Released: July 30, 2006
Online Papers Modestly Boost Newspaper Readership
Maturing Internet News Audience Broader Than Deep
Section 1: Watching, Reading and Listening to the News
Getting the news is an integral part of the daily routine for most Americans. Still, the percentage getting news from any source is significantly lower than it was in the mid-1990s, before internet news became popular. Roughly eight-in-ten (81%) say they got news yesterday either from TV, newspapers, radio, or by going online. That represents a slight decline from 2004 (85%), but a more substantial drop since 1994 (90%).
In terms of other daily activities, 63% say they watched a non-news program on television in the day prior to the survey; that is slightly greater than the percentage watching TV news (57%).
About half of Americans (53%) say they went online, either from home or from work. That represents a significant increase (from 47%) since 2004. But far fewer (23%) say they went online for news yesterday, virtually no change from two years ago (24%).
An increasing number of Americans say they exercise on a typical day. More than four-in-ten (44%) say they got some form of vigorous exercise yesterday, such as jogging or working out at a gym; in 2004, 38% reported getting some exercise on a typical day, and a decade earlier just 26% did so.
Reading books remains a popular activity, with 38% saying they had read a book not related to work or school in the day before the survey. Slightly more respondents said they read books of non-fiction rather than fiction (20% vs. 15%).
Competing Time Demands
For young people in particular, getting the news often takes a back seat to other daily activities. For instance, 40% of those under age 30 say they watched a movie at home on video, DVD or pay-per-view yesterday. That is far more than the number who say they read a newspaper (24%), listened to radio news (26%), or went online for news (24%), and only somewhat less than the number who watched TV news (49%).
In addition, playing video games is a popular activity with young people, especially young men. Overall, 28% of those under age 30
36% of men in this age category say they played a computer or video game yesterday. Twice as many men under age 30 as women in that age group reported playing a video game (36% vs.18%).
More surprising, perhaps, is the fact that reading books also is a favored activity of many young people. Indeed, somewhat more people ages 18-29 say they read a book yesterday than do people ages 30-49 (41% vs. 34%), and about the same percentages of people under age 30 and those ages 50 and older read a book yesterday. However, far fewer young people actually enjoy reading. Just 39% of those age 18-29 say they enjoy reading a lot, compared with majorities in older age categories.
Many Young People Get No News
Despite the vast array of news sources these days, a significant number of Americans (19%) say they got no news yesterday from television, newspapers, radio or the internet. Young people and those with a high school education are most likely to go newsless 27% of Americans under age 30, and 25% of those with a high school education or less, say they did not get news from any of these sources yesterday.
About one-in-five men under age 50 say they did not get news yesterday (19%), but that figure drops to 9% of men who are ages 50 and older. There is less of a difference between women under 50 and those ages 50 and older. Comparable percentages of Republicans, Democrats and independents say they get no news on a typical day.
Time With the News
On average, Americans spend just over an hour 67 minutes watching, reading, listening and logging on for news. Thirty minutes, on average, is spent watching television news, and about 15 minutes each is spent on newspapers and radio. Just six minutes of time each day comes from news on the internet. The relatively low impact of the internet reflects the fact that fewer than one-in-four (23%) get any news online on a typical day.
The total time that people spend with the news is largely unchanged from a decade ago. The time people devote to reading newspapers is down from an average of 19 minutes to 15 minutes, partially because fewer are reading papers and partially because those who do spend a bit less time at it. Time spent watching TV news or getting news on the radio is largely unchanged from 1996.
Men spend considerably more time with the news than do women, mostly arising from their greater consumption of television and radio news. In particular, men spend an average of 74 minutes watching television news, compared with 61 minutes for women.
There is a particularly large gap in time spent on the news by age people ages 18-29 spend just 49 minutes with news on a typical day, compared with 65 minutes among those 30-49; 76 minutes for those 50 to 64; and 79 minutes among people ages 65 and older.
This age gap is based on the fact that younger people are so much less likely to read a newspaper or watch television news on a typical day; even when they do they spend less time with these sources than do older people. This age difference is greatest when it comes to newspapers.
Just 24% of people under age 30 read a newspaper on a typical day, and when they do they average eight minutes of reading. By comparison, 58% of people ages 65 and older read a paper on a typical day, and spend an average of 25 minutes with it when they do.
