Comparison of News Media

People receive news from different sources. In this note, we will compare three popular media from which people receive news:- newspapers, radio and television. These media are not equivalent and interchangeable with each other, as they have unique characteristics. Here is a brief summary:

In the Los Medios y Mercados de Latinoamérica 1996 study, we asked people (between the ages of 12 and 64 in 19 Latin American countries) which of the three sources they use regularly to obtain news. For each medium, they can respond either 'Yes' or 'No'. Overall, we find the following:

- 87% of all people watch television news regularly
- 65% of all people read newspapers for news regularly
- 41% of all people listen to radio news regularly

All of these numbers are relatively large, and, mathematically, this implies that there must be substantial overlap among the audiences to these three media. There are 2 x 2 x 2 = 8 combinations. Table 1 contains the relative frequencies:

TABLE 1. Regular Usage of Media for News Information

Read Newspapers Listen to Radio News Watch Television News % Cases
Yes Yes Yes 28%
Yes Yes No 3%
Yes No Yes 32%
Yes No No 3%
No Yes Yes 10%
No Yes No 2%
No No Yes 18%
No No No 6%

(source: Los Medios y Mercados de Latinoamérica 1996)

Only 6% of the people do not use any of these three media, and 3% + 2% + 18% = 23% of the people use only one of the three media. Everybody else is a dual or triple media user.

It gets more interesting when we attempt to characterize these different media usage patterns. In Table 2, we show the relative frequencies within different socio-economic classes.

TABLE 2. Relative Usage of Media for News Information, by Socio-Economic Class

Newspaper Radio Television Level A Level B Level C Level D
Yes Yes Yes 30% 33% 30% 22%
Yes Yes No 1% 1% 2% 4%
Yes No Yes 48% 39% 33% 22%
Yes No No 3% 2% 3% 4%
No Yes Yes 3% 6% 9% 14%
No Yes No 0% 0% 1% 4%
No No Yes 10% 16% 17% 23%
No No No 5% 1% 6% 8%
TOTAL TOTAL TOTAL 100% 100% 100% 100%

(source: Los Medios y Mercados de Latinoamérica 1996)

Table 2 shows clearly that newspaper readership is correlated with socio-economic level. On one hand, both the Newspaper-Radio-Television users and the Newspaper-Television users show increasing penetration by socio-economic level. On the other hand, the Television-only users show decreasing penetration by socio-economic level. The ability to comprehend news in print depend on educational and literacy levels, which are strongly correlated with socio-economic level.

In Table 3, we show the relative frequencies by three age groups.

TABLE 3. Relative Usage of Media for News Information, by Age Group

Newspaper Radio Television Age 12-24 Age 25-49 Age 50-64
Yes Yes Yes 19% 33% 36%
Yes Yes No 2% 3% 1%
Yes No Yes 37% 29% 25%
Yes No No 5% 2% 2%
No Yes Yes 5% 12% 15%
No Yes No 2% 2% 3%
No No Yes 20% 17% 14%
No No No 9% 3% 4%
TOTAL TOTAL TOTAL 100% 100% 100%

(source: Los Medios y Mercados de Latinoamérica 1996)

Among the young (12-24) people, we are more likely to find dual Newspaper-Television users than any other combination. But within the older people (25-49 and 50-64), we are more likely to find people who use all three media than any other combination. This does not mean that young people are not radio listeners. When they are in a situation when only radio is available or appropriate, they may find music (as opposed to news) to be more attractive.

This paper was originally published on the World Wide Web. Clearly, a natural question might be, "How does the Internet as a new medium compare with these traditional media?" Given the existing low level of the Internet in Latin America, it is impossible to properly address this question, since issues of preference and usage are confounded with availability and affordability. Theoretically, we can say that the Internet incorporates characteristics from ALL of the traditional media, such as sight (in the form of pictures and videos, both in real time and on demand), sound (real-time delivery as well as interactive playbacks), and online versions of newspapers and magazines. In addition, it also has some rather unique characteristics, such as possiblity of hyper-linking to a plethora of related sites, thus permitting and encouraging creative exploration, the de-centralization (as opposed to concentration) of information to encourage democratic progress, and so on.

(posted by Roland Soong, June 7, 1997)

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