News consumption is finally growing again, according to a new study, thanks to growing internet use. Sadly for the beleaguered makers of news, many Americans have simultaneously redefined "news" to include friends' status updates and Justin Bieber tweets.
The Pew Research Center's study on growing news consumption seemed like a ray of hope for the troubled journalism business; headlined "Americans Spending More Time Following the News," it quickly racked up mentions in the self-obsessed press, shooting it to the top spot on media reporting aggregator Mediagazer. While the ranks of newspaper readers continues to plummet, the survey found, "44% of Americans say they got news through one or more internet or mobile digital source yesterday," a new high.
Trouble is, it's hard to argue that traditional media are driving that growth. The number one news source was Yahoo, which does lots of aggregation alongside some traditional reporting. Number two was good old CNN, but then at number three was Google, which does no original reporting at all.
And one in five people reports regularly or sometimes getting news from social networks like Facebook — where users have a, well let's just say "flexible" and wide-ranging definition of "news."
Some friends stopped by our house with their younger teenage cousin. As I started making coffee for our guests, she asked if she could use my laptop to "check the news." I handed it over.
I was curious which news sites she was going to, so I asked, expecting to hear something like CNN or The New York Times, or maybe TMZ, the Hollywood gossip site. She looked up at me and said, "Facebook." Then she turned back to the computer and continued reading.
"I thought you were going to read the news," I said. "This is my news," she replied. To many in her age group, news is not defined by newspapers, or broadcast television stations, or even bloggers or renegades. Instead, news is what is relevant to the individual - in her case, what Facebook calls its "news feed."
That's right: In the future, even TMZ won't be pandering enough to supplant Facebook, Twitter and Google as America's dominant front pages. The inevitable Justin Bieber Post, however, might be OK.