Using Multiple Sources
Television remains the most popular source of news, with most Americans watching at least some news programming on a given day. But for many Americans, one source is not enough. Half of the public uses multiple news sources on a typical day the other half either gets news from a single source (31%) or does not get any news (19%).
The arrival of the internet as a news option has not changed this basic pattern of news consumption over the past decade. In 1996, 52% used multiple news sources on a typical day, 33% just one source, and 15% got no news little different from today. This stability reflects the fact that the internet is, for the vast majority of its users, a supplement to other traditional news sources. Of the 23% who get news online on a given day, the vast majority also use other news sources; just 4% of the public relies on the web alone. And the average online news consumer spends far more time per day getting news on TV, newspaper and radio than they do getting news online.
Regular News Audiences: TV
The number of Americans who say they regularly watch nightly network news, cable TV news, and local news has fallen over the past two years. Currently 28% say they regularly watch the nightly network news on CBS, ABC or NBC, compared with 34% in 2004. In 1993, fully 60% said they regularly watched one of these broadcasts.
The regular cable news audience also has declined, from 38% to 34%, since 2004. And local TV news also has lost ground from 59% to 54%. However, as is the case with nightly network news, the audience for local TV news is about the same size as it was in 2000 (56%).
As in past news consumption surveys, there is a sizable generation gap in TV news viewership, with the biggest divide in nightly network news. Notably, both young people (those under age 30) as well as those ages 65 and older are tuning into network news in smaller numbers than in the past.
Only about one-in-ten Americans (9%) under age 30 say they regularly tune into the nightly network news on CBS, ABC, or NBC; that is about half the number saying that in 2004 and 2002. Yet network news also is losing older viewers, who have long been the mainstay of its audience.
Roughly four-in-ten of those ages 65 and older say they regularly watch one of the nightly network broadcasts (43%). In 2004 and 2002 (and in previous Pew surveys dating to 1993), solid majorities of seniors tuned into an evening news program. A decade ago, fully 64% of respondents ages 65 and older said they watched one of these programs.
The age differences in viewership of local news and cable news are smaller than for network news. And for cable news, in particular, the gap has narrowed. Roughly four-in-ten seniors (38%) say they regularly watch cable news channels like Fox, CNN or MSNBC; that is down a bit from 2004 but the same percentage as in 2002. That compares with 30% of people ages 30 and younger. The percentage of young people tuning into the cable news outlets has increased since 2002 (from 23%).
Specific TV News Outlets
There has been little change in the regular audiences for most individual TV news outlets over the past two years. This includes Fox News Channel, whose regular audience increased impressively
from 17% to 25% of the general public between 2000 and 2004. This year, 23% say they regularly watch Fox News, virtually no change from two years ago.
Currently, 22% say they regularly tune into CNN, which is unchanged since 2004 but roughly a third below CNN’s audience in the early 1990s (35% in 1993). About one-in-ten Americans continue to say they regularly watch MSNBC (11%) and CNBC (11%).
Nearly identical percentages of Americans say they watch the nightly network news on NBC (15%), ABC (14%) and CBS (13%); those numbers are down slightly from 2004. And 5% say they regularly watch the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, largely unchanged from recent news consumption surveys.
Radio News Down Not Talk or NPR
Fewer than four-in-ten Americans (36%) say they listened to radio news the day before the interview. That is down only slightly from the past two media consumption surveys, but is substantially lower than in 1998 (49%).
The audience for radio news, which has long been popular with auto-bound commuters, is largely comprised of well-educated, middle-aged males. More than four-in-ten men (42%) say they listened to news on the radio yesterday, compared with 31% of women. Roughly four-in-ten people (41%) ages 30-64 say they tune into radio news on a typical day, compared with 27% of those ages 65 and older, and 26% of those under 30. And college graduates are far more likely to tune into radio news on a typical day than people with a high school education or less (by 47% to 28%).
While fewer people rely on radio news than in the 1990s, the regular audience for radio call-in programs has increased modestly. One-in-five Americans say they regularly listen to shows that invite callers to discuss politics and other subjects; that compares with 13% in 1998. There also is less of a partisan tilt to the radio talk show audience than in the late 1990s. Nearly identical percentages of Republicans (21%), Democrats (20%), and independents (20%) say they regularly listen to such programs. In 1998, about twice as many Republicans as Democrats said they listened to call-in radio programs (20% vs. 11%).
