TV is doing well now as a trusted source, but probably not for much longer

NORC’s 75th Anniversary Study on Americans and Their Information Environment

Posted 10.17.2016 by Ned English

As part of our 75th Anniversary, NORC recently conducted a study of how Americans perceive information availability and the media landscape. (Apparently, “research study” is now on the modern list of anniversary gifts after various gemstones.)

It is clear to anyone that there is more media available now than ever before, and that the media landscape has been changing at an increasingly rapid pace. The results of our study emphasize that intuition is very important as indicated by the information-gathering habits of older versus younger people, habits that happen to be very different. As someone who doesn’t own a television and yet feels completely saturated in information via computers, radio, newspapers, and mobile devices, I was struck by the age distribution in the below graph. 


As shown, television is in considerable trouble as a source of information, with the youngest cohort reporting that they use it at least “often,” but only about half as much as the oldest age cohort. Perhaps more worrying to people like Anderson Cooper, it goes from being the top category in the oldest age cohort to number four in the youngest, behind “word of mouth.” The slope of that graph drops off at a nearly constant amount by age, perhaps indicative of cable “cord cutting” or the perceived convenience of other sources of information. While the use of other traditional media sources such as newspapers and magazines has tended to decrease as age decreases, the trend has flattened, implying that younger people still use them. The television graph above is nearly the inverse of those showing the popularity of search engines and social media, showing how the information space formerly filled by television news is shifting. I am pretty confident that traditional media sources understand this, but the results of our study clearly illustrate the demographic erosion of television news. 

This report gave me quite a bit to think about. How about you? Are you overwhelmed by our information environment? Please leave a comment below to share the tools you use to navigate it.

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About The Author

Ned English

Ned English
Senior Research Methodologist
(312) 759-4010

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