), radio (16%), Internet (15%), and magazines (4%), according to a poll conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.44

A Fox News poll conducted by Opinion Dynamics that asked people where they got their information about the presidential candidates during the middle of the Democratic primaries found similar media preferences. The Internet was the primary source for only 5%, a distant third to television (47%) and newspapers (17%). Two in ten (21%) said they received their election information from two or more different media forms.45

Primary Source of Campaign Information, 2004
Design Your Own Chart
Source: Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll, ’’Voters Still Evenly Divided,’’ March 25, 2004
qu: Of the following, where do you get most of your information about the presidential candidates?

Nevertheless, use of the Web for the election year clearly grew in 2004. More than 40% of online users used the Internet to find political material during this campaign, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. That was more than 50% higher than during the 2000 campaign season.46

The phenomenon of the blog – and the personalities behind the blogs – in the media in the 2004 election season perhaps elevated them to a position higher than their actual audience numbers might suggest. Few would doubt, however, that they had a significant impact on the online community. First, there was the astonishing organizational and fund-raising contribution blogs made to Howard Dean’s campaign. Next, bloggers were credentialed for the presidential conventions like old-line print and broadcast outlets, their presence capturing a great deal of media coverage. And finally, blogs posted less than accurate poll numbers on Election Day, which gave Kerry supporters a momentary surge of confidence and even got the attention of Wall Street. In 2004, blogs proved that they are determined to be taken seriously even as the new medium experiences some rather difficult growing pains (see blog sidebar for a more in-depth discussion of blogs).

Several newspapers, including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, added interactive features to their Web sites, in addition to extensive campaign coverage. For example, LATimes.com had an electoral map that displayed the latest state polling results and the most recent electoral breakdown, showing which states were for Kerry or Bush or were too close to call. The Times site and others also offered electoral maps that people could color in themselves to test different scenarios – what if Ohio goes for Kerry, what if Pennsylvania goes for Bush?

Other sites made an effort for their election coverage to be more reader-friendly rather than to “wow colleagues.”47 For example, CNN.com’s “Presidential Primary Preview” was praised for its simplicity and conciseness.

In addition to online election coverage from the news organizations, there were non-news sites created specifically to help citizens wade through it all. Factcheck.org, for example, is a program of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania run by Brooks Jackson, who formerly pioneered CNN’s ad-watch reports.48 Factcheck.org considers itself a “nonpartisan, nonprofit consumer advocate for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.”49

Despite such advances, though, there is still a good deal of room for improvement. A Project for Excellence in Journalism election study in 2004 of the most popular news Web sites-including those of The New York Times, CNN, ABC, and USA Today – found that users were getting less original reporting than in 2000 and found interactivity still far from common.

Footnotes

1. The Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that 128 million go online and 72% of those, or approximately 92 million, have at some time gotten news online, as of May and June 2004. A related research firm, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, found, in April and May of 2004, 66% of the adult population to be online users, with 89% of them indicating some online news use. The total adult population in the United States is 217,766,271, according to the most recent U.S. Census data available; 66% of that is approximately 144 million, and 89% of that is approximately 128 million. (Only 11% of that 66% saying that they had “never” gone online for news.)

2. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press in April and May of 2004 put the number at 66%, 1 point higher than July 2003. These numbers come from the 2004 “Pew Research Center Biennial News Consumption Survey,” June 8, 2004, p. 88. The full report is available online at: http://people-press.org/reports/pdf/215.pdf

The Pew Internet & American Life Project in both February and May/June of 2004 reported similar numbers (63% ever having gone online), essentially the same as November 2003 (64%) and June 2003 (62%). These numbers come from the “Usage Over Time” spreadsheet, available online at: http://www.pewinternet.org/trends/UsageOverTime.xls

The Digital Future Report, a survey by the USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future in its study of the effects of the Internet and computer technology on society, found in 2003 that three quarters of Americans aged 12 and older were online (76%), up from 71% in 2002. “Digital Future Report,” September 2004, page 28.

