Research — Active Choice, Passive Consumption

Photo Ryan Lash/TED via Creative Commons
Photo Ryan Lash/TED via Creative Commons

Exploring New Media Consumption Habits Among College Students and their Influence on Traditional Student Media

By Hans K. Meyer, Burton Speakman and Nisha Garud
Ohio University

Abstract: This study examines news consumption habits of college students focusing on the factors, purpose and sources of new media consumption. Through a survey of 812 students at a medium-sized Midwestern university, four types of news habits emerged: active, passive, civic engagement, and digital. Students actively seek digital media but consumption of these sources turns passive.  New media, including mobile technology, have not completely taken over the news consumption habit of traditional sources.

Keywords: Habit, news consumption, active and passive consumption, students, social media


Changes in technology consistently alter how the public consumes information, especially news, and the Internet has accelerated how quickly these patterns are evolving. The biggest example is websites, mobile sites, and online videos have started to replace traditional media among college students. Previous studies have explored the “daily me,” or how personalizing the news through subscribing to RSS feeds using web portals such as Yahoo or Google and SMS alerts (Thurman, 2011) or newsfeeds from traditional news websites (Thompson, 2005), or email newsletters (Spyridou & Veglis, 2008) has become commonplace among millennials. However, social media have changed how the “daily me” is created because young people consume news through “following” users on Twitter, “liking” news pages and “sharing” news updates on Facebook, using mobile news apps and accessing mobile versions of traditional news websites. Those studies (Thompson, 2005; Spyridou & Veglis, 2008; Thurman, 2011), do not account for changes in news consumption, especially via new media sources such as Facebook, Twitter and mobile phone apps.  As a result, this study tries to fill this gap through an examination of news consumption habits in the new media milieu.

Through a survey of the media habits of 812 college students at a Midwestern university with a student population of approximately 21,000, this study investigates how college students consume news through new media sources, particularly social media, and if this usage has become habitual. The goal is to explore the media consumption habits that exist among a sample of college students, and offer suggestions on how these patterns inform the theory of how habit forms. This focused look also provides the opportunity to examine the purposes these habits, once formed, serve and whether new media consumption has started to overtake traditional media consumption habits. Furthermore, the college media environment is unique. The student newspaper is placed all over campus so that it will be convenient for students to pick up. The college campus, therefore, may be an environment where it takes less effort and is more passive to read the printed paper than going online.

Habit formation

News consumption starts as an active choice, even when readers focus on new media (Thurman, 2011). However, online media, especially social media where an initial choice leads to a near endless stream of content, quickly change the consumption pattern from active to habitual (Ajzen, 2002; LaRose, 2010). As decision making becomes habitual, news consumption becomes passive (Diddi & LaRose, 2006).  This study defines news habit as the process by which news consumers actively select media as their news sources, and then access them so frequently that their repeated use develops into a passive choice. This passivity is so habitual that consumers become oblivious to their media consumption sources. Examining the transformation of active media choice to habit becomes especially important when considering college students because previous studies have suggested young people are the most active users of social media (Casero-Ripollés, 2012; Mihailidis & Cohen, 2013) and use mobile phones (Chan-Olmsted, Hyejoon Rim, & Zerba, 2012) to consume news.

Habit formation is a process that involves a repetition of past behavior to such an extent that this behavior is performed automatically in the future with minimal conscious effort (Ajzen, 2002; Ouellette and Woods, 1998; Schneider & Shiffrin, 1977). For instance, LaRose (2010) said daily media habits range from “reading the newspaper at breakfast, checking e-mail upon arrival at work, to turning into a ‘couch potato’ at 7 p.m.” (p. 194). The frequency of such behavior influences later behavior that is performed independent of intentions, thereby leading to habituation of such behavior (Ajzen, 2002). Thus, if one consumes news from the same media outlets repetitively, usage that was initially active becomes automated and habitual (LaRose, 2010).

