August 17, 2008

Key News Audiences Now Blend Online and Traditional Sources

The News and Daily Life

News Consumption ‘Yesterday’

Getting news in one form or another remains a daily habit for the vast majority of Americans. On any given day, roughly eight-in-ten people report seeing, reading or listening to some kind of news. However, reflecting the steep declines in newspaper and radio news consumption, the overall share using any traditional news source on a given day has fallen from 90% in 1994 to 85% in 1998 to 73% today.

The arrival of the web has counterbalanced this slow-but-steady decline. When the share getting news online is included in the total, 81% of Americans report having gotten some kind of news the previous day, unchanged from 2006 and down just four points over the past decade. There are no signs that the web is expanding the overall news audience, however. It still has a smaller reach than any other medium on any given day, and the vast majority of Americans who do get news online also are using other traditional sources on the same day.

TV news remains the most widely used source. On any given day, 57% of Americans watch news on TV, a rate that has remained largely stable over the past 10 years (59% in 1998). By comparison, the share that reads a newspaper yesterday stands at 34%, down six points in just the past two years and down 14 points from 48% a decade ago. Radio news is suffering comparable losses. The share that listened to news on the radio yesterday also has slipped 14 points since 1998, from 49% to 35%.

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Overall, 29% of Americans say they got news online yesterday, up from 23% in 2006. At this point, the web still trails TV, radio and newspapers in terms of the percentage of users each day. Relatively few Americans report the internet as their sole source of news. Instead, the vast majority of people who get news from the web also are using traditional sources. Of the 29% who got news online yesterday, 84% also got news from TV, radio or a newspaper. Just 5% of Americans got their news only from the web.

FigureAs was the case two years ago, TV news viewers spend much more time getting the news than do those who get news on the radio, newspapers and the internet. Nearly half of Americans (48%) watched TV news for a half-hour or more yesterday, and the average among TV news viewers was nearly an hour (54 minutes).

Users of other news sources spend far less time, on average, with those sources than do TV news viewers. People who say they listened to radio news spent 41 minutes, on average, doing this; newspaper readers spent an average of 39 minutes reading the paper. By comparison, online news users spent an average 35 minutes getting the news from the web.

The internet is used as a news source at about the same rate among both young and middle-aged Americans. For example, 50-to-64-year-olds are about as likely as 18-to-24-year-olds to report having gotten news over the internet yesterday (29% vs. 30%, respectively). Fewer than half as many people ages 65 and older got news from the internet yesterday (13%).

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Age is an even bigger factor when it comes to watching TV news and reading a daily newspaper. Only about a third of those younger than 25 watched any TV news yesterday (34%) by far the lowest percentage in any age group; even those who are slightly older (ages 25 to 34) are much more likely than the very young to say they watch TV news on a typical day (50%).

Similarly, just 15% of the youngest age group says they read a newspaper yesterday. In this case, that is only somewhat less than the proportion of those ages 25 to 34 who read a newspaper yesterday (24%). The only age group in which a majority of people say they read a newspaper yesterday is those ages 65 and older (55%).

Time with the News

While somewhat fewer people are following the news on a typical day, on average, Americans, including young people, are spending about the same amount of time with news as they did a decade ago. This year’s news consumption survey finds that people spend just over an hour – 66 minutes – watching, reading and listening to the news on a given day. Nearly half of that time (30 minutes) is spent watching television news, 14 minutes listening to news on the radio and 13 minutes reading a newspaper. The average time spent getting news online among the American public is just nine minutes.

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FigureWhile the total time that people spend with the news is largely unchanged from a decade ago, time devoted to reading newspapers is down from an average of 18 minutes in 1998 to 13 minutes today. That is mostly because fewer people are reading papers. However, the time that a newspaper reader spends reading the paper has not changed over the past decade; they spend an average of 39 minutes with the paper, which is virtually unchanged from 1998 (38 minutes).

There is a consistently large gap in time spent on the news by age. People who are younger than 30 spend just 46 minutes with the news on a typical day. That compares with 63 minutes on average among people in their 30s, and higher averages for older age groups.

This age gap is based on the fact that younger people are much less likely to read a newspaper or watch television news on a typical day. However, even when younger people do get the news they spend less time with these sources than do older people. Overall, those younger than 30 who get news on a typical day spend, on average, 65 minutes with the news; that is substantially less than the average for older news consumers.

News Throughout the Day

FigureAbout seven-in-ten Americans (71%) say that on a typical weekday they start their morning with some type of news. Somewhat fewer people say they get news during the course of the day (64%), around the dinner hour (56%), or late in the evening (63%). The overall patterns of daily news consumption have not changed substantially in recent years.

Young people, who generally spend less time with the news than do older people, are far less likely than their elders to get news in the morning, and particularly at the dinner hour. Fully two-thirds of Americans older than 50 (66%) say they get news on a typical day around the dinner hour; that compares with about half of people ages 35 to 49 (53%), and even smaller shares of younger age groups.

FigureSince 1998, there has been a noticeable decline in the proportion of young people getting news around the dinner hour. A decade ago, a solid majority of those younger than 25 (59%) said they got news at this time; today, just 39% get news around the dinner hour. The age gap in news consumption at the dinner hour has grown substantially over the past decade, as two-thirds of those older than 50 continue to get news at this time.

However, there are no age differences in news consumption during the course of the day: Fully 63% of those 18 to 24 regularly get news during the day, making it the most popular time for this age group to get news. That is comparable to the proportions of people in older age groups saying they get news during the course of the day.

TV Still Dominates Late in Day

FigureTelevision remains the dominant source for news, both overall and at each time of day, but newspapers and radio continue to attract substantial minorities of the news audience, particularly in the morning and during the day.

However, the rise in the internet’s prominence as news source is the largest change in news consumption at different times of day. Today, one-third of daytime news consumers say they get their daytime news online, up from just 5% who said the same 10 years ago.

FigureThe web is now the dominant source for younger people who get news during the course of the day. By a wide margin (52% to 26%), more people younger than 35 who get news during the day rely on the internet rather than television. For those 50 and older, television remains the leading news source during daytime hours. This is particularly the case for people ages 65 and older; 76% of seniors who get news during the day mainly rely on television compared with 6% who mainly use the internet.

Radio also is a popular source for people who get news during the day. Nearly three-in-ten of those who get news during the day (28%) say radio is their main source. Among working people, slightly more turn to radio for news during the day than go to television (32% vs. 30%); many more rely on the internet for news at this time.

A decade ago, television was the leading source of news during the day for every age group. Since then, there has been a major migration from television to the internet among younger people who get news during the day. But older people (ages 65 and older) continue to rely on television about as much as they did a decade ago.

While online news has overtaken television as a source for young people during the day, TV news still remains the top news source at other times. For example, about quarter of those younger than 25 (24%) who start their morning with the news cite the internet as their top source, but many more (62%) cite television as their main source of news at this time.