home 2019, Communication Profiles of News Consumption (2019)

Profiles of News Consumption (2019)

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Recommended and timely reading from the Rand Corporation: Profiles of News Consumption: Platform Choices, Perceptions of Reliability, and Partisanship by Michael Pollard (@MichaelSPollard) and Jennifer Kavanagh (@jekavanagh). HT Susan Scheiberg

Hashtag: #TruthDecay

Key Links
Fighting Disinformation Online – Rand

Research Questions

  • How do Americans currently get their news?
  • How are news consumption choices linked to demographic or political characteristics?
  • Do news consumers believe the reliability of news has changed, and which news platforms do they believe to be more or less reliable?
  • How is the perceived reliability of news associated with news consumption choices?
  • How does political partisanship shape news consumption behavior?

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Excerpt: Perceptions of Media Reliability
We considered perceptions of media reliability and trust in the media. Our analysis confirms that many people are skeptical of the reliability of news overall, but it also shows that a small minority (particularly black and Hispanic individuals and those without a college degree) think that reliability is increasing. This underscores the importance of considering disaggregated data when studying media consumption and trust in the media. Attitudes about reliability also vary across different types of news platforms, with broadcast and cable news being considered the most-reliable sources, as previously discussed.

Our analysis also shows that attitudes toward the media are linked to consumption. For most users, reliability matters. News consumers tend to rely most heavily on the sources that they perceive as most reliable—though there are some exceptions, such as those who rely on other people and social media for news; some married people; and, unexpectedly, those who report believing that news is less reliable now than in the past. Skepticism about the reliability of the news does not necessarily increase an individual’s likelihood of turning to news platforms they deem to be most reliable—in fact, we see the opposite.

That said, for all consumers, choices about media consumption are likely linked to individual characteristics, preferences, and behaviors. As a result, attempts to alter or improve relationships between media outlets and consumers are likely to require attention not just to the supply side of the information ecosystem (how media institutions operate and function) but also to the demand side and the ways in which people access news. Future work that explores news consumption in this more holistic way will be important as the informational ecosystem grows increasingly diverse and increasingly complex.

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