Number of sources used to follow local topics
Residents of large cities and suburbs use more local news sources each week than do residents of other types of communities. Among suburban and urban populations, about two in 10 residents (20% large city, 18% suburbs) report using six or more sources of local information each week. That figure is about one in 10 among residents of small cities (13%) and rural areas (11%). Moreover, residents of large cities and suburbs use a higher number of local news sources per week (3.6 and 3.7 respectively) than those living in small cities/towns or rural areas (average of 3.3 for each).
Sources of local information used at least weekly
Urban and suburban residents also use a wider variety of local news sources on a regular basis. Close to half of urban (45%) and suburban (51%) residents use a combination of traditional, online and mobile local news media to get their local news, compared with 38% of those living in small cities and 27% of rural residents.
Taken together, small city/town and rural residents are more likely than those in larger cities and suburbs to rely solely on traditional forms of media for their local news. Roughly three in 10 residents in these less populated locales rely exclusively on traditional sources of information such as print newspaper and local television broadcasts (31% and 34%, respectively), compared with 21% of residents of large cities and 16% of those living in suburban communities. This fact may be driven by the tastes of small city and rural residents and might also be affected by the fact that at least in some smaller communities the number of new information sources are limited.
While overall, large city residents are among the most likely to use a combination of all three major types of local news media, they are at the same time the least likely to use some specific traditional sources of local information such as print newspapers and broadcast TV news. Instead, urban residents tend to use online sources of local information such as internet searches, Twitter, blogs, and websites of TV and newspapers. Rural residents, in contrast, are the least likely to look to online sources of local news, not surprising, given their lower tech use relative to other populations.
Urban residents’ reliance on a greater number and diversity of local news sources may result from the fact that urbanites tend to be younger and more tech savvy than their rural counterparts, offering them more avenues through which to gather news and information. Although internet use is widespread across residents of all community types, residents of large cities and suburbs are more likely than those in small cities or rural areas to use the internet. Those in large cities are also more likely to use Twitter than others and rural residents are less likely than those in large cities or the suburbs to be social network users.
Among other findings of note, suburban residents get local information from the radio more than residents in smaller cities (55% vs. 46%). And word of mouth is a more widely used source of local information in both small cities and rural areas than in suburban communities.
How do local newspapers fare in different communities?
There is little difference across residents of different communities in their commitment to their local newspaper or in the impact they anticipate if their local newspaper did not exist. Small city/town residents are most likely (61%) and large city residents least likely (54%) to say there would be an impact if their local newspaper no longer existed, with suburban (59%) and rural (56%) residents falling somewhere between. Large city residents also show less willingness than those in other communities to pay for local news content. They are less likely than residents of any other type of community to have a paid subscription to a local newspaper (22% vs. 40% suburbs, 33% small city, 37% rural), and currently have the lowest level of reported readership on a weekly basis (34% vs. 40% suburbs, 42% small city, 41% rural) . This might stem, in part, from the fact that urban residents have more choices for getting access to information and might need to depend less on a paid-for newspaper to get the material they want.