3. It was 68% in March 2004 and 67% in August 2003, compared to 66% in April and May 2004. “Pew Research Center Biennial News Consumption Survey,” June 8, 2004, p.88.

4. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, “Pew Research Center Biennial News Consumption Survey,” June 8, 2004, page 12.
Pew Internet & American Life Project’s “Usage Over Time” spreadsheet, available online at: http://www.pewinternet.org/trends/UsageOverTime.xls.

5. Pew Internet & American Life Project’s “Usage Over Time” spreadsheet, available online at: http://www.pewinternet.org/trends/UsageOverTime.xls.

6. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, “Pew Research Center Biennial News Consumption Survey,” June 8, 2004, pages 12 and 89.

7. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, “Pew Research Center Biennial News Consumption Survey,” June 8, 2004, pages 7. In addition to the number of people who say they go online for news three or more times a week, 27% told the Pew Internet & American Life survey in May and June of 2004 they got news “yesterday.” This figure is available online at: http://www.pewinternet.org/trends/UsageOverTime.xls. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reported slightly less, 24%, going online for news for news the day before,” while 11% said they never get news online, The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, “Pew Research Center Biennial News Consumption Survey,” June 8, 2004, pages 12 and 89.

8. Often this incidental news is broadly defined, but it usually involves reliable information content that updates frequently. Sometimes it will mean partnerships with traditional news providers or subscriptions to traditional news providers. AOL.com’s home page, for instance, has a deliberate and hand-crafted (as opposed to Yahoo’s and MSN’s automated) news headline section. Even corporate home pages now often include news, usually positive about the company. The point is that news and links to news, are everywhere (even if carefully tailored to make someone look good) whether users are navigating directly to news sites or not, and usually from reliable traditional news brands.

9. Forrester Research, Inc. has forecast a steady increase of Internet household penetration, from 67% in 2004 to 74% in 2008. Data obtained by the Project for Excellence in Journalism research staff.

10. One study was conducted by MORI Research for the Newspaper Association of America (“Reaching Influentials & Influencing Purchases Via Newspaper Websites,” January 2004, page 4. The report is available online at: http://www.moriresearch.com/news/download/NAA_report.pdf )
The other, by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, found that broadband users were more likely than all Internet users to have gotten news from a major news organization (three quarters versus 59% of all Internet users) and to have gone to an international news Web site such as the BBC or Al-Jazeera (one quarter versus 18%). See “The internet and democratic debate,” October 27, 2004, page vii. Available online at: http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Political_Info_Report.pdf.

11. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, “Pew Research Center Biennial News Consumption Survey, June 8, 2004, page 96.

12. The USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future found that online users watch about 5 hours less of television a week than non-users. See “The Digital Future Report,” September 2004, page 46. Available online at http://www.digitalcenter.org

13. MORI Research, “Power User 2004: Reaching Influentials & Influencing Purchases Via Newspaper Websites,” January 2004, page 15. Website: http://www.moriresearch.com

14. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows that in 2004 36% of 18-29 year olds go online regularly for news, compared to 36% of 30-49 year olds, 28% of 50-64, and 8% of 65+ years of age. “Regularly” is defined going online for news three or more days per week. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, “Pew Research Center Biennial News Consumption Survey,” June 8, 2004, page 17.

15. Pew Internet & American Life Project’s “Usage Over Time” spreadsheet, available online at: http://www.pewinternet.org/trends/UsageOverTime.xls

16. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, “Pew Research Center Biennial News Consumption Survey,” June 8, 2004. Cross-tabular data obtained by the Project for Excellence in Journalism research staff.

17. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, “Pew Research Center Biennial News Consumption Survey,” June 8, 2004, page 17.

18. A study by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the University of California Annenberg School for Communication, finds that 74% of Latinos who say they go online for news report using English-language sites, compared to just 9% who choose Spanish. “Hispanic Media Survey (Topline-National),” February-March 2004, page 6. Available online at: http://www.pewhispanic.org/site/docs/pdf/PHChispanicmediaNationaltopline2.pdf

19. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, “Pew Research Center Biennial News Consumption Survey,” June 8, 2004, page 17.