New and complex behavior, such as news consumption via multiple platforms that was initially controlled by explicit intentions and self-regulation, becomes automatic with repeated performance (Ajzen, 2002; Ouellette & Wood, 1998). In the digital media environment, the audience is exposed to multiple complex media choices, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media, and mobile technologies such as mobile websites and apps, and needs a shortcut to help them decide.

In psychology, habit is an important cognitive heuristic that directs decision-making processes during which the implementation of habitual behavior requires reliance on familiar cognitive cues that enable one to conserve time and mental effort (Rios & Bentley, 2001). As a result, habit is designed to protect individuals from becoming overwhelmed when engaged in routine cognitive tasks (LaRose, 2010).  Motivation to consume media is a conscious activity whereas habituation involves passive involvement in media consumption. As a result, habits better explain the sustained involvement in an activity or media consumption in the new media environment as opposed to the motivation to consume media. Habits, which force consumers to spend more time on a page, are likely to be a result of social motivation, thereby explaining why sites that do not offer a high level of interaction do not create the same type of habit (Kilian et. al, 2012). Hence, it becomes necessary to understand the factors that contribute to the formation of news habits, especially among young people, which is the aim of this study.

Another aspect of habit formation is the number of times the act has been performed, which is measured in terms of habit strength (Triandis, 1977). The more times a news outlet is accessed, the stronger the habit becomes. In this study, we define news habits as the process through which consumers actively select news sources, access them repeatedly to become inattentive to their selection and turn into passive media consumers. As a result, we expect that habit strength will correlate with passivity in news consumption.

News consumption and new and traditional media usage

Previous studies have examined habit formation in an electoral context through voter turnout (Gorecki, 2013), consumer loyalty (Olsen, Tudoran, Bruns, & Verbeke, 2013) and adoption of healthy behaviors (Aarts, Paulussen & Schaalma, 1997; Judah, Gardner & Aunger, 2013). When examining traditional media habits, the focus is typically on newspapers, television, and radio news coverage. Decades of research on media habit formation has relied mainly on news reading and television viewing habits (Gantz, Fitzmaurice and Fink, 1991; Stone & Windhauser, 1983; Rosenstein & Grant, 1997). In the media environment, habit formation has been examined in online versus traditional media use (Eveland & Dunwoody, 2000; Light, 1999). However, these studies do not focus on the varied new media consumption habits, including consumption of media via mobile technology.

Empirical research suggests that there is a reciprocal relationship between habits and news consumption. Habit strength better predicts media consumption and individual preferences (Diddi & LaRose, 2006) than motivation to consume media does. Strength of media habit dictated college students’ news consumption (Diddi & LaRose, 2006). Campus newspapers, Internet portal sites, and late-night comedy shows were the most frequently consumed news sources. Additionally, the researchers concluded that even though college students used the Internet as their major news source, they did not abandon traditional media  (Diddi & LaRose, 2006). Further, traditional and new media complemented each other as news consumption platforms (Diddi & LaRose, 2006).

In addition, motivations to consume news can lead to the formation of media habits (Chan-Olmsted, Rim & Zerba, 2012). Using diffusion of innovation and the technology acceptance model, Chan-Olmsted et al. (2012) found a positive correlation between mobile news consumption and media habits among college students between 18 and 24 years old.

In the same vein, a study of online news readers in Colombia suggested online news readers consumed media that allowed them to personalize the way they search for information (Gutierrez-Coba, Gomez-Diaz, Salgado-Cardona, Estrada-Gutierrez & Ramirez-Mendez, 2012). Another study analyzed the news consumption habits of 2,273 Chilean adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17 and found that teenagers frequently consumed information via Facebook rather than traditional media sources to stay updated on daily events (Condeza-Dall’Orso, Bachmann-Cáceres, & Mujica-Holley, 2014).

Mobile news has had a significant impact on how people consume media (Chan-Olmsted, Hyejoon Rim, & Zerba, 2012), but researchers have found past habits continue to play a role in new media consumption habit formation (Diddi & LaRose, 2006; Mitchelstein & Boczkowski, 2010). “Habitual media consumption covers a wide range of overall usage levels and is not necessarily associated with excessive amounts of consumption,” (Diddi & LaRose, 2006, p. 196).

