What people care about

Rural America is more interested in community news and information about what’s going on in their towns. Wrong, research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project says today. Unless the subject is taxes.

The project today released an assessment of how people consume the news in different geographic segments.

Urban residents: “More likely to get local news and information via a range of digital activities, including internet searches, Twitter, blogs and the websites of local TV stations and newspapers. Urbanites were also those least tied to their communities in terms of how long they lived in the community and how many people they know. They were the least interested of all groups in information about local taxes.”

Suburban residents: “More likely than others to rely on local radio as a platform (perhaps because of relatively longer commuting times); they are more interested than others in news and information about arts and cultural events; and they are particularly interested in local restaurants, traffic, and taxes. They look to television news for weather and breaking news.”

Small town residents: “More likely to rely on traditional news platforms such as television and newspapers to get local news; newspapers are especially important to them for civic information. Small town Americans prefer the local newspaper for a long list of information–including local weather, crime, community events, schools, arts and culture, taxes, housing, zoning, local government and social services. Residents of smaller towns are also the most likely to worry about what would happen if the local newspaper no longer existed.”

Rural residents: “Generally are less interested in almost all local topics than those in other communities. The one exception is taxes. They are also more reliant on traditional platforms such as newspapers and TV for most of the topics we queried. And they are less likely than others to say it is easier now to keep up with local information.”

Up to 60 percent of those surveyed say they like keeping up with the news “a lot.”

But the report shows the difficulty mass media has in tailoring its news to a wide audience — the “wide audience” have vastly different opinions on what is news.

In the suburbs, for example, the five topics those in the suburbs listed as the ones they’re most interested in are arts and culture, restaurants, traffic, taxes, and housing.

Suburban residents stand out in their higher education and income levels relative to other types of communities. Suburban residents are the most educated and have the highest reported household income of the four community types. Four in 10 (42%) have a four-year college degree or greater, compared with 30% or fewer in the other three community types. Moreover, 37% report an annual household income of $75,000 or more, much higher than the 20% or fewer residents in other communities reporting that level of income.

But city people are less interested in the tax issues than most everyone else. City residents, the report said, are less interested in where they live as a “community.”

Here’s the entire report.

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