National Public Radio’s regular audience has held steady in recent years, and has increased significantly since the mid-1990s. Currently, 17% of Americans say they regularly listen to NPR, up from 13% a decade ago (and 9% in 1994). Over the past decade, NPR has attracted greater numbers of people under age 30 (from 9% to 15%); those with post-graduate experience (25% to 30%); and Democrats (15% to 22%). Consequently, there is a now sizable political gap among NPR listeners, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans by 22%-13%; a decade ago, 15% of Democrats, 14% of independents, and 11% of Republicans said they regularly listened to NPR.
Web News Dominated by A Few Sites
The online news market is dominated by a few large players. In particular, among those who say they regularly get news on the internet, 31% list MSNBC.com as one of the websites they use most often; 23% name Yahoo.com; and the same percentage names CNN.com.
Other websites that are widely used for news are Google.com (9%); AOL.com (8%); and FoxNews.com (8%). The New York Times (5%) and USA Today (5%) are the most frequently mentioned newspaper websites among online news sources.
As a whole, news aggregators such as Google News, Yahoo News and AOL News are a major source of online news. Not only are they frequently volunteered as websites used most often for news, but nearly half (45%) of Americans who regularly get news online (and 18% of the public overall) say they regularly visit these websites to get news.
Roughly a third (32%) of online news consumers say they regularly visit the news sites of TV networks such as CNN.com, MSNBC.com and ABCnews.com.
Newspaper websites overall are used about as frequently as network news sites; 29% of online news consumers 14% of the total population say they visit newspaper websites regularly.
However, while two players MSNBC.com and CNN.com dominate the network website category, the public visits a wide variety of newspapers online, both national and local.
Just 4% of the public and 8% of online news consumers say they
regularly go to online blogs where people discuss events in the news. Comparably small percentages 3% of the public and 6% of online news consumers regularly visit online news magazines and opinion sites such as Slate.com and Salon.com.
However, blogs that discuss news events have become a destination for a significant number of young people, especially those ages 18-24. About one-in-ten (9%) in this age category say the regularly read these types of blogs, while another 10% say they sometimes do so.
Nearly a quarter of those who say they went online for news yesterday say they read news blogs regularly (10%) or sometimes (12%). Yet even among these online news consumers, 62% say they never read news blogs. (The Pew Internet & American Life Project has detailed research on blogs and other online activities and pursuits at www.pewinternet.org)
Search Engines More Popular
An increasing number of internet users say they employ search engines like Google and Yahoo to get news on subjects of personal interest. Nearly three-quarters of all internet users (74%) say they have used a search engine for this purpose, and 40% say they have done this in the past week. Both numbers have risen sharply since 2004 (63% and 30%, respectively).
The use of internet search engines to look for news stories is especially popular among those under age 30; fully 81% of internet users in this age category say they have ever relied on a search engine for this purpose and 46% have done this in the past week. But the practice is widespread among older internet users as well. A solid majority of internet users who are 65 and older (57%) say they have ever used a search engine to seek out a news story on a subject that interests them and about a third (32%) have done this in the past week.
Even as more internet users are using search tools to actively seek out stories of interest, an increasing number are inadvertently getting news while they are online for other purposes. About three-quarters of internet users (76%) say they “bump into” the news when online; the percentage of online users saying they get news in this fashion has increased steadily since 2000 (from 55%).
Internet users who are ages 65 and older are less likely than younger people to come across news when online for other reasons. But there are at most only modest educational and income differences in accidental online news consumption. About three-quarters of internet users with post-graduate experience (77%) say they inadvertently come across online news, as do 71% of those with a high school education or less.
Emailing News Stories
Another common practice among internet users is to use email to disseminate stories of interest. Roughly six-in-ten internet users (61%) say they have ever been emailed a news story from a friend or associate, and 26% say this has happened in the past week. A smaller number (40%) say they have actually sent a new story to a friend or colleague.
Notably, older internet users are as likely as young people to send and receive news stories via email. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of online users ages 50 and older have received news stories by email (including 61% of those ages 65 and older); that compares with 59% of those under age 30.