Middle-Aged, Educated Drive Increase in News Consumption

September 20, 2010

A 23% increase in the average number of minutes Americans spend with the news each day since 2000 has largely been driven by the middle-aged and highly educated, according to findings from the Pew Research Center.

Daily