Although it has been found that repeated media use makes automatic, habitual media consumption possible (LaRose, 2010), it can be argued that the present new media environment does not nurture habit formation. The availability of varied new media technologies and news platforms distribute consumption among multiple news sources, thereby weakening consumers’ association with the news sources and restricting habit formation. Second, new media technology allows consumers to set active media consumption preferences and then passively consume news unless forced to change (Diddi & LaRose, 2006). For example, Twitter and Facebook allow users to set their “friends” or “followers” once and receive information from these sources in perpetuity. Websites can be set as home pages or a link to a site can be added directly to a mobile phone through news apps. Third, despite changes in new media technology consumers have a finite amount of time to consume media (Taneja, Webster, & Malthouse, 2012), which makes habit formation increasingly necessary. As a result, this study examines whether online and mobile news consumption lead to habit formation.

Media habits and the development of the “Daily Me”

Early online news sources such as RSS feeds that allowed consumers to customize their consumption activities were not widely adopted because they provided limited news updates and were complicated to use (Thurman, 2012; Mihailidis & Cohen, 2013). Nonetheless, researchers have concluded that personalized news, conceptually defined as the “daily me,” where consumers actively decide what news they want to receive, and passively let their choices select their news, is growing (Thurman & Schifferes, 2012). Social media make it easy to personalize news (Mihailidis & Cohen, 2013). On platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, users decide initially whom they will follow. The sites then recommend other users they can follow based on their past behavior such as whom they have previously followed, retweeted, or liked. This may seem to contradict Thurman (2011), who said news consumers do not know what they want. However, this supports the idea that passive consumption takes over and is facilitated by the social media recommendations. To address this question, this study looks at how actively consumers choose their news sources.

Youth and their Media Consumption

Demographic factors influence media consumption (Taneja, Webster, & Malthouse, 2012) because as consumers grow older, they show more interest in news (Casero-Ripollés, 2012; The Insight Media Project, 2015).  For instance, about 70% of millennials, consumers in the age group of 18-34 years, received news daily and 45% followed news daily (Insight Media Project, 2015) and also used several platforms to receive news (Casero-Ripollés, 2012). Second, college students consumed news habitually from both traditional and online sources (Diddi & LaRose, 2006; Casero-Ripollés, 2012). Likewise, those born after 1980 said they still consumed news in traditional ways and found social media was more entertainment than news (Kilian, Hennigs, & Langner, 2012).  However, their daily routine is so dominated by Internet use (Ipsos Media CT, 2014) that this study begins with the following research question:

RQ1: What form of media (print, online, social media) will students use most frequently for the news that relates most to them?

The literature suggests some answers. Social media exposes millennials to more news than they would otherwise receive (The Insight Media Project, 2015). Many young people say they use Facebook as their primary news source (Casero-Ripollés, 2012). Similarly, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and sites like Reddit, in that order, were also found to be common news sources (The Insight Media Project, 2015).

Apart from social media, young people tend to use mobile phones for information consumption, including news. Casero-Ripollés (2012) found that by the time consumers reach 18, about 25 % access news using a mobile phone. Similarly, more than 40 % of those between 23 and 30 years use a mobile phone to access news (Casero-Ripollés, 2012). Chan-Olmsted and colleagues (2012) also found young consumers’ perceptions towards mobile news influence their willingness to use mobile sites, but perception does not indicate how long they will spend on a site.

The question remains, however, how these media use behaviors influence the formation of lasting media habits because the literature suggests college students have developed different consumption habits than other generations. They access information by mixing news with “social connection, problem solving, social action, and entertainment,” (The Insight Media Project, 2015). About seven in 10 millennials keep up with news online at least once a day, and 40 % check news online multiple times daily (The Insight Media Project, 2015). However, LaRose (2010) said media consumption habits were not only a result of repeated and conscious media selection decisions. Habits keep millennials involved in social interaction to use social media (Kilian et. al, 2012), which leads to the following question:

RQ2: What factors contribute to college students’ news consumption habits, especially as they relate to the college media?

