News consumption revisited examining the power of habits in the 21 st century
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News Consumption Revisited: Examining the Power of Habits in the 21 st Century. 11 th International Symposium on Online Journalism April 24th, 2010 // Austin, TX. Angela M. Lee Ph.D. Candidate Annenberg School for Communication

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News consumption revisited examining the power of habits in the 21 st century l.jpg
News Consumption Revisited: Examining the Power of Habits in the 21st Century

11th International Symposium on Online Journalism

April 24th, 2010 // Austin, TX

Angela M. Lee

Ph.D. Candidate

Annenberg School for Communication

University of Pennsylvania

[email protected]

Michael X. Delli Carpini


Annenberg School for Communication

University of Pennsylvania

[email protected]

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The New Era: Journalism In Transition

  • Optimism among 1st wave of online journalism studies: Internet liberates news information.

    • “A revolution”; “future of journalism”; “a whole new journalism”

  • Q: How does the Internet make a difference in online news consumption?

    • Democratize news information?

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Online News: Old Wine in New Bottle?

  • Dominance of tradition news entities online

    • Supply most news content;

    • “Shovelware” of content;

    • Have most traffic.

  • Hindman (2008): “Accessibility does not equate visibility”

    • In theory: Internet allows all voices to be heard

    • In practice: Only those with megaphones are heard (i.e., Yahoo, MSNBC, CNN)

    • “Myth of digital democracy”

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(New) Theory of Media Attendance

  • Def.: People lapse into habitual patterns of media consumption when supply > demand.

  • Habits = “gratifications” in U&G, but rarely examined in Communication research

  • Habits: An activity that is routinely performed, and often developed early on in one’s life.

    • Primacy

    • Frequency

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Habits & Digital Divides

  • Contemporary Americans have grown up in three different news media and technological environments:

    • Digital Natives (18-29): Print’s less central, TV&Radio news are still influential but declining. Grew up with Internet.

    • Digital Immigrants (30-64): TV&Radio news dominated, though print was still important. Adopted the Internet later in life.

    • Digital Settlers (65+): Print dominated, TV&Radio news on the rise. Grew up in analog-only environments

Source: Palfrey & Grasser, 2008

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Data & Method

  • Biennial Media Consumption Survey 2008 (BMCS) by the Pew Research Center for the People & The Press

    • N=3600 nationally representative sample of adults

    • Survey administered from April 29-May 21, 2008

  • Logistic Regression Analysis

    • SPSS 17.

    • Chi-squares, Gamma and OLS also performed, and all findings yield the same conclusion as that of Logistic Regression Analysis

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H1a-d & H2a-d

  • In traditional media landscape…

    • H1a: Settlers’ (65+) primary & most frequented news medium = Print

    • H1b-c: Immigrants’ (30-64) primary & most frequented news medium = TV/Radio

    • H1d: Natives’ (18-29) primary & most frequented news medium = Internet

  • As would be expected, all hypotheses are supported, except for TV news use.

    • Q: TV?

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Post-Hoc Analysis of TV Usage (freq.)

N= 271

Broadcast: ABC, NBC, CBS


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H3a-d (Migration of Offline Habits Online)

  • Specific websites that one turns to online will be influenced by one’s offline consumption habits

    • H3a: Settlers (65+): Primarily visit print newspaper sites

    • H3b,c: Immigrants (30-64): Primarily visit TV/radio sites

    • H3d: Natives (18-29): Primarily visit non-traditional news sites

      • i.e., Drudge, Digg, Slate, Topix, Blackamericaweb, Charter,

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  • Being natural inhabitants of the Internet, Natives (18-29) will visit a greater variety of news websites than Immigrants orSettlers.

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H3a-d Findings

*See paper for logistic regression analyses*

N= 485

Newspaper:  TV: Half Radio:  Untraditional: 

Note: CNN, MSNBC and Fox = 70% of TV news sites

Q: Untraditional: Weird pattern? 6% total Settlers; Small N

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Post-Hoc: “YI” (30-47) look more like Natives; “SI” (48-64) look more like Settlers.

N= 485

Q: Convergence of online news uses among younger population?

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H3e Findings (Supported)

  • Significantly more natives (29%) reported a greater variety of news sources than immigrants (27%) or settlers (11%). Also:

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  • Suitability of data

  • Exploratory in nature

  • Possibility of alternative explanations


  • Emergence of interesting patterns

  • Suggestive role of habits both offline and online

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  • Habits dictate traditional news medium choices

  • Habitual offline news uses influence online news uses

  • Even if there is accessibility and visibility, as long as news consumers don’t have the habit of seeking alternative sources, “digital democracy” is merited only in theory but not practice

  • Possible maturation of habitual news uses over time

  • Younger population (18-47) is converging in their online news use patterns

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Future of (Online) Journalism?

  • “We can only change what we understand” (G.S. Adam, 1993)

  • We need to understand why and how people consume news across media

    • Angela’s forthcoming dissertation: Examining news consumption via Uses & Gratifications + Integrative Model of Behavior Change

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Photo by: Angela M. Lee

Thank you for your time and attention

Angela M. Lee

[email protected]

Michael X. Delli Carpini

[email protected]