October 6, 2016

Younger adults more likely than their elders to prefer reading news

When it comes to technology’s influence on America’s young adults, reading is not dead – at least not the news. When asked whether one prefers to read, watch or listen to their news, younger adults are far more likely than older ones to opt for text, and most of that reading takes place on the web.

Overall, more Americans prefer to watch their news (46%) than to read it (35%) or listen to it (17%), a Pew Research Center survey found earlier this year. But that varies dramatically by age. Those ages 50 and older are far more likely to prefer watching news over any other method: About half (52%) of 50- to 64-year-olds and 58% of those 65 and older would rather watch the news, while roughly three-in-ten (29% and 27%, respectively) prefer to read it. Among those under 50, on the other hand, roughly equal portions – about four-in-ten of those ages 18-29 and ages 30-49 – opt to read their news as opt to watch it. 

Most of that reading among younger adults is through digital text rather than print. About eight-in-ten (81%) of 18- to 29-year-olds who prefer to read their news also prefer to get their news online; just 10% choose a print newspaper. The breakdown among 30- to 49-year-olds is similar. News readers who are ages 50-64, on the other hand, are more evenly split between a preference for the web (41%) and print paper (40%), while those 65 and older mostly still turn to the print paper (63%).

There is also evidence that younger adults who prefer to watch their news are beginning to make the transition to doing so on a computer rather than a television. While 57% of 18- to 29-year-old news watchers prefer to get their news via TV, 37% cite the web as their platform of choice. That is far more than any other age group, including double the percentage of 30- to 49-year-old news watchers.

While news listening garners a smaller fan base overall, 18- to 29-year-olds who prefer this method of news again show signs of digital migration: Three-in-ten of these news listeners prefer the web for their news, at least twice that of older news listeners.

To be sure, younger adults consistently demonstrate less interest in the news overall. But our research also reveals that, in the digital realm, they often get news at equal or higher rates than older Americans, whether intentionally or not.

Topics: Audio and Radio, Digital Media, E-reading, Generations and Age, Internet Activities, News Audience Trends and Attitudes, News Sources, Newspapers, Online Video, Technology Adoption

  1. Photo of Amy Mitchell

    is director of journalism research at Pew Research Center.

11 Comments

  1. Joe Daney2 months ago

    They must be counting flipping through stories in snap chat as reading.

  2. Anonymous2 months ago

    Older Americans might opt to watch news because it is hard to see printed news just a thought… also that is how they grew up w/ TV being the big thing. I do both reading and watching mostly online. When a claim is made in print I like to have video from the horses mouth since I really do not trust mainstream media.

  3. Anonymous2 months ago

    The flaw here is the definition of “news.” When I do informal focus groups or one-on-ones with Millenials, they often say they get their “news” from places like Buzzfeed. After prying deeper, we learn that their definition of “news” is more like what we call “entertainment.” Mindless listicles and click-bait they don’t really inform them of anything important – more like “mind-candy.” This needs a deeper dive.

  4. Ralph Smith2 months ago

    Not buying this for a minute. Most young people have no interest in current news/events. Too busy tweeting and twerking.

    1. Anonymous2 months ago

      Cool thanks for the update on what all young people are doing. I vastly prefer reading news to watching it on tv or website. I find it annoying when I click into an article from facebook and its presented as a video personally.

    2. Tanner P2 months ago

      I managed to stop tweaking and twerping just long enough to read the article and comments and thought I could opine here to provide some clarity.

      A sentence towards the end of the article suggests the ‘digital realm’ as a source of news for young adults. While I may be past my digital prime, having recently become a 30 something, I’m aware of a great deal of coverage of current events present on ifunny and many of the other image and short video posting channels. Memes are commonly directed at current events and trends in the world and this has lead to, in some cases, a mastery of maximizing a message with minimal text and media. While such communication lacks the thorough documentation and factual support to be credible on its own (not unlike most print news articles, anyway!), they often function as a sort of headline, leading the viewer to visit other sources for fact checking if they so desire.

      Rest assured, curiosity is not dead.

  5. Frank Carroll2 months ago

    Hi,
    What was the margin of error in your survey?

    Regards,
    Frank Carroll
    Journalism Instructor
    College of the North Atlantic
    St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada

    1. David Kent2 months ago

      Thanks for your interest. The margin of sampling error for the full sample of 4,654 respondents is plus or minus 2.4 percentage points. A detailed explanation of the survey’s methodology is available here: journalism.org/2016/07/07/the-mo… .

  6. Anonymous2 months ago

    that is really helpfull thank you so much!

  7. Anonymous2 months ago

    How is “news” defined in this study? “News” as ‘click-bait’ is rarely “news” in the sense of reports upholding meaningful journalistic standards.

  8. Mike Yorke2 months ago

    That young age group preferring to read is a real surprise.
    And from my 74 year point of view – made my day. Attawhatevers all around !