20. Ibid.

21. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, “Pew Research Center Biennial News Consumption Survey,” June 8, 2004, page 10.

22. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, “Pew Research Center Biennial News Consumption Survey,” June 8, 2004, page 21. It is important to note, though, that many news sites know exactly where their users are going, so individual data may vary from these overall Pew findings.

23. Pew Internet & American Life Project, “The Internet as a Unique News Source,” July 8, 2004, page 1. Available online at: http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_News_Images_July04.pdf

24. The popularity of the Reuters Raw section was reported by Reuters representatives in person to the research staff at the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

25. What are blogs, and how did they become so popular?” Ask.yahoo.com, November 15, 2002. Available online at: http://ask.yahoo.com/ask/20021115.html

26. Rebecca Blood, “Weblogs: a history and perspective,” www.rebeccablood.net, September 7, 2000. Available online at: http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/weblog_history.html

27. Ezra Klein, “Power Trippi.” Washington Monthly, October 2004, page 46.

28. Pew Internet & American Life Project, “The State of blogging,” January 2005, page 1.

29. Pew Internet & American Life Project, “The State of blogging,” January 2005, page 2.

30. Blogads, “Reader Survey for blog advertising.” Henry Copeland. Published May 21, 2004. Available online at: http://www.blogads.com/survey/blog_reader_survey.html

31. Pew Internet & American Life Project, “The State of blogging,” January 2005, pages 1-2.

32. Andrew Sullivan, “The Blogging Revolution.” Wired.com, May 2002.

33. Paul Andrews, “Bloggers clog up news at convention.” Seattletimes.com, August 16, 2004.

34. The Project for the Excellence in Journalism, “The Debate Effect”, October 27, 2004. Available online at: http://www.journalism.org/resources/research/reports/debateeffect/default.asp

35. http://www.journalism.org/resources/research/reports/debateeffect/default.asp
Joe Strupp, “Blessing or Curse? Editors Examine Blogs’ Role in ’60 Minutes’ Uproar.” Editor&Publisher.com, September 15, 2004.

36. “The Digital Future Report,” September 2004, page 52. Available online at http://www.digitalcenter.org

37. Blogads, “Reader Survey for blog advertising.” Henry Copeland. Published May 21, 2004.

38. The Project for Excellence in Journalism’s director, Tom Rosenstiel, attended the conference, entitled “Blogging, Journalism & Credibility: Battleground and Common Ground.” Conference was held January 21-22 at Harvard University.

39. Gavin O’Malley, “Blog Readership Up in ’04; Advertisers not Sold.” Mediapost.com, January 4, 2005.

40. Blogads, “Reader Survey for blog advertising.” Henry Copeland. Published May 21, 2004.

41. David Postman, “As campaign struggles, backers say Dean’s value lies online.” The Seattle Times, A1, February 14, 2004.

42. Emily Kumler, “Activism Goes Digital.” PCWorld.about.com, April 23, 2004.

43. Julia Malone, “Unrestricted Internet Opens Way for Political Humor.” Cox News Service, May 18, 2004.

44. The figures don’t add up to 100% because respondents were allowed to give up to two answers. In addition, the same study found that majorities of the general public – sometimes overwhelming ones – used the television for their news on Iraq, gay marriage and free trade rather than the Internet. Pew Internet & American Life Project, “The Internet and Democratic Debate,” October 27, 2004, page vi. Available online at: http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/141/report_display.asp

45. Dana Blanton, “Voters Still Evenly Divided.” Foxnews.com, March 25, 2004.

46. Pew Internet & American Life Project, “The Internet and Democratic Debate,” October 27, 2004, page 1. Available online at: http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/141/report_display.asp

47. Mark Glaser, “Best Coverage of the U.S. Elections.” OJR.org, December 11, 2003.

48. “Let The Voter Beware: Sorting Through the Truth and Lies of Campaign Season is Becoming More Difficult.” Columbus Dispatch, November 18, 2004, page 10A.

49. www.factcheck.org website “mission statement.”