Journal of Nanoparticle Research

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 1083-1094

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The changing information environment for nanotechnology: online audiences and content

  • Ashley A. AndersonAffiliated withDepartment of Life Sciences Communication, University of Wisconsin-Madison Email author 
  • , Dominique BrossardAffiliated withDepartment of Life Sciences Communication, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • , Dietram A. ScheufeleAffiliated withDepartment of Life Sciences Communication, University of Wisconsin-Madison


The shift toward online communication in all realms, from print newspapers to broadcast television, has implications for how the general public consumes information about nanotechnology. The goal of this study is threefold: to investigate who is using online sources for information and news about science and nanotechnology, to examine what the general public is searching for online with regards to nanotechnology, and to analyze what they find in online content of nanotechnology. Using survey data, we find those who report the Internet as their primary source of science and technology news are diverse in age, more knowledgeable about science and nanotechnology, highly educated, male, and more diverse racially than users of other media. In a comparison of demographic data on actual visits by online users to general news and science Web sites, science sites attracted more male, non-white users from the Western region of the United States than news sites did. News sites, on the other hand, attracted those with a slightly higher level of education. Our analysis of published estimates of keyword searches on nanotechnology reveals people are turning to the Internet to search for keyword searches related to the future, health, and applications of nanotechnology. A content analysis of online content reveals health content dominates overall. Comparisons of content in different types of sites—blogs, government, and general sites—are conducted.


Nanotechnology Online content analysis Online audiences Information seeking Online communication Public perceptions Societal implications