News is typically the top shared content on Facebook (Holton, Baek, Coddington, & Yaschur, 2013) and other social media sites, but young people do not seem to notice. Holton et al.  (2013) found young people said they used social media for entertainment purposes. However, The Insight Media Project (2015) that surveyed 1,046 adults from the millennial generation concluded that about 47 % of them accessed Facebook to consume news. Although it appears that millennials consume news using social media, news consumption is not their intent when viewing the sites. This suggests that young people view the news without thinking about it, which leads to the following hypotheses:

H1: College students’ overall news habits will be defined more by passivity than active choice, even those who read in traditional ways.

H2: College students will consume news media, especially those who use online and mobile sources, in a passive manner.


This study relied upon a survey administered online to 7,000 students at a major Midwestern university. The respondents were randomly selected and represented a third of the university’s student body of both graduate and undergraduate students. The respondents were recruited via e-mail during February 2014. More than 960 respondents started the questionnaire, and 812 completed it, which represents a 13.7% response rate and 85% completion rate. Wimmer and Dominick (2013) suggest that a 10% response rate is acceptable for surveys.

In addition, the university selected has a reputation as a top 10 journalism school in the United States. Its student newspaper has existed for more than 100 years on campus and had been a daily newspaper for most of that time. The number of free papers getting picked up each day on campus had been decreasing, however, and student editors were motivated to find out more about their audience.

In the sample, 36% of respondents were men and 63% were women, and the median age was 20 years old. Eighty-five percent were white, while 4% were African-American, 4.6% were Asian, 3.6% were multiracial, 2.4% were Hispanic, and less than 1% reported they were Pacific Islander or Native Americans. Most of the students who completed the survey were freshmen (27%), but seniors (20 %), juniors (20%), sophomores (18%) and graduate students (16%) were equally nearly represented.

Participation in the survey was voluntary, but those responding had a chance to win a $20 gift card as compensation for their time and effort. The purpose of the questionnaire was to examine media habits based on how college students consumed the school’s independent student newspaper. Based on the literature, the study defines news habit for college students as the frequency with which they read the campus student newspaper. This represents a reasonable operationalization as campus media is the most accessible and pertinent media outlet to the students, and therefore, the most likely media that students will use regularly. By extension, its accessibility and relevance make the student newspaper the most likely medium for which students will develop a media habit. More than 52 % (n=499) of the sample reported they read the student newspaper either in print or online, and this group serves as the focus for part of examination, however those stated they regularly read the campus newspaper were also compared to those who do not typically or ever read the campus newspaper.


In examining those who said they read the student newspaper, the study found they most frequently read the student newspaper on Twitter (more than 55% of responses). More than half (53 %) said they had read the student newspaper in print within the last week, while another 48% had visited the paper’s website in the last week. Only 40 % said they had read student newspaper content on Facebook. (For full responses, see Table 1.) This offers some insight into RQ1 because while Twitter is the most frequent way to access student newspaper content, print is nearly as frequently used. In fact, print, which by this study’s definition represents an active media choice, is the second most commonly used source.

Determining whether reading the student newspaper at least once a week represents a habit, however, required more detailed analysis. To understand the impact of media choice for student newspapers and to more fully answer H1: Student media habits will be defined more by passive sources than active ones, the researchers examined 20 questions about attitudes toward the student newspaper and reasons why respondents read it either in print or online. This block included questions about campus involvement and the importance of knowing what is going on. These responses from those who said they read the paper either in print or online were analyzed to determine if questions would group together statistically and if related factors would emerge. A principal components factor analysis with Varimax rotation and Kaiser normalization suggested four factors each with an eigenvalue above 1.0:

  1. First, an overall habit scale included seven items (α=.885), which included both active, such as staying involved in campus activities, receiving updates on local news and campus news and needing to read the news; and passive, which included reading news because of a family’s newspaper subscription, liking visual aspects and reading for enjoyment.
  2. The digital habit consisted of five items (α=.884): how important it was to have a mobile phone, reading newspaper for a class, reading digitally because of the website design, interactive features not available in print and setting up the site as homepage.
  3. The civic habit included items (α=.863) related to ideas of civic engagement, such as a desire to stay involved and informed on what is happening on campus and in the community.
  4. The passive habit comprised three items (α=.691): being used to reading news, consuming news because there was a need to know it, and doing it subconsciously.

