Digital Natives Prefer Digital News Over Print

Naomi Baron would have you believe that digital natives prefer reading in print, but a recent survey of college students adds a huge caveat to that claim.

The University of Florida recently posted the results of a survey of 18-24 year-olds. The survey asked readers of the site Elite Daily to identify their preferred news sources, and the respondents overwhelmingly chose digital over print.

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The leading news source was online only news sites (34.5%), followed by websites for  traditional news publications (21.8%), Facebook and Twitter links (14% and 9.9%),  and broadcast TV (4.5%).

Print media came in a distant 6th place, with 3.1% of respondents listing it as their primary news source.

So does this mean Baron is wrong?

I'd like to say she is, but the answer is murky. For one thing, this survey is less than scientific, but more importantly a later section of the survey asked whether the respondents felt they were well informed by their primary news source:

The small group that cited print newspapers as their primary news source felt most informed (67 percent). About 56 percent of those whose primary news sources are traditional media Web sites felt very informed followed by online-only (40 percent), search (33 percent), links from Twitter (32.5 percent), broadcast TV (32 percent), all-news cable channels (29 percent), links from Facebook (24 percent) and other social networks (15 percent). About 35 percent of those who cited “other” sources felt very informed.

While the survey argues against Baron's argument that digital natives prefer to read on paper, it does lend support for some of the anecdotal reports about why some are sticking with dead tree pulp.

Those that stick with paper feel better informed when they read physical media. "Even though the overwhelming majority of young adults are turning to digital sources for news, there is still a perception by some that they are better informed through traditional media,"  said Diane McFarlin, dean of the UF College of Journalism and Communications. 

That doesn't necessarily mean that they are better informed (answering this would require a different survey), just that they feel that way.

image by Skakerman

About Nate Hoffelder (11594 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

4 Comments on Digital Natives Prefer Digital News Over Print

  1. Every other survey I have seen about college students asked about digital versus print textbooks. They mostly liked print textbooks better. But I can see where they could prefer one format for class work/studying and a different one for reading news and even entertainment. Why not?

    • As a rule, I ignore surveys on college textbook preferences. The single overriding factor in why students choose paper over digital is that the students need to resell the textbooks, and most surveys miss this point.

      The pocketbook rules that market, not preferences.

  2. Naomi found this drum and has been beating it anywhere she can for a few years now. The fundimental “research” is aging and doesn’t contain numbers that really bear out her conclusions.

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