Home Blog Uncategorized: The news: How people are getting information is shifting to handheld devices
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September 11, 2015

Helena Independent Record

By AL KNAUBER

 

A survey of adult Montanans this spring found jobs and the economy were their top concerns but how they were keeping informed on this and other news surprised researchers.

The Greater Montana Foundation, founded in 1958 by broadcaster, entrepreneur and philanthropist Ed Craney, funded the study that queried 526 people. The survey has a 4.3 percent margin of error.

The foundation’s trustees award grants to encourage communication on issues of importance, values and trends, said Bill Whitsitt, the foundation’s chairman who presented the results Thursday at a news conference held at the Montana Historical Society building.

“We got to thinking recently that we think we know what the issues, values and trends are that we should be encouraging communication on, but we really don’t have a good idea as to whether we’re on target or not,” Whitsitt said.

This study, he explained, would help news providers and stakeholders know what Montanans care about at least in a snapshot in time.

If done periodically, the study would provide information on what Montanans care about, what news sources they trust and which they are using, he added.

It could also help illuminate what Montanans are seeking online and what the sources are for that information, he said.

A surprise to him was that Internet use in Montana has reached national levels and the role that technology plays in this trend.

The study found 84 percent of Montanans have Internet access at home. Respondents in the state’s seven counties with larger urban cities had 89 percent access while rural counties had 75 percent.

Also of note was that 43 percent of respondents said they accessed news daily either online or with a mobile device. Those accessing news through these venues included 26 percent age 65 or older.

An outcome of the study he would like to see is for news organizations to reflect on the coverage that is given to different types of events.

The survey could also point to opportunities in news coverage, he added.

While jobs and the economy were most important to 32 percent, 18 percent cited education and 12 percent were most concerned with health care.

Moral values were the top concern to 8 percent, the same percentage for those most interested in energy and resource development. The environment, illegal immigration and crime each saw 4 percent of respondents list them as their top concerns.

Three percent of those surveyed said spending and state taxes were their top issue while 1 percent cited race relations.

The educational level among respondents was roughly one third who had college degrees, some college and those with a high school education or less.

Half of the respondents were Republicans, 33 percent Democrats and 17 percent independents. The survey group was equally divided by gender and the largest single age group at 29 percent was those between the ages of 18 and 34. Other age groups ranged between 15 percent and 20 percent. Better than 85 percent of respondents listed their ethnicity as white.

The survey, taken in April and May, queried respondents on where, in the last week, they got their news.

Among the roughly two-thirds of respondents who had a trusted source for news, 14 percent identified Fox News.

Among those who watch nightly news 20 percent tuned in to CBS, 17 percent watched NBC, 11 percent favored ABC and 7 percent relied on PBS.

When local television news was compared to national and cable, 64 percent of viewers watched the local channel while 43 percent favored a network broadcast and 41 percent chose cable news.

Age and gender painted distinct pictures in terms of news audiences.

For example, 53 percent of respondents relied on local or national television stations and 49 percent reported using the Internet.

Television news was most appealing to men and women age 50 and older. These groups also relied on print news.

Internet news was the venue of choice for men and women ages 18-49, according to the survey.

Of those who relied on television news, 62 percent had a high school education or less while those with college educations, 58 percent, favored the Internet.

Print news served 29 percent of those surveyed and 25 percent relied on radio. Conversations with friends, family or colleagues provided news to 17 percent of those who were surveyed.

The local daily newspaper was regularly read by 63 percent of Montanans while weekly, community newspapers, which serve much of rural Montana, are read by 53 percent of Montanans.“It could happen. But what it does tell me that in Montana the traditional sources for news and information are dominant, but they are being consumed through nontraditional means, increasingly consumed through nontraditional means,” he said.A news release accompanying the survey said the Gazette’s website is the most read Montana-based website in the state.“Montana has got to be somewhat related to that trend. But we don’t have trend data. This is the first point and hopefully we’ll be able to measure it more in the future.”People shouldn’t rely on a single finding in social science, he explained.“That shift is moving quickly according to the national data. And this survey is certainly consistent with the notion that it’s moving quickly,” he said.While he said he can’t yet prove this is what’s happening in Montana, he added he would like to research the topic. Online news might be an easier option than providing cable service to remote Montana, Baldridge said.

The use of handheld devices might be a less expensive way for people to gain a limited amount of Internet access, he said, adding that news organizations and foundations might want to take note of this.

Nationwide there is evidence that shows that underserved populations that can get a cellphone contract are using that to have online access, Baldridge said.

But the means people use in obtaining news is changing, Baldridge said.

While the survey results are consistent with a view that people are preferring to use portable devices for their news, Baldridge said he couldn’t say with certainty that this conclusion is accurate.

This survey is one snapshot in time, Baldridge continued and noted that nationally the use of smartphones among adults between 2011 and 2014 rose from 35 percent to 64 percent.

“Montana has got to be somewhat related to that trend. But we don’t have trend data. This is the first point and hopefully we’ll be able to measure it more in the future.”

While the survey results are consistent with a view that people are preferring to use portable devices for their news, Baldridge said he couldn’t say with certainty that this conclusion is accurate.

People shouldn’t rely on a single finding in social science, he explained.

But the means people use in obtaining news is changing, Baldridge said.

“That shift is moving quickly according to the national data. And this survey is certainly consistent with the notion that it’s moving quickly,” he said.

Nationwide there is evidence that shows that underserved populations that can get a cellphone contract are using that to have online access, Baldridge said.

While he said he can’t yet prove this is what’s happening in Montana, he added he would like to research the topic.

The use of handheld devices might be a less expensive way for people to gain a limited amount of Internet access, he said, adding that news organizations and foundations might want to take note of this.

Online news might be an easier option than providing cable service to remote Montana, Baldridge said.

 

 

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