Citizen Engagement with News Media (Part I)

Wednesday 21st December 2011 | Author: SankalpaD

By Aaron Horenstein; Master’s student in Columbia University’s Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences program.

It’s well known that technology and social media have changed the way we communicate and obtain information on the world around us. From trivial matter like checking the weather after already having left the house or keeping up-to-date on friends’ latest status updates, to more consequential matters like learning of Osama bin Laden’s death while watching a Mets-Phillies game, information is available to us anytime, anywhere, with the click of a button or the touch of a screen.

This phenomenon has spread world-wide. Much has been written about in the press and blogosphere regarding social media’s role in fueling the Middle East revolutions this past year. According to, Facebook and Twitter didn’t cause the Egyptian revolution, “but these tools did speed up the process by helping to organize the revolutionaries, transmit their message to the world and galvanize international support.” This prompts the question: how do people across the globe obtain information on news and current events? Using a unique dataset, I was able to examine this issue in great detail.

Reliance on Media Sources for News Information
Internews obtained country-specific survey data from the Broadcasting Board of Governors that provides insights on citizen engagement with the news media. I specifically analyzed data on 38 countries across Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East regarding the extent to which people rely on different media sources to get news information.

Not surprisingly, respondents rely on television the most, with 69% indicating they use it every day to get news information. As the figure below reveals, television is the only source that a majority of respondents use every day to get news information. What is surprising is the relatively low usage of the Internet and SMS (text messaging): only 11% of respondents use the internet every day to get news information (while 71% of respondents never do), and only 10% of respondents use SMS every day to get news information (while 67% never do). Given the important role that the Internet and social media played in the recent Middle East revolutions, I would have expected these numbers to be higher.

Blue: Never & Red: Everyday


Stay tuned for more information and graphs on device ownership and regional variations.

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