When researchers explored the earlier iterations of the ACI Scholarly Blog Index, one focus that was fairly common was the value of scholarly blogs for obtaining the latest news and updates available within a given academic discipline. Those researchers embraced ACI’s addition of even more curation, sharing, and update notification tools, and it was apparent that scholars have a unique set of challenges with regards to news consumption. Those in the plant science fields wanted to know when the latest experimental crops, metabolism studies, or new field research were being discussed. Genetics researchers in one university wanted to know what the other universities were discovering. Political science professors wanted the lowdown on situation X from other political theorists.

Photo: Peggy Marco, Pixabay.

While traditional journalists play a continually valuable role in news provision for the average consumer, a scholar’s extensive knowledge in their respective fields often means an altogether different playing field. A microbiologist, for example, may not necessarily benefit from a popular news or magazine article on a recent microbial finding to the extent that a non-microbiologist consumer would. In addition, for those so deeply educated in their disciplines, tidbits from social media and other digital communication routes are haphazard and often incomplete, and the longer-form structure of blog posts often mean more comprehensive or detailed background information than breaking news links on Twitter usually provide.

“Social media, messaging apps, texts and email provide a constant stream of news from people we’re close to as well as total strangers. News stories can now come piecemeal, as links or shares, putting less emphasis on the publisher. And, hyper levels of immediacy and mobility can create an expectation that the news will come to us whether we look for it or not.”
Pew Research Center, July 7, 2016

For those early ACI researchers at least, it wasn’t just a matter of keeping up with current events in their fields: with the credentialed commentary and analysis in blog posts authored by scholars and experts in their respective industries, those scholarly blogs provided a way to get up-to-date news from those actually doing, or were extremely knowledgeable about, the research or circumstances involved. Whether they were interested in news specific to niche disciplines or interested in news and commentary on regional or global happenings in a general sense, researchers highly valued the verified education, experience, or other measured authority of those actually penning those posts.

For those interested in this topic, the Pew Research Center recently released two reports worth exploring: The Modern News Consumer and Key findings on the traits and habits of the modern news consumer. Derived from Pew surveys conducted earlier this year, the reports indicate an overall reliance on online news provision that parallels a lack of full trust in the sources providing that news in the first place. According to Pew’s study, more than 70% of Americans seek out news, and 81% of those get at least some of their news from digital sources. In addition, the study found that of those Americans who have accessed news online through a desktop and through a mobile device, more than half actually prefer to access their news via mobile.

What implications do these findings have on news consumption for scholars? While Pew’s reports didn’t differentiate between general or subject-specific news items, or between scholar and non-scholar-status within the topics involved, it did find that college-educated news consumers are nearly twice as likely to prefer digital news access to print. In addition, while 62% of adults get at least some news through social media platforms, only 4% (not a typo) indicate a high trust level for those news items. How must scholars evaluate those same items when already highly knowledgeable in their fields?

Even the plethora of open-access journals don’t necessarily improve upon the notification options for new content already lacking in many peer-reviewed publications: even for some of the most highly-respected open-access journals, you still have to visit the publication’s homepage in order to browse the latest releases. Given the additional information-seeking challenges that scholars and field experts already experience regarding breaking news or current events within their disciplines, the scholarly blog – especially when coupled with accessible blog subscription options or other notification & alert tools like those ACI provides – offers researchers a reliable, authoritative option for attaining comprehensive and in-depth knowledge regarding the research, events, and scholarly conversations currently happening within their respective fields.

Explore the ACI Scholarly Blog Index, and see for yourself why this award-winning database is “Highly Recommended” by CHOICE Reviews for Academic Libraries. Use the promo code LEARN to explore the scholarly blog discovery service, powerful search engine, and full range of metadata and workflow tools available within the ACI Scholarly Blog Index.