Internet websites are the rising stars of
Alabama news media

AUBURN (August 31, 2009) Although the majority of Alabama residents get most of their news from local television broadcasts, Internet sites are becoming players in the field of journalism and are challenging daily newspapers for the runner-up spot in the Alabama news sweepstakes.

When polled regarding the primary source for news about their region of Alabama, a majority of those surveyed (56 percent) said from local television newscasts. Daily newspapers and the Internet trailed at 15 percent and 14 percent, respectively, followed by local radio, chosen by 6 percent, weekly newspapers, 3 percent and friends and neighbors, 1 percent.

Noting the generational shift behind these numbers, David Hill, associate director of Auburn University's Center for Governmental Services, observes that "there is a new generation of news consumers and they are going to the Web more often than their parents do."

The poll found that 20 percent of Alabama residents between the ages of 18 and 34 rely mostly on Web sites for news while only 4 percent of residents over age 55 do.

Don-Terry Veal, director of the Center for Governmental Services and advisor to local governments, says, "Local governments and public schools are learning that to effectively communicate with the public, particularly young families, you must have an Internet-communications strategy. This survey confirms that observation."

The research also uncovered evidence of a so-called "digital divide," where the better educated and more affluent are more likely to be using the Internet. Polling manager Patrick Rose said that his analysis shows that "persons with annual incomes over $70,000 are two to three times more likely to get news from the Internet than those with incomes under $50,000."

However, there may be a ceiling on the Internet's growth unless more Alabama households get high-speed service, referred to as broadband. The poll found that just six in 10 households have true high-speed Internet service, something most get from their cable operators.   The State of Alabama has a broadband initiative that is attempting, with federal stimulus funds, to push deeper into unserved and underserved rural and inner city areas to increase the availability of broadband Internet service to Alabama homes and businesses (www.connectingalabama.gov).

The survey found that Internet users are accessing the Web even when they are not at home. Many use the Internet at their jobs. Only one in four residents "never" visits the Internet on a typical day. On average, one-third of all Alabama residents accesses the Internet more than four times each day.

The Ask Alabama survey results are based on telephone interviews with a stratified random sample of 639 adult householders conducted July 6-19. The sample's geographic, gender, race and age distributions were weighted to be proportionate to the U.S. Census Bureau's data for Alabama's adult (18 years of age or older) householders.

Patrick Rose, manager of the center's Survey Research Laboratory that conducted the interviews, said that poll results based on the full statewide sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The Ask Alabama Poll is to be conducted quarterly by the Center for Governmental Services, a unit of Auburn University Outreach that provides research, consulting and training to government agencies, not-for-profit associations and private sector clients.

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