Pew Study: Local TV Remains Most Popular Local Info Source

Newspapers Tops for Wider View on Broader Range of Topics; Internet Increasingly Part of Mix

A new study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project leads off with a not-so-new finding: "[L]ocal TV news remains the most popular source for local information in America."

According to the study, its popularity stems from three major categories: weather, breaking news and traffic.

There is good news for newspapers as well, which were cited as the top source for a wider range of news than any other.

But it is an Internet project, and Pew found that for Web surfers among those ages 18 to 39, the Internet is a top source of news on most of the local subjects it asked about in the survey, including education, local businesses and restaurants.

The survey was based on telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from Jan. 12-25, 2011, among a sample of 2,251 adults 18-plus.

Pew found that most people use a blend of new and traditional media for their information on local communities, what it tabs a "richer and more nuanced ecosystem of community news and information than researchers have previously identified." The survey found that the majority (64%) of adults use at least three different types of media each week for info about their local community, and 15% rely on at least six different kinds.

But the richest vein of local news, at last for the most popular subjects, remains TV stations. "The survey echoes longstanding research that more Americans report watching local TV news than any other source." It also found that rural residents, and those in small cities and towns, are particularly likely to get their news from TV stations or newspapers.

But Pew also stressed that does not mean that most of viewers' community news comes from TV.

"[L]ocal TV draws a mass audience largely around a few popular subjects; local newspapers attract a smaller cohort of citizens but for a wider range of civically oriented subjects." 

The study finding arguably suggests a potential synergy between TV stations and newspapers that broadcasters have argued in seeking an end to the ban on newspaper-broadcast cross-ownerships.

It also pointed to the finding that younger people rely less on TV news as suggesting "more vulnerability for the medium in the future."