The factors that emerged statistically suggest some support for H1. The factor analysis also suggested some answers to RQ2, which behaviors influence student habit formation. Many of the habit types related to the strength of a college student’s habit for reading her college newspaper had passive components. One factor was entirely passive, and suggested how once active choices in media can turn habitual, such as being used to reading the news, having a need to know and reading subconsciously. More importantly, the strongest overall media habit included both passive and active behaviors. In addition, one of the strongest patterns that emerged suggested that habits are created through activity outside of media use and choice, such as getting involved on campus and working to know what is going on in the community.

To answer both hypotheses, the study built models to test the impact of different media on habit formation for college students. These models used linear regression models to predict each habit factors. Variables included in the models were determined by examining bivariate correlation between the habit factors listed above and questions about attitudes toward and use of different media not included in the habit factors. Demographic variables were tested using both correlation and linear regression and were not statistically significant. The lack of diversity in education, race, age, and other demographic factors could be a reason. Demographics were not included in the final models. Because of the large sample size, the researchers also conducted these analyses with three smaller subgroups which randomly selected 25% of the cases. In each of these analyses, mean scores, beta weights and standard deviations were similar enough to justify examining the entire sample at once.

The overall news consumption habits model (Table 2), which included both passive and active media choices, suggested passivity and convenience were important, but they were not the only factors predicting news consumption. Four factors predicted more than 30 % of the variance (F=16.566, p<.001) in the final model: use of Facebook (β=.179, p<.01), Twitter (β=.137, p<.05), print (β=.234, p<.001) and wanting to stay updated on campus news (β=.214, p<.05). This offered partial support for H1, student media habits will be defined by passive sources, because while two passive sources – Twitter and Facebook – were significant predictors, one source defined as active – reading campus news in print – was the strongest predictor. In addition, a desire to be informed of campus news was a stronger predictor than any passive news source.

The model predicting the digital news habit suggested that college students with digital news consumption habits (Table 3) are more likely to interact with news online than any other way. In the linear regression, Twitter, Instagram, a mobile app, and the newspaper’s website predicted 20.7% of the variance (F=8.48, df=4, p<.001). Accessing the news using the website was the most significant predicator of the digital habit (β=.310, p<.01).

In addition, in the model for the civic engagement habit (see Table 4), social media use helped predict 30.3 % of the variance (F=15.872, df=7, p<.001). But significance was also found for getting involved while in college (β=.171, p<.05), staying updated on campus news (β=.268, p<.005), and reading news daily (β=-.138, p<.05). Significance was also found for civic engagement factors for news consumption through Twitter (β.161, p<.01), Facebook (β =.127, p<.05), print (β=.154, p<.01).

In response to H2, the regression analyses showed that a desire to be both engaged and informed were the primary reasons to consume news using social media. The more likely students believe that consuming news is important and part of their daily routine, the more likely they are to consume news using social media. Desire for information is a significant factor in determining if a student is likely to read the publication in print as well. However, the digital news consumption habit was the only habit in which there was a significant relationship with college students’ use of mobile applications. Mobile application users remained a minority with 36.6% of respondents stating they used a mobile app to receive news. However, this figure is above the 30 % rate national studies reported (Verizon, 2014; Ipsos Media CT, 2014).

