Getting the news: technology changes habits.

Author:Baldridge, John

Montanans highly value their news and are increasingly using mobile devices to access news over the Internet. Among younger Montanans, ages 18 to 34, 58 percent reported obtaining news online or by mobile device every day. And young people aren't the only ones who are tech-sawy news consumers. Montanans in every age group--including 65 and older--are reading the latest news stories on phones, tablets, and computers. But they also rely on traditional news content producers like television stations, and they actively seek local news.

In a world with a growing wealth of Internet-based news and information, some vital questions were recently addressed by first-of-its-kind, Montana-based survey research conducted by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research for the Greater Montana Foundation, an organization that encourages communication, with emphasis on electronic media, on important issues facing Montana. The questions addressed were:

* What do Montanans believe are the most important issues facing our state?

* Where do Montanans prefer to get trusted information on these issues?

The findings of the survey are especially important since they come at a time of revolutionary changes in media technology, in addition to the growth in Internet use worldwide and in Montana. Such changes mean that there will undoubtedly be new media business models in the future, so the preferences of Montana's information consumers are key. In addition, from the perspective of citizen engagement, the wealth of today's information raises questions about which sources of information, both within and outside Montana, are or should be trusted.

The survey results demonstrate that Montanans appear to be discerning. They have trusted media sources. In addition, traditional news sources are critical to Montanans' ability to receive information on key issues, led by television. And despite the growing use of the Internet as a news conduit, for now it appears that traditional sources hold their own and are well- trusted by Montanans.

This article describes the survey's findings about the issues that were most important to Montanans, their current preferences for and sources of news and information, and the role of the Internet in providing Montanans with news and information.

Jobs and the Economy, Education, and Health Care are Most Important to Montanans

Jobs and the economy was cited most often (32 percent) by adult Montanans as the most important issue facing the state. The next most commonly mentioned issue was education, cited by 18 percent as the most important issue facing the state. Other issues rated most important by Montanans included health care (12 percent), moral values (8 percent), energy and resource development (7 percent), and the environment (5 percent).

Q Which one of the following issues is currently the most important issue facing the state? Jobs and the Economy 32% Education 18% Health Care 12% Moral Values 8% Energy & Resource Development 7% The Environment 5% Illegal Immigration 4% Crime 4% Spending & State Taxes 3% Race Relations 1% Note: Table made from bar graph. These survey results are particularly important because they offer Montana's news organizations an assessment of which topics news consumers find most important. These findings provide an opportunity for Montanas news organizations to tailor their coverage to Montanans' preferences, thus remaining competitive and relevant in today's rapidly changing news and information market. As this survey demonstrates, many of the most rapid changes in this market are occurring in the methods Montanans use to consume news and information.

Montanans Access Traditional News Sources in Old and New Ways

Most Montanans reported turning to television or the Internet to get news. When asked where they got their news and information over...

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