A recent blog post in the New Yorker decried the apparent ignorance of Americans to what’s going on in the world. According to a survey cited in the post, only four percent of Web users are active news customers who read the front section of the news. They described active news customers as readers who consumed at least ten substantive news stories and two opinion pieces in a three-month period. Back when we all started the day with the newspaper, those stats would be reached in one sitting!

The researchers focused on hard news, using machine learning algorithms to analyze the habits of 1.2 million U.S. Web users who had accumulated 2.3 billion page views. They wanted to find out who was reading real news articles as opposed to cultural or celebrity news. Since this was a Web-based research project, news sources such as traditional newspapers, television and radio were not included.

When you consider the fact that the Internet is becoming an increasingly common way we get our news (see article), this seems to be a very valid thesis – we don’t seem to be that interested in real news anymore. This presumption leads to an interesting conclusion: it may be easier to fool most of the people some of the time if they have no reference in fact.

A major focus of the study was tied to “filter bubbles” in Internet media. People can choose from a wide variety of subjects and channels to get the information they are seeking, instead of reading a single newspaper. In effect, many Web users may be self-filtering their content by choosing specific sites that they get their news and information from.

As the blog post surmises, the lack of people interested in knowing what’s really going on in our society and in politics will lead to those who are clued in having a greater impact on policy.