New Hampshire Residents Still Get News Offline... or Do They?

by Dave in

The results of the latest University of New Hampshire Survey Center's Granite State Poll seem to indicate that folks in New Hampshire get their news from television and newspapers. In fact, they show that a whopping 43% get their news from one source: WMUR (a local New Hampshire network). This fact alone lead me to dig deeper and I find the (interpreted) results suspect, at best.

First of all, they only phoned respondents. I know in our household (a very Internet-based one, admittedly) we never take survey calls on the phone. I would venture to say that we're not in the minority here. In fact, I'd say that people rooted in the "old ways" are more likely to take these types of telephone surveys than the rest of us are, but of course I have no data to back that up, just my gut.

Second -- and far more important -- the survey asked, “From what source would you say you get most of your news and information about news in New Hampshire?” The UNH Survey Center then *interpreted* that data to mean anyone stating a television station or newspaper name meant they get it from the TV or print editions -- they failed to clarify whether or not the people were getting their news from the TV stations' or newspapers' websites!

I hope the UNH Survey Center takes these viewpoints into account when they do the next round of this survey so we can get some valuable results about news sources and consumption in our state.

Update: I heard back from Dr. Andrew Smith, Director of the UNH Survey Center, who stated:

I do stand by the interpretation that most people get their news and information about New Hampshire from more traditional news sources. And while we did not probe their responses, I suspect that the majority of people who report getting local news online do so from traditional sources such as TV and newspaper web sites.

Seems there's some confusion of "source" and "medium" here. I agree with Dr. Smith that most people get their news from WMUR or the New York Times instead of blogs and Twitter, but reading the print edition of the New York Times is quite different than getting the online edition. Different advertising models are used and consumption patterns are (or can be) radically different. We must all be careful in our surveys (and interpretations) not to continue to confuse source with medium.