According to a study released by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in July 2006, on an average day, 81 percent of Americans access news. Where are they getting it?
Editor's Note: All statistics cited are from the Pew Center for the People and the Press report "Online Papers Modestly Boost Readership: Maturing Internet News Audience Broader Than Deep", released July 30, 2006, unless otherwise noted.
The Big Picture
On a typical day...
- 57% of Americans watch TV news
- 54% watch their local news
- 34% watch cable news channels
- 28% watch the nightly network news
- 23% watch the morning news programs (The Today Show, Good Morning America, etc.)
- 40% of Americans read a newspaper
- 36% of Americans listen to news on the radio
- 23 % of Americans get news online
- 18% visit news aggregators (Google News, Yahoo! News, AOL News, etc.)
- 14% visit national TV networks' sites (CNN.com, MSNBC.com, ABCnews.com, etc.)
- 14% visit newspaper Web sites
- 4% visit news blogs
- 3% visit online news magazines (Slate.com, Salon.com, etc.)
Overall audience trends:
The total number of Americans getting news on an average day is down almost 10 percent from 1994. Young Americans are the most likely to get no news at all, with 27 pecent of people under 30 reporting they get no news on an average day. Of those who do get news, half go to multiple sources. On average, Americans spend 67 minutes of each day gathering news from various formats.
As points of comparison: on an average day, 63 percent of Americans watch non-news TV, 44 percent exercise or play a sport, 38 percent read a book, 24 percent read a magazine, 24 percent watch a movie at home, and 17 percent play video games.
A Closer Look
Evening News Broadcasts
Television is Americans' favorite news source. But the popularity of the nightly network news has plummeted in the past decade. In 1993, 60 percent of Americans reported that they regularly watched the CBS, ABC or NBC evening news -- today it's 28 percent. And only 9 percent of people under 30 tune in to the networks' nightly newscasts. Despite the highly-publicized ratings wars, the three big networks' news broadcasts were almost tied when Americans reported to Pew what they regularly watch: 15 percent watch NBC Nightly News, 14 percent watch ABC World News Tonight, and 13 percent watch the CBS Evening News. Five percent watch The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
As of November 2005, according to Nielsen Media Research, the networks' primetime news magazines were attracting audiences ranging in size from 3.9 million for Nightline to 15 million for 60 Minutes11. More recently, Dateline's "To Catch a Predator" pedophile stings have attracted audiences of 7 to 10 million.12 In its most recent season, by Nielsen's measures, FRONTLINE premieres have reached between 3 million and 11 million viewers.13
CNN and Fox News lead the pack among the cable news networks: 23 percent regularly watch Fox and 22 percent regularly watch CNN, down from the early '90s, when 35 percent of Americans reported regularly watching CNN. MSNBC and CNBC each regularly attract 11 percent of the public.
Local television news remains the most commonly watched TV news among Americans, but measuring trends across such a diverse category proves challenging. In general, local channels are experiencing a decline in viewership for their morning and early evening news broadcasts. The late-night local news, however, has seen on average a slight increase in ratings in recent years.14
In 1965, 71 percent of Americans reported reading a newspaper on an average day. As of 10 years ago, that number had fallen to 50 percent, and today it stands at 40 percent. The average circulation for a U.S. newspaper in 2005 was 37,492 for the weekday edition and 63,118 for the Sunday edition.15
Among national newspapers, as of September 2006, the New York Times had an average daily circulation of just over 1 million and an average Sunday circulation of over 1.6 million.16 As of 2005, The Washington Post had a weekday circulation of just over 715,000 and a Sunday circulation of just under 1 million.17 The Los Angeles Times had a circulation in fall 2006 of roughly 900,000 on weekdays and 1.2 million18 on Sundays. USA Today and The Wall Street Journal both have weekday circulations over 2 million.19
The New York Times and USA Today have the most popular newspaper Web sites according to the Pew Center study. Five percent of people who get news online report using each of these sites. Local newspapers are struggling to attract readers to their Web sites, with fewer than half of people who read newspapers online visiting local newspaper sites.
Since 1998, the number of Americans getting news from the radio has dropped from 49 percent to 36 percent. One in five listens to call-in political or news programs -- a group roughly equally split between Democrats and Republicans. Seventeen percent regularly listen to NPR; "Morning Edition," NPR's most popular program, has an average audience of 13 million people.20
Satellite radio's audience is still comparatively very small, reaching roughly 10 million people compared to the 247 million people traditional radio reaches.21 Internet radio stations reach still fewer people, with Arbitron, the largest measurer of radio ratings, counting only 3.7 million listeners of the five largest online radio networks combined.22 Roughly 10 million people -- 6.6 percent of the population -- have downloaded an audio podcast, a figure that includes news and non-news podcasts.23 NPR, which in August 2005 launched a podcast library that has now grown to nearly 400 titles, including over 50 news-related podcasts, reported that as of February 2007 it had delivered 80 million podcast downloads24. In the future, these new alternatives will likely continue to grow and reshape how and where Americans listen to news.
The Web is still primarily used in combination with other news sources. Only 4 percent of the population relies on the Internet alone for their news. When it comes to which sites Internet news browsers prefer, providing an exact ranking proves tricky. At this time, tools and methods for measuring Web site traffic remain even less perfect than those for measuring radio and television audiences, and there's widespread debate about how to best count the visitors to various sites, making precise comparisons difficult. But the rough estimates provided by existing measurement techniques and the Pew survey results can still provide a useful sketch of the terrain.
MSNBC, Yahoo! and CNN are by far the most popular news sites among individuals who get their news online: 31 percent of Internet news users list MSNBC.com as one of the sites they use most often, 23 percent name Yahoo! and 23 percent name CNN.com. The next most popular sites include Google (preferred by 9 percent), FoxNews.com (8 percent), and AOL.com (8 percent). About three-quarters of people who get news online have used search engines like Google and Yahoo! to find specific stories, and 40 percent of users have emailed news stories to friends or colleagues.
Only 4 percent of Americans regularly visit news blogs -- but the percentage jumps to 10 percent in the 18-24 age bracket. Rocketboom founder Andrew Baron says his site attracts 300-350,000 people each day.27 Markos Moulistsas' Daily Kos gets just under 500,000 visits per day.28 Joshua Micah Marshall's three blogs -- Talking Points Memo, TPMCafe and TPMmuckraker.com -- together attract over 750,000 people each month.29 Power Line, the blog of John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson, averages just over 55,000 visits per day.30 The Drudge Report, which does not publish unique visitor statistics, averages over 10 million page views per day.31
FRONTLINE's Web site averages 80,000 daily visitors.
While the percentage of Americans getting news from all other media is falling, using the Internet to get news is on an upward trend. A recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project suggests that a main factor in that growth will be Americans' increasing adoption of broadband Internet connections that make surfing the Web faster.
13 FRONTLINE Web traffic