News From Far Away Fares Better on the Internet

American adults feel better informed about national and international news thanks to the Internet. Local news? Not so much.


A large majority of Americans feel better informed thanks to the Internet, according to the latest study from the Pew Research Center. Eighty-seven percent of online adults reported that the Internet and smartphones helped them learn new things. The survey was conducted in September, with over 1,000 adult respondents.

While much has been written about information overload in the digital age, 72 percent said they liked having so much information, and only 26 percent reported feeling overwhelmed by it. Respondents said that the Internet was most useful in terms of learning information about buying products and services (81 percent) as well as learning national and international news (75 percent and 74 percent, respectively). However, information of a local nature benefited the least from new technologies, with local news, family, local civic duties and neighborhood information coming in at the bottom:


Indeed, local news has struggled in the Internet age — the most high-profile example being AOL’s failed Patch experiment. The Internet company poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the project, only to result in hundreds of layoffs and shutting down hundreds of sites. News from far away fares better on the Web, it seems.

Those with higher levels of income and education are more likely to report that the Internet helps them learn. Younger people are also more likely to to perceive the Internet as helping them learn new things “a lot.” Despite this, they perceive digital technologies as less helpful to others:

Interestingly enough, some of the heaviest users of the Internet are less likely to believe that other Americans are benefiting from Internet use. Younger adult Internet users (those ages 18-29) are the least likely to believe the Internet is making average Americans (66 percent) or today’s students (67 percent) better informed, and instead are more likely than their older counterparts to say the Internet has no real impact. About one in five young online adults say the internet has had no real impact on how well-informed average Americans (23 percent) or today’s students (19 percent) are.

Additionally, 72 percent of online adults say new technologies have helped them share their ideas and creations:


For more, head over to Pew for the full report.