Americans are Hungry for News

By Insights for Curious Marketers Archives
Cover image for  article: Americans are Hungry for News

It’s been a news heavy year ... and a year of heavy news. For some, keeping up with COVID-19 case counts, changing business and school restrictions, vaccine roll outs, elections, impeachments and stimulus packages can feel like a full time job.

In an earlier article on media consumption during the pandemic, I uncovered that consuming news content is part of why people are spending more time with TV, YouTube and Facebook. And the news is one of only a few consumer interests that grew this year as we became a bit more practical and less creative during our (limited) leisure time. But what about the places people turn to for news, such as newspapers, podcasts and news apps? Are they also seeing a lift? Is any news source pulling out ahead as the one we’re turning to the most?

The news is a bit of a national obsession right now, and we’re turning to all possible sources to stay up to date.

Between the pandemic and politics, Americans have a voracious appetite for the news. We’ve increased our usage of almost every available news source, with the exception of small declines for printed newspapers and magazines. Especially interesting is the +44% increase in “talking to other people” as a news source, pulling ahead of radio. At a time when social gatherings are on pause, we’re clearly still talking to each other and apparently the news has been a hot topic.

TV and newspapers no longer have a monopoly on the news, especially among adults under 50. Social media outpaces TV among adults 18-34 and is creeping up quickly on TV among adults 35-49. Among all age groups, news websites not associated with a newspaper are approaching the levels of newspaper websites. Podcasts are another medium to keep an eye on; while not a top source of news yet, the year-on-year growth is among the highest across all age groups.

Notably, TV’s overall gains as a news source in the past year are being driven predominantly by adults 18-34. As with the overall increase in TV viewing during the pandemic, I’m curious to see if this is a new normal or a temporary reversal in declining TV viewership amongst this age group.

When it comes to their main source of news, one-third of Americans turn to TV. Collectively, more people turn to digital sources, but the sources are more fragmented. It's noteworthy that slightly more people turn to social networks, non-newspaper websites and news apps as their main sources than go directly to newspaper websites.

Of course, a lot of the content showing up in social networks and news apps originates from newspapers. News publishers cannot rely only on driving traffic to their websites but must create a multi-pronged approach to meet people where they are consuming news content – in social feeds and news apps. Advertisers seeking contextual alignment with the news need to consider multi-platform plans.

Digging under the surface, we see that almost half of adults over 50 turn to TV as their main news source, but only 1 in 6 adults 18-34 and 1 in 4 of adults 35-49 do so. Social media is a top source for adults under 50 and is still trending upwards among these groups. News apps on mobile/tablet are growing rapidly as the main source of news for all age groups except 65+.

There is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach to consuming the news. To gain consumer attention, news outlets must create connected distribution webs that push their news coverage out to consumers wherever they prefer to consume it.

The trend of print’s decline has been in motion for years, and when it comes to the news specifically, print is mostly a vehicle for reaching adults 65+. However, there is ample opportunity to reach all age groups in the digital space with a constellation approach to distribution and a content mix that includes not only reading but also watching and listening. Leaning into social-friendly video and into audio to share content can help publishers capture a greater share of advertising dollars and help advertisers build greater reach and relevance.

The speed of change continues to accelerate, and the past year has thrown us some real curveballs! The right data can empower marketers to more confidently navigate today and plan for tomorrow. I love to strategize and help. Contact me to see this data, and more, broken out for your target audience.

Image at top courtesy of Tamara Alesi/YouGov.

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