In the beginning of every academic year, I ask my students where they get their news from and how many of them actually buy a newspaper. In the last eight years of my teaching at Bilgi, fewer and fewer hands rise for purchasing of newspapers and more hands for the online news sources. I take this as a definite sign of my aging. I should better accept the fact that the generation gap exists and that reality is hard for me to absorb. I am from a generation where I need to begin the day with a hard copy of a newspaper on my door mat although this does not prevent me to read a bunch of other sources and newspapers online.
While I was reading the Pew Research Center’s 2008 news media consumption survey a few days ago, I came across the recent data on how American youngsters turn to the Internet for their news. Fewer young people are reading print newspapers while the percentage of college students who read newspapers online is growing rapidly. The report indicates the balance between online and print readership changed substantially between 2006 and 2008. Actually the most interesting analysis was about the generation gap. 21% of “Generation X” (born between 1965 and 1976) read only a print newspaper, or both an online and a print newspaper; 18 % read a newspaper only on the Web, or both online and in print. In 2006, 30 % of Gen X read a newspaper in print, while just 13 % read a web version. So there is a sharp decline in readership of print newspapers in the last two years.
How about Generation Y (born 1977 or later)? In 2008, nearly equal percentages in Generation Y (born 1977 or later) read a newspaper online and in print; 16 % said they read only a print newspaper, or both the Web and print versions, while 14 % said they read a newspaper only on the Internet, or both online and in print. In 2006, more than twice as many in Gen Y said they read a printed newspaper than the online version (22 % vs. 9 %).
As educators now we are dealing with “Generation Z” (I made this up myself) born between 1982 and 2002. This generation thinks that technology will rule the world, papers are too slow and news eventually will find them. The key word for this generation is “multi-tasking.” Especially university students are masters of multi-tasking — talking on cell phones while walking to class, studying during dinner and chatting online, posting on the facebook and writing a paper at the same time— somewhere in the shuffle, the daily newspaper has been mostly left behind. Not just the Pew Research but many other studies show similar results such as young people in the age groups of 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 continue to have the lowest readership levels of daily newspapers around the world. They are very skeptical about “talk at” media like TV, newspapers and outdoor ads but rather want to get involved with the media content.
In Turkey, the Internet increasingly became a big part of the young people’s lives and media consumption habits. According to 2008 numbers, there are 26,5 million Internet users and that means approximately 37 % of the population has access to Internet. Turkey is the fastest growing country in ADSL Internet connection in Europe. We do not have many research conducted on media habits of the university students in Turkey. But according to a recent study collaborated between Ankara and Erzurum Atatürk Universities, 25 % of college students spend more than 2 hours in front of the computer while 8 % devotes this time to research and reading news online. So Internet is mainly used for chatting, games, pornography and social networking. The same study also indicates that 35 % of the university students spend 1-2 hours for reading, 38 % spend between ½-1 hour and 13 % spend half an hour of daily reading at most.
So my annual small-scale polling in my classes proved to be right. Although I am not a digital laggard, somebody should tell me why I am still feeling old.