In the model to predict passive news consumption, the linear regression analysis (see Table 5) included print, website, Facebook, and Twitter use of campus newspaper content. These factors predicted 31.4% of the variance. The most significant predicators of the passive news consumption habit were checking the news should be part of everyone’s routine (β=.191, p<.05), media use though print (β.206, p<.001), Facebook (β=.194, p<.005), and Twitter (β=.130, p<.05). Use of a mobile or Internet application was not significant (β=.106, p=.057).

H2, college students will consumer media in a passive manner, was supported in part based on the regression results. The idea of consuming news as part of a routine is inherently a passive activity. Print readership was a significant factor, but it is traditionally not considered passive news consumption. Results suggest some students have developed digital news consumption habits. However, the majority of students who consume news still seem to use both digital and traditional media. There is a significant, but low negative correlation between use of print and the college newspaper’s website (-.142, p<.005), print and Facebook use of (-.115, p<.05), and print and Twitter use of (-.184, p<.001). In response to RQ1, this suggests students are still consuming a diversity of media sources and not just digital ones.

But the analysis of those with strong media habits conducted above leaves out those who said they did not read the campus newspaper either in print online. It is important to consider them to compare those with media habits against those without. The researchers asked all respondents to gauge their attitudes toward the importance of news, the need to be involved and their preference for digital media. The study analyzed these responses in a confirmatory factor analysis, and three key dimensions resulted.

  1. The attitude that everyone should be informed (α=.811) included three questions: everyone should 1) be informed about the local community and not just campus, 2) reading news daily is vital, and 3) checking the news regularly should be part of everyone’s routine.
  2. The second factor related to respondent’s belief that people should be involved at their college (α=.794). This factor also included the responses to three survey questions: 1) it’s important to be involved while in college, 2) the need to have fun while a college student, and 3) every student should know what is happening on campus.
  3. The final factor measured the student’s attitude toward digital news (α=.627). The questions included in this factor were 1) it’s more convenient to use the web for news, 2) online news sites are just as credible as printed ones, and 3) my smartphone is the online source I need for news.

The researchers used an independent samples t-test (see Table 6) to determine whether the difference in attitude between students who stated they regularly read the college newspaper and those who did not was statistically significant. There was a significant difference (p<.01) regarding each of the three factors between those who regularly read the campus newspaper and those who did not. Campus newspaper readers (M=3.55, SD=.995) were more likely than nonreaders (M=3.07, SD=.96) to believe that everyone should be informed. Regular readers were also more likely (M=4.18, SD=.79) than nonreaders (M=3.94, SD=.87) to be civically engaged. Nonreaders were more likely to have a digital news preference (M=3.06, SD=.89) than regular readers of the campus newspaper (M=2.79, SD=1.06). While these results match both H1 and H2, they illustrate the complex and nuanced nature of passive news consumption.


Through an examination of news media habits of college students in the new media environment, this study attempts to answer LaRose’s (2010) call to examine a model of media consumption that combines active decision making with passive habitual media use. It is difficult to generalize this study’s results because they are limited to college students and campus newspapers, who form only a small portion of the millennial generation. Nonetheless, the results support habit theory by suggesting that young consumers make active decisions to become passive consumers of new media content. The motivating factors – students who believed they should be informed about both the campus and larger community, and that it is a necessity to read the news daily – demonstrate active decision making to stay informed. However, the digital news habit of receiving news via Facebook and Twitter is passive because “following” friends or “liking” newspaper forces news updates to consumers’ Facebook and Twitter profiles, thereby giving them news without having to actively look for it.

The continued role of print cannot be ignored. The campus environment is conducive to passive use of print materials because racks with free copies and time between classes make grabbing a newspaper nearly as convenient as pulling out a phone to read the news. The comparison between readers and nonreaders suggests students who wanted to be more involved look to print, while those who are less active or interested receive news passively through online sources such as social media. Motivations are clearly important to how students’ media habits develop.

Application in the college news environment

In examining college students’ media habits, this study offers several suggestions to college media reporters, editors, and publishers. First, while print media remains important, daily print is not necessary. The study offers some support for measures to reduce print schedules to one or two days a week. Less than 10 % of survey respondents said they read the news daily while the largest percentage said they read the print edition two or three times a week (see Table 1). In fact, news organizations would reach more than 50 % of potential student readers with a print edition just one day a week. The student newspaper who collaborated with the researchers on this study switched from five-days-a-week print to one day based in part on this study’s findings.

The study also suggests college newspapers need a more targeted approach to their audiences. College newsrooms, not unlike their professional counterparts, tend to fall into the misunderstanding that everyone is their audience. They would be more successful at reaching and building an audience by focusing on those who have the strongest media habits, both traditional and new media. These students are typically the most actively involved on campus. A strategy to reach them could include more coverage of student activities and more calls to action to get involved. It should also include ways to foster habit creation among student readers. Making it easy to find the newspaper on campus is not enough. It should also be second nature for students to follow, like, repost, and share online student content.

A good place to start in identifying the most habitual users would be with those who share, retweet, and like newspaper content online. It also makes sense for college newsrooms to do more on social media than promote stories. They need to engage their audience in conversation to get to know them and to better understand what information is truly important to them. In the end, engagement could lead to the creation of a campus community centered on the newsroom that would also facilitate habit formation.

College newsrooms also cannot overlook the importance of focusing coverage outside the immediate university environment periodically. Keeping updated for survey respondents did not just mean knowing about campus but also paying attention to the community around the university, including such issues as crime, courts and city council.

When approaching students online, college newsrooms need to develop a stronger and more inclusive Facebook strategy, according to survey data. College students may say they see Facebook as a place for their parents, but this study strongly suggests that it remains a viable and important way to reach them. Facebook was the second strongest predictor of overall media use and the passive news habit, even though it was consulted less frequently than print, the newspaper website and Twitter.


College students today are taking a different path to receiving news than prior generations (The Insight Media Project, 2015). However, this does not mean they do not seek out and consume news.  This study suggests that college students make an active decision to consume news mostly because they want to be informed about the world around them. This group seems to access this information using a variety of media. Convenience in various forms relates to what method they might use. This study helps forward the idea there is at least part of the news audience that makes an active decision to consume news which then evolves into passive means.

Table 1

Table 1Full responses to how frequently respondents interact with the student newspaper in different media.

Table 2

Table 2

Linear regression analysis predicting students’ overall media consumption habit R = .576, Adjusted R Square = .312, F = 16.56, df= 7, * p < .05, ** p <.01


Table 3

Table 3

Linear regression analysis predicting students’ digital media consumption habit R = .484, Adjusted R Square = .207, F = 8.483, df= 4, * p < .01

Table 4

Table 4

Linear regression analysis between factors predicting students’ civic consumption habit R = .568, Adjusted R Square = .310, F = 15.87, df=7, * p < .05, ** p <.01

Table 5

Table 5

Linear regression analysis of factors predicting students’ passive consumption habit R = .581, Adjusted R Square = .314, F = 14.36, df=8, * p < 05, ** p <.01

Table 6

Table 6

Independent samples t tests comparing campus newspaper readers and non readers based on their attitudes toward news, involvement, and online news ** p<.01


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hansmyerHans K. Meyer is an associate professor at the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. He worked for nearly a decade as a community newspaper editor and reporter in Southern California and Utah. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Missouri in 2009. His research focuses on how journalists adapt online to engage audiences and build community.

Burton Speakman 04172012Burton Speakman is a third year graduate student and doctoral candidate in Mass Communication-Journalism at Ohio University. He has taught journalism and communication at five universities. Speakman worked for more than a decade in the newspaper industry as a reporter and editor in Ohio, Kentucky, and Texas. He is an award-winning news and opinion writer.

mug_nishagarudNisha Garud is a doctoral candidate at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. She completed her M.S. in journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism in 2015. Nisha has seven years of newspaper experience, working as a reporter, features writer and an editor at various English dailies in India including, Daily, News and Analysis (DNA) and The Times of India. She has also worked as a visiting faculty at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Pune, India.

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