Online News: Users Up, Satisfaction Down

The number of people regularly getting their news online has grown, so has the number of Internet news consumers who say they are using other news sources, such as television, less often, thanks to the Internet, according to research by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

The research found that 18 percent of those who get news online at least once a week say they use other sources less often, up from 11 percent two years ago. The Internet, according to the respondents, is replacing television and newspapers in their lives. Two years ago, there was no difference in the number of Internet users or non-users who got their news from the television — 59 percent of each. Now, 53 percent of Internet users watch television news, while non-users have remained the same at 59 percent. Just 26 percent of of Internet users say they regularly watch a nightly network news broadcast.

The Pew Center’s research that 33 percent of Americans now get their news online, up from just 20 percent two years ago. Sixty-one percent of Internet users go online for news at least once a week, including 27 percent of users who get news online every day. Men are still more likely than women to get news online, but the gap has closed to 57 percent men vs. 43 percent women. More than one-fifth (22 percent) of those who get news online are over 50 years old.

Popular Online News Topics
Weather 66%
Science/health 63%
Technology 59%
Business 53%
World news 45%
Entertainment news 44%
Sports 42%
Political news 39%
Local news 37%
Among online news consumers
Source: Pew Research Center for the
People and the Press

The research also found that consumers who get their news online every day are disproportionately well-educated, younger men: 61 percent of daily Internet news consumers are men, 75 percent are under age 50, and 47 percent have a college education. More than half (52 percent) have family incomes of $50,000 or more.

Despite the popularity of online new, many consumers still cite problems with Internet news outlets. According to a study by cPulse, problems with shallow, stale, disorganized content plague online news delivery. Poor content is cited as the number one reason Web surfers go to another site, the survey found.

“While industry surveys show that online media readership is booming, our survey indicates that consumers are not generally satisfied with the Web news experience,” said Jody Dodson, cPulse executive vice president.

cPulse found that one in every five visitors to a news site leaves unhappy. cPulse analysts also predict that nearly half will not return to a specific site, based on response to its survey. In addition, only 19 percent of site visitors are extremely satisfied with their news site experiences — indicating there is a lot of room for improvement in online newsrooms around the country.

Since the beginning of the year, customer satisfaction with the online news industry has declined 9 percent, according to cPulse. In that same time, satisfaction with general content sites has increased 3 percent and satisfaction with the entire Internet is up 2.4 percent.

What exactly are the gripes of online news consumers? Poor content organization and inability to quickly find an article is the number one reason people to defect to other sites. Defectors find these aspects of their site visits 70 percent less satisfying than the average visitor does. Recommendations from customers polled in the cPulse Web survey include offering more executive summaries, accurate indexing, and better search abilities (e.g., by date and/or keyword).

Shallow coverage is the next leading turnoff among Web news site defectors, who were 54 percent less satisfied than average consumers with depth of reporting. In-depth coverage is absolutely vital in maintaining loyal readers, the survey found.

Consumers are insisting that content remains fresh, round-the-clock and up-to-the-minute. Frustration with stale content has increased 8 percent since the beginning of the year.

The cPulse research resulted from 137,160 interviews with visitors on 123 Web sites between January 1 and July 1, 2000. cPulse uses 60-second interactive interviews administered via pop-up based technology. Web site visitors are interviewed while they are actually on a Web site.

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