Audiences for science news are shifting rapidly with younger people turning away from traditional news outlets. But the story may be more complex than simple cohort shifts over time.

We argue that shifts in science news consumptions occur across two dimensions. First, we are seeing fewer and fewer respondents who rely on a single, traditional medium, such as newspapers or television, for their science news. Instead, audiences increasingly rely on mixed media diets with multiple news outlets playing equally important informational roles. Second, within mixed media diets, some cohorts rely primarily on a combination of mixed media outlets, while others rely on a combination of online-only sources and traditional news media. In fact, our findings suggest that online-only sources, such as blogs and online-only news outlets, are increasingly important for younger individuals and for males.

In particular, our analyses rely on two representative surveys of the U.S. population (conducted in 2007 and 2010). We examine science news consumption gaps across different age groups and by gender. Operationalizations of traditional mixed media use comprise those individuals who rely on either the offline or online version of multiple traditional news products. Online mixed media use measures reliance on online-only sources - such as blogs - in addition to traditional media sources.

Our data show that the majority of traditional mixed media users are people older than 55, and a majority of online mixed media users are young people between the ages of 18 and 34. At first glance, single-media news users follow similar patterns as audiences for traditional and online mixed media. The majority of television and newspaper readers are older, while Internet users are mostly younger. The gap between older and younger groups is more pronounced among online-only media use than for those who have a mixed media diet that includes online-only sources.

Our study also shows significant differences across gender groups. In particular, our data find that significantly more males than females use Internet-based media, both in single-media diets, and mixed-media diets. For all other media, the male-female ratio is much more balanced. Our paper will explore the origins of these gender gaps and their impacts on science attitudes in greater detail. We will also explore how any potential disparities have become more or less pronounced between 2007 and 2010.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Audience tectonics
Implications of changing news environments for public understanding of science

Dominique Brossard   University of Wisconsin-Madison

Leona Su   University of Wisconsin-Madison

Ashley Anderson   University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dietram Scheufele   University of Wisconsin-Madison

Audiences for science news are shifting rapidly with younger people turning away from traditional news outlets. But the story may be more complex than simple cohort shifts over time.

We argue that shifts in science news consumptions occur across two dimensions. First, we are seeing fewer and fewer respondents who rely on a single, traditional medium, such as newspapers or television, for their science news. Instead, audiences increasingly rely on mixed media diets with multiple news outlets playing equally important informational roles. Second, within mixed media diets, some cohorts rely primarily on a combination of mixed media outlets, while others rely on a combination of online-only sources and traditional news media. In fact, our findings suggest that online-only sources, such as blogs and online-only news outlets, are increasingly important for younger individuals and for males.

In particular, our analyses rely on two representative surveys of the U.S. population (conducted in 2007 and 2010). We examine science news consumption gaps across different age groups and by gender. Operationalizations of traditional mixed media use comprise those individuals who rely on either the offline or online version of multiple traditional news products. Online mixed media use measures reliance on online-only sources - such as blogs - in addition to traditional media sources.

Our data show that the majority of traditional mixed media users are people older than 55, and a majority of online mixed media users are young people between the ages of 18 and 34. At first glance, single-media news users follow similar patterns as audiences for traditional and online mixed media. The majority of television and newspaper readers are older, while Internet users are mostly younger. The gap between older and younger groups is more pronounced among online-only media use than for those who have a mixed media diet that includes online-only sources.

Our study also shows significant differences across gender groups. In particular, our data find that significantly more males than females use Internet-based media, both in single-media diets, and mixed-media diets. For all other media, the male-female ratio is much more balanced. Our paper will explore the origins of these gender gaps and their impacts on science attitudes in greater detail. We will also explore how any potential disparities have become more or less pronounced between 2007 and 2010.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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