Washington in the Information Age

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A sign of the times
If the internet changed our information consumption from a tropical storm into a hurricane, the recent evolution of online news channels—social media, e-newsletters, podcasts, etc.—elevated it to a Category 5.

Of course, not all news is good news. Policy professionals’ perceptions of social media’s role in their work decreased over the last couple of years; just 34% say accessing social media is an important part of their daily work, compared to 51% in 2017. Similarly, only a quarter of those surveyed expect to rely on it in the future, down from 50% in 2017.

Are Washington insiders turning away from social platforms altogether? Or are they narrowing on use cases? And how does this behavior reflect the larger context of trust in media?

Here’s a hint: mainstream media still leads the way in Washington, with trust levels above 80%, followed by think tanks and trade publications. More striking is that amid dropping trust in digital sources, less than a third of policy professionals put their trust in local news.

In recent years, podcasts have become a go-to news source: in 2019, every generation reported higher daily consumption of podcasts for Washington-related content, with nearly two-thirds of millennials tuning in every day. Last year, NPR dominated the space, although other media brands secured top spots for politics and policy programming.

Insights like these are available in Washington in the Information Age (WIA), National Journal’s flagship report on influential channels and voices in DC. The annual study will help you effectively navigate the crowded political media landscape and give your organization an edge in its advocacy and communications efforts.

View our 2019 results.

A peek into the research
Our research stems from an in-depth survey of over 1,000 Washington insiders: people who analyze, communicate, develop, and influence policy on a day-to-day basis. We explore how these senior-level policy professionals—from Capitol Hill, federal agencies, and private sector groups—gather and consume information for policymaking.

The study contains pertinent data on the most trusted brands for Washington-focused news and information, resources relied upon in policy decision-making, perceptions and use of social media platforms, top journalists, and more. The research also includes an analysis of a day in the life of an insider, and delves into the issue of “fake news.”

Here’s a glance at the growing frustration with perceived partisanship in media on both sides of the aisle—a deepening trend with political ramifications in DC. Hyperpartisan content or extreme spin was the most common response in ranking concerns about Washington-focused media.

The full results—with customized data across workplaces, generations, parties and issue areas—allow policy and communications professionals to pinpoint the specific channels, content formats, and timing needed to maximize reach and influence decision-making.

Washington in the Information Age (WIA)
We are in the digital era, where the nature of the information we consume relies more and more on how, where, and when we receive it. Nowhere is this phenomenon more important than in advocacy. Success in today’s increasingly crowded policy environment requires a 360-degree understanding of the flow of information in Washington. Here’s how we can help:

Guide your advocacy with WIA
See beyond the obvious trends in news media and dive into the specific behaviors of policymakers that drive their efforts. Here’s a snapshot of some of the questions that our research addresses:
   – What channels do Capitol Hill staffers and Federal Executives trust the most?
   – Which content channels do policymakers turn to for deeper perspectives on issues?
   – When is the best time to send an email newsletter?
   – Which vehicle is best for telling the history of an issue?
WIA answers these questions, enabling you to tailor your engagement strategies and avoid communications pitfalls.

Zeroing in on what matters in Washington
The goal of our research is to facilitate effective connections between policy advocates and decision-makers. Now in its ninth edition, Washington in the Information Age puts data behind the anecdotes and narratives we hear on a personal and national level. See how policy perspectives, news, and ideas travel around the Beltway, and increase your impact on the process and subsequent policy outcomes. Learn more about how Washington in the Information Age can help you navigate the noise here.