Experience and Internet News: The Real Reason for the Online News Reading Gender Gap

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Experience and Internet News: The Real Reason for the
Online News Reading Gender Gap
Amy Schmitz Weiss, Master's Student
Sharon Meraz, Master's Student
Nilo Figur, Doctoral Student
Paula M. Poindexter, Associate Professor

School of Journalism
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX 78712

Presented to:
Newspaper Division
AEJMC Annual Convention
Kansas City, MO
July 2003

Reading news is now the third most popular activity on the Internet behind e-mailing and Web browsing. According to the most recent UCLA Internet Report , 52% of the U.S. population now reads news online. After the development of the World Wide Web in the early 1990s and the Netscape Navigator Web browser in 1994, the Internet became attractive to consumers and media companies as a viable new medium for communication, entertainment, and news and information. The dramatic increase of news Web sites from 60 newspapers online in 1994 to more than 3,300 newspaper, television and cable news Web sites by 2003 as well as the cross-promotion from traditional newspapers and television and cable newscasts have contributed to the popularity of news on the Internet. Although reading news online is among the top three activities on the Internet, statistics continue to show that men and women do not read Internet news equally. In fact, the most recent Pew Research Center study reported that 57% of men read news online while only 43% of women read news on the Internet. This gender disparity in attention to news is unique to the Internet; for other news media use, there is no difference between men and women. Historically research studies have found differences in how men and women read newspapers and what content in the newspaper they pay attention to, but no significant differences have been found in overall newspaper reading. Similarly, no significant gender differences have been found in newsmagazine reading and regular attention paid to television news, cable news, and radio news. If there is no gender difference in regular use of traditional and cable news, why is there a gender disparity in Internet news reading? Is this difference in reading news on the Internet due to gender or is it due to other factors? This study seeks to answer that question by exploring the real reason for the gender gap in reading news on the Internet.

Theoretical Links
Diffusion of Innovation. The Internet has spread more rapidly than any other electronic technology, taking only 7 years to reach 30 percent of households, in comparison to 38 years for the telephone and 17 years for television. Diffusion of innovation theory provides insight into how and why new media and technologies such as the Internet, the telephone, and television are adopted into society. Rogers identified five characteristics that determine the acceptance of a technology by an individual: relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability and observability. Fidler added a sixth attribute¡Xfamiliarity¡Xexplicating that new media technology essentially emerge or evolve from the metamorphosis of older media. Lin emphasized the importance of resources or the high financial cost to the individual adoption of computer technology, which makes computers the most discontinuous of media technologies. Atkin, Jeffres and Neuendorf noted that no discussion of Internet adoption would be complete without recognition of the requirement of computer ownership and skills. Before adopting a technology, Rogers said that an individual goes through a decision framework, which includes knowledge, persuasion, decision, implementation and reinforcement. Rogers also identified five groups based on the time it took to adopt technology: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. Early adopters were high risk takers with higher technical skills and higher education and income, while later adopters tended to have lower technical skills...
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