Just like they do with food and beverages, people consume information, as well. Especially in this interconnected world, it seems that one couldn’t survive without being informed. We want faster access to information and we want it for free. The rise of the online environment has been so powerful that it has attracted even TV viewers. We no longer pick our stories from physical newspapers or TV channels, but social media and online outlets. Some of us have become so addicted to their digital lives that they wake up and go to bed with their devices in their hands.

How we Consume Online Information

An interesting report from the reputed Reuters Institute tries to shed some light on how digital news consumption has evolved and where do we stand right now. Reuters’ study has been conducted across 5 countries: US, UK, Germany, France, Denmark and one of its main findings was that people use social media more and more to find news or, they become informed via social media channels. This seems to be a direct threats towards the invincible hegemony of Google and search engines, overall.


During an interview that I had with Robert Scoble at The Next Web Conference, he was saying that Facebook could make their own search engine. Looking at this report’s numbers, I realize that Facebook doesn’t need to do that, as people already use Facebook to become informed! It’s a way to connect directly to interesting news, stories, reports from other websites, without relying anymore on Google, but rather on suggestions coming from your friends and acquaintances. Let’s not call it news search but social discovery.

Personalized news

It’s natural that people are more likely to click on a link suggested by a friend, because they trust that person and the information he provides. Somehow, Google has tried to do the same thing, albeit a little more agressive, with their Search Plus Your World thingy.  To further enhance the evolution of its search engine, Google also wants to make the web more semantic, with such tools as Google Knowledge Graph.

Therefore, we can’t really blame Google for personalized search or for the online filter bubble (which I talked about in my interview with Alexis Ohanian, Reddit’s co-founder). It’s something naturally happening and this fresh report shows that the consumers are actively creating the need for personalized information.

The digital environment has not yet won the battle against physical press, and one of the reasons remains the fact that many from older generations still believe in the pleasure of physical reading. Reuters’ report informs us that more than 40% of the young people that were included in the survey discover their news through social circles. Therefore, in a few years from now, digital consumption is bound to increase, being propelled by the younger audience.

Smartphones and tablets: content in your palm

The role of mobile computing hasn’t been forgotten in this report and it shows how influential and integrated in our lives have become smartphones and tablets. In Denmark, one third of Internet users access news using their smartphones; in US and UK, their number is slightly over a quarter.

What’s interesting is that those questioned in this report stated that they are more likely to pay for news content on their tablets and even suggested that the reading and interaction experience was better than the one on PC. Is this a sign that technology becomes more and more intimate?

In the UK sample of this report, 53% have claimed that they already use a smartphone and 10% of those that don’t use one, are planning to buy one. The mobile access to information represents roughly 20%, judging by the surveyed people. That’s still a small number when comparing to the use of the PC, but it’s bound to increase a lot more. There are plenty of reasons to buy a tablet, as well. The fact that tablet owners are more likely to pay for news is a good sign for publishers, too. This will make them focus easier on providing a rich online content in the form of reading apps or magazines (those for the iPad are quite popular).

Will you pay for news?

Online readers are still reluctant towards the idea of paying for what they read, probably because many of us associate the idea of online, Internet with FREE, with something that you can easily grab somewhere else without paying a dime. But once there will be more mobile devices and more paywalls will appear, there will simply be no choice. And publishers will be smart enough to offer access to their content for a much lower price than a printed version. At least, it will save some trees…

Social media’s growing role in digital news

Social media. Without any doubt, social media represents the latest evolution of the online environment. A very important moment in the digital economy has been represented by the Facebook IPO. Good or bad – or whatever you think the start of their listing was – Facebook’s shares still stand and they seem to have hit a calm point.

The incredible importance given to social media these days can be viewed on the majority of websites – everywhere you see social sharing buttons and on many websites, you don’t even have to create an account, as you can log in with your social profile.

That has contributed for the creation of a friendly environment for publishers and websites to create their own reading apps, and we refer here only to the big players in the industry. They spread their news across users in what is referred to as frictionless sharingTwitter’s role is also vital in how people spread and access news. We’ve seen that in action during the Arab spring. The ongoing innovation has brought us to the point where we can actively become a part of the world and even change it.

News – a two-way process

News have become a two-way process, and we’re seeing examples of that each and every day. People can record happenings on their mobile phone, after that they can easily share them with the world, thus bringing raw data in front of our eyes. Others can participate in online polls, create blogs, comment on news stories, thus making an impact on the world. We no longer consume the information, but we actively participate on creating and modelling it. Almost 6 of 10 young people used the online environment to express a political opinion. Looking at these stats, it makes sense then why there is such a debate about privacy.

Interesting stats

  • 9 in 10 Germans access the news at least once a day
  • Traditional news brands remain the primary source of information
  • People read more news at home
  • USA readers are more interested in domestic political news
  • 44% of UK polled signed an online petition
  • News reading experience is more pleasant on tablets
  • 55% of readers only glance at news headlines
  • News apps become more popular
  • Facebook, email and Twitter – the most important online channels
  • USA online readers are the most involved
[photo credits] - http://www.flickr.com/photos/doug88888/

 
Managing Editor

is the Managing Editor of Technically Personal. When he has some extra-time, he writes about Windows 8 apps and reviews them on Wind8Apps. Believes that technology is the main engine of civilization. Send him a tweet or make him your Facebook friend