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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 May 2006, 02:05 GMT 03:05 UK
Young challenge mainstream media
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website

A quiet revolution is taking place in how people get their news.

It is being spearheaded by a generation who have grown up in a connected, digital world, for whom the internet is just part of their way of life.

For them, going online to find out what is happening in the world, and seeking to compare and contrast reports from different sources are the norm, as reflected by an opinion poll for the BBC, Reuters and US think tank The Media Center.

More than 10,000 people were questioned for the survey by polling firm Globescan in the UK, US, Brazil, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Russia, and South Korea in March and April.

Youth voice

Overall, the 10-country survey suggested that TV was the most important source of news for most.

But a look at how young people are consuming media raises questions over how long TV will remain a dominant force.

Graph showing importance of internet as a source of news
The tech-savvy youth are moving away from traditional news outlets - seen as irrelevant to their lives - and turning to alternative sources to shape their view of the world.

The poll shows a growing trend among the young, who are less likely to get their news from television or newspapers, and instead rely more on the internet.

One in five of those aged between 18 and 24 cited online sources as their first choice for news. This contrasts with just 3% of those aged between 55 and 64.

Moreover, the ability to go online and find out about the world was most important to the young.

Of those questioned, 71% of 18 to 24-year-olds said they valued the opportunity to get their news using internet or wireless technologies.

Online society

This challenge to the mainstream media is more prominent in societies where the internet is virtually ubiquitous.

Television: 41%
Internet: 34%
Newspapers: 19%
Radio: 4%
Other: 2%
Source: Globescan

The results from South Korea, where according to recent figures 86% of households are online, offer a startling wake-up call.

The supremacy of TV is in danger of being usurped by the internet. A third of Koreans cite the net as their most important source of news, rivalling the 41% who cite TV.

It is also one of the most positive countries about blogs, with 38% trusting them compared to the 10-country average of 25%.

The question is how far South Korea represents the future. But it is one of the most advanced online societies and this is the direction the rest of the world is going.

As the rest of the world becomes ever more connected, traditional media will be forced to change or go the way of the dinosaurs. Those who act early are more likely to emerge as the news giants of the future.

Demographic shift

Click below to see the poll results in more detail

The challenge for big media players like the BBC is to stay relevant to young men and women reared on a diet of MP3s and iPods.

This is a generation for whom media means MySpace, Flickr, YouTube or any of the other new web services.

Perhaps surprisingly, young global brands like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft/MSN enjoyed a high level of trust in the poll, though still behind established media giants BBC and CNN.

The popularity of sites that bring together various news sources, like Google News, is a sign of how the relationship between the news provider and consumer is changing.

The time when people accepted without question a newspaper's or broadcaster's view of the world is on the way out.

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It is being replaced by a universe in which readers can compare and contrast information, where trust has to be earned.

This trend is strongest among young, well-educated professionals who value their ability to shape the news to meet their needs and interests.

The danger for mainstream media outlets is that they risk becoming increasingly marginalised by a generation who want the news they want, when they want and in whatever shape they want.



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