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20 June 2013

Alternative News Sources Are ‘Hot’, Newspapers Are ‘Not’

Keywords: interview, print, teens, North America, consumer behavior, focus groups, media, news consumption, radio, reading, social media, television,

Most teens don’t like traditional daily newspapers or TV news. However, that doesn’t mean that teens are not interested in news at all. A Journal of Communication Inquiry study reports that teens do find news interesting, but that they gather news in alternative ways. Teens prefer parents, teachers, social network sites, and blogs as their news sources. They also appreciate news outlets that bring different opinions or that discuss public affairs satirically.  

Take aways

  • Teens prefer parents, teachers, social network sites (e.g., Facebook, MySpace, Youtube), blogs, and news TV programs that (satirically) discuss public affairs as news sources. 
  • These sources are preferred because they bring diverse opinions, comments, and/or background information. 
  • To get closer to young news consumers, traditional news outlets should therefore experiment with formats that offer different point of views, discussion, and/or humor. 

Study information

  • The question?

    How do teens prefer keeping up with the news?

  • Who?

    61 14- to 19-year olds (26% were African American, 23% Latino, 23% Caucasian, 16% Asian, and 10% were from the Middle East)

  • Where?

    United States

  • How?

    Thirty-eight individual interviews and four focus groups with 61 teenagers were conducted from December 2007 to February 2011. The interviews and focus groups lasted 45 to 60 minutes, and were held at high schools in Boston and Philadelphia. Teens were asked about their news consumption, and preferences for news gathering.

Facts and findings

  • The majority of the teens found it important to keep up with the news. 
  • Preferred ways to gather news were via ‘trusted’ adults (e.g., teachers, parents, older siblings), social network sites (e.g., Facebook, MySpace, YouTube), blogs, and opinionated and/or satirical news TV programs, such as The Daily Show, David Letterman, O’Reilly etc.
  • Teens appreciated these sources, because they bring different opinions, comments, background information, or perspectives in a way that they were able to develop their own opinion. 
  • Teens were interested in certain discussed news topics, they tended to look up additional information online on news sites, such as or 
  • Online news sites were appreciated because teens felt they could select their own news, and click on embedded links to relevant background information (i.e., history of a topic, related issues, or definitions). 
  • Most of the interviewed teens indicated they red print newspapers occasionally (i.e., once a week to once a month), and only 10% of the teens red newspapers daily (mainly because their parents had subscriptions to daily papers). 
  • News obtained via the TV mostly happened accidently, when flipping channels or when viewed by others (e.g., parents, roommates). 
  • Critical note: The researchers only interviewed 61 teenagers, and the conclusions may not hold for all teens.