Social, mobile media increase news role for mainstream

Pew’s latest large-scale survey analysis on news consumption confirms the trend towards digital. Social media and mobile are the new kids on the block, and both are¬†catching on among the mainstream. Well, sort of. I’d echo this interpretation: Twitter is not a source of news for mainstream consumers.

Pew does really good, solid consumer surveys. If you’re in the news business, the report is a must-read. I’m a believer in consumer survey-based research, but I’ll offer my usual caveats. Consumer surveys are better for detecting attitudes than closely monitoring actual behavior. Digital behavior is highly measurable by other means, and comparisons of meter-based metrics versus survey-based ones will show things like actual TV usage surpassing online time. Self-reported data is a good barometer of consumer interest — people report what they think they’re doing, and what is catching their attention. But comScore and Nielsen et al. will do better at the actual consumption figures.

One more caveat. Some behavior is age-based, and some is truly generational. By that, I mean that for every generation, teens and young adults age into many adult patterns. When you have a job and a family, you don’t have time for all-night sessions of World of Warcraft. On the other hand, Millennials growing up with ubiquitous access and social media probably will continue to use them at the expense of traditional media. Low news consumption by 18-24 year olds is age-based; social news is likely generational.