The ease with which we can access a large amount of information thanks to smartphones and tablets is causing people to stay more abreast of current events.
A mounting body of evidence finds that the spread of mobile technology is adding to news consumption in the United States.
Its effects, however, are mixed. While it enhances the appeal of traditional news brands, and even boosts the reading of long-form journalism, it also shows that technology companies are strengthening their control.
These are the key findings in the 2012 report, State of the news media, by the Pew research centre’s project for excellence in journalism.
It is a comprehensive analysis of the health of journalism in America and also includes special reports on the impact of mobile technology and social media on news.
The reports find that rather than replacing media consumption on digital devices, people who go mobile are getting news on all their devices.
They also appear to be getting it more often, and reading for longer periods of time.
For example, 34% of desktop/laptop news consumers now also get news on a smartphone. About a quarter, 27%, of smartphone news consumers also get news on a tablet.
These digital news omnivores are also a large percentage of the smart phone/tablet population. And most of those individuals (78%) still get news on the desktop or laptop as well.
A PEJ survey of more than 3,000 adults discovered that the reputation, or brand, of a news organisation is the most important factor in determining where consumers go for news, and that is even truer on mobile devices than on laptops or desktops.
Indeed, despite the explosion in social media use through the likes of Facebook and Twitter, recommendations from friends are not yet a major factor in steering news consumption.
At the same time, a more fundamental challenge that we identified in last year’s state-of-the-media report has intensified — the extent to which technology intermediaries now control the future of news.
Two trends in the last year overlap and reinforce the sense that the gap between the news and technology industries is widening.
First, the explosion of new mobile platforms and social media channels represents another layer of technology with which news organisations must keep pace.
Second, in the last year a small number of technology giants began rapidly moving to consolidate their power by becoming makers of “everything” in our digital lives.
Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and a few others are manoeuvering to make the hardware people use, the operating systems that run those devices, the browsers on which people navigate, the email services on which they communicate, the social networks on which they share and the web platforms on which they shop and play.
And all of this will provide these companies with detailed personal data about each consumer.