Another report from the i3 conference at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen http://www.i3conference2011.org.uk. Kirsty Williamson talked about the research carried out by her and her research partner Asim Qayyum: News Seeking: Young Adults and Everyday Life Information. The research questions included the types of news used, their preferences, what they trusted, which sources they used purposively, and which they used incidentally. Previous research by Savolainen, McQuail ("uses and gratification" theory) and Williamson informed their research.
The sample was 34 students aged 18-15 studying at Charles Sturt University (Australia), 20 being interviewed and 14 being subjects of observation ("thinking aloud" tasks comparing print and online newspapers).Findings included:
Local news was of high interest. Experiences in the past, and potential impact on their own lives, affected current news interests. There was a range of source preferences. The internet was the primary source for only a few (although for a large number it was common to come across news stories whilst browsing), with print newspapers popular, and TV, radio and word of mouth were also used. Therefore it was evident that people were using a mix of sources to get a picture of what was going on. Reasons for a preference for print included convenience, or it was part of the lifestyle (e.g. liking visiting the library), or because it was readily available in the places they relaxed or lived. TV was liked because it enabled news sharing with others.
Social networking tools were mostly used for communication rather than news, and blogs were distrusted, since participants didn't want "just anyone's" opinion. In contrast, major national TV and newspaper online sites were trusted. There seemed to be a good deal of incidental information acquisition (encountering as I would call it, using Erdelez' term)
Finally, for everyday life information, "the majority were more likely to use Google"; some were unaware of newspaper features like job listings, and they might search for things like "what's on" or used cars, rather than thinking of these as things covered by newspapers.
These finding contradict the literature or opinions that sees traditional media having a steeply declining role. The sample was well educated, which may have an influence. The aggregation of news into personal communication seems important.