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Online media is replacing newspapers and TV. Is that a bad thing?

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So younger media consumers are not just trading links from Huffington Post on the left or Michelle Malkin on the right. They are going to the same sources their parents went to, just digitally – much like Stine. And, contrary to what other "older, wiser" news consumers might believe, they are actually fairly up to speed on the news.

"In 2008, the knowledge level of younger news consumers was even with the older folks," Mr. Rosenstiel says. "They are still interested in news, not just opinion. That's what the Web has shown us. It was the medium they weren't interested in, not the message."

And younger people may be the vanguard, but the shift toward digital news reaches across age groups and across the entirety of the news media. In 2010, the only medium that saw audience growth was online. Everything else, from local TV news to cable to newspapers saw declines, some of them fairly steep. Cable TV audiences were down by more than 13 percent.

For older audiences, the technology itself is the draw. Young people may love their news online, but they probably find it harder to drop $500 on an iPad (and that's the cheapest model). The audience measurement firm comScore recently reported that 50 percent of iPad owners made more than $100,000 a year – not exactly student wages.

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