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Pew Study On Understanding The Participatory News Consumer

According to a recently released Pew Internet and American Life Project study, "six in ten Americans (59%) get news from a combination of online and offline sources on a typical day, and the Internet is now the third most popular news platform, behind local television news and national television news."  This trend remains consistent with what we've found in our research in that the majority (70%) of NPR News station listeners obtains the latest news/current events via the Internet. (Source: MRI Fall 2009)

The research defined the new multi-platform media environment as portable, personalized and participatory.  We've certainly seen evidence of this at NPR.


The Pew study showed that 33% of cell phone owners now access news on their cell phones.  Data from research provider MRI shows that NPR station listeners own mobile devices that have web/Internet access (33%), e-mail (28%), and receive text message alerts (12%).  Further, nine percent of listeners have used their mobile device to visit a website for news. 

The study also mentioned that 18% of all mobile users use a news application to retrieve news content.  In July 2009, NPR released the NPR News iPhone App — now one of the top 5 free news apps available in the iTunes store — in order to capture these news-thirsty app users.  The app features NPR and station audio and content, and reaches more than 500,000 visitors a month.  (Source: Omniture, March 2010)


The Pew study highlighted that Internet users also like to customize their home page to include news from sources and on topics that particularly interest them.  "Some 37% of internet users have contributed to the creation of news, commentary about it, or dissemination of news via social media."

Listeners are keen on the use of social media for news dissemination, as well:

*NPR has more than 730,000 fans on Facebook

*NPR has more than 3,350 subscribers on YouTube, with more than 66,500 channel views

*NPR's most popular twitter account is @nprpolitics with more than 1.8 million followers

(Source: Based on counts publicly available on mentioned sites as of March 31, 2010).


The study further showed that, "some 72% of American news consumers say they follow the news because they enjoy talking with others about what is happening in the world."

Similarly, in the past month, 63% of listeners have discussed an NPR story with friends, family or colleagues; of these, three in five discuss what they hear with others at least once a week. (Source: NPR Impact Study conducted by Lightspeed Research, July 2009)

Meredith Heard is the Data Analyst for Corporate Sponsorship and Development in NPR's Audience Insight & Research group.