Daily news lost on Facebook generation

A recent study from Harvard University showed that the majority of teens and young adults on the Internet aren't reading the news, and many of them aren't going to find it on social networks.

Stefanie Olsen Staff writer, CNET News
Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.
Stefanie Olsen
2 min read

At this week's Mashup 2007, a conference on teens and technology, a panel of young entrepreneurs talked about how they use social networks like MySpace and Facebook to communicate and keep up with friends, sometimes for hours a day. But what strikes me as a new member of Facebook is that the news feed on the main page of a profile is comprised of "stories" about friends (e.g., John is newly single), not actual news articles.

So it makes sense that a recent study from Harvard University showed that the majority of teens and young adults on the Internet aren't reading the news. According to a report from the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, only a third of teens said they seek out news on the Internet. The other two-thirds of teens said that they read the news when they happen "to come across it."

In other words, if they're on Facebook and haven't tailored a real news feed, they're likely not going to come across it there.

(The report, called "Young People and News," was based on a national sample survey of 1,800 Americans that included teens ages 12 to 17, young adults ages 18 to 30, and older adults.)

But the findings didn't single out the Internet, even though it is seen as a growing medium for teens and young adults to get news. Overall, almost 60 percent of teens can be called inattentive to the news, broadcast or digital. That compares with 48 percent of young adults and 23 percent of older adults, the study said.

This is particularly interesting:

"Despite their stated preference for Internet-based news, teens and young adults were found to be twice as likely to get daily news from television," according to the report. "Moreover, despite claims that young Americans rely heavily on nontraditional television programs, such as Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, such programs are not a significant source of day-to-day news for the large majority of America's teens and young adults. Most of them rely on the same sources as older Americans--broadcast and cable newscasts."

The reported concluded that "most young people can be expected to continue to do what they have been doing--snatching a bit of news here and there without making it a routine part of their day."