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Mobile technology’s impact on news consumption across racial and ethnic groups

Nearly everyone in the publishing world is trying to understand the impact of mobile technology, which is spreading rapidly. Earlier, this report noted that a majority of the general population of Americans — and majorities of non-Hispanic whites, African Americans, and Hispanics specifically — now report owning cell phones, and that many Americans across racial and ethnic groups describe themselves as all-day or continuous news consumers, something that is made easier by mobile device ownership. How else is mobile technology influencing news consumption across racial and ethnic groups?

African Americans are even more likely than whites to have signed up for news alerts.

One notable finding in the survey is that African Americans are even more likely than whites to have signed up for news alerts, the push technology in which people ask a news organization to send them an email, text, or push notification on a smartphone, when it has an important or breaking news story. These news alerts are often customized by topic, and as we just noted above, rank highest among all groups as a trusted means for getting news — perhaps because it is news that has been specifically requested. In all, a majority of African Americans who use the internet, own a cell phone, or own or use a tablet (58 percent) say they have signed up for a news alert, as have 46 percent of the same group of Hispanics and 42 percent of whites.

As noted earlier, at least 6 in 10 adults across racial and ethnic groups report in the survey that they own a cell phone that connects to the internet. News is a major part of the activities people engage in with these devices. Among these smartphone owners, 78 percent say they have used their device to get news in the last week, including 85 percent of African Americans, 78 percent of Hispanics, and 74 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

Tablet devices are another form of mobile technology option for accessing the news. Overall, 39 percent of adults in the survey say they own or use a tablet, including 41 percent of white adults and 38 percent of African American adults. Hispanic adults are less likely than white adults to report owning or using a tablet (28 percent). Of these tablet users, 73 percent say they use it to get the news, including 74 percent of whites, 72 percent of African Americans, and 61 percent of Hispanics.

Social media orientation strongly correlates to mobile device ownership. Interestingly, users of social media for news are not that trusting of it.

Mobile technology ownership is also linked in important ways to using social media, with more than 4 in 10 Americans across racial and ethnic groups finding news through social media. But not surprisingly, this social media orientation strongly correlates to mobile device ownership. That holds true across racial and ethnic groups. African American smartphone owners are two times more likely to say they used social media to access news in the last week; Hispanic smartphone owners are nearly four times as likely as Hispanics without smartphones to say the same.

Interestingly, users of social media for news are not that trusting of it, something we found in the population overall, and that holds true across racial and ethnic groups, though trust is somewhat higher among Hispanics and African Americans than it is among whites. In all, just 23 percent of Hispanics who get news from social media say they very much or completely trust that news. Twenty-one percent of African Americans and 12 percent of whites trust social media for news very much or completely.

Mobile technology also correlates with other digital news activities across racial and ethnic groups. Mobile device owners are more likely than others to find news through search engines, news aggregators, and sharing news with friends electronically. Sixty-one percent of smartphone users say they have found news through search engines, compared with just 31 percent of adults without a smartphone. Sixty-one percent of smartphone users say they have accessed news from online news aggregators, compared with just 33 percent of adults without a smartphone. And, 54 percent of smartphone users say they have discovered news by sharing it with friends through email or text messaging or other ways online, compared with just 29 percent of adults without a smartphone.

Discovery method Smartphone owners Non-smartphone owners
Search engines 61% 31%
News aggregators 61% 33%
Sharing news with friends electronically 54% 29%

Data Source: The Personal News Cycle: A focus on African American and Hispanic news consumers, 2014

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