The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently published their Neighbors Online report on individuals’ use of online tools to keep informed about what is happening in their communities.
One of the things I like most about this research is the recognition that people get important and timely information about their local community from sources beyond the traditional local broadcast or newspaper story (online or otherwise). Were research of this type run five years ago, it would have been a head-scratching account of how the decline of local news outlets means that people no longer care about local news. We now are coming to understand that perhaps people don’t care less. Instead, they are shifting their attention to a wider array of online sources and formats that better address their needs and preferences online.
Some tidbits from the findings:
- Americans use a range of tools to interact with their neighbors and keep up with community events—from face-to-face discussions to local blogs and listservs
- 27% of internet users used digital tools to talk to their neighbors and keep informed about community issues
- 28% of internet users signed up to receive alerts about local issues (such as traffic, school events, weather warnings or crime alerts) via email or text messaging
- Daily internet users are just as likely as less frequent internet users—and more likely than non-users—to know some or all of their neighbors by name
- Community blogs are as common as email communications as a way to keep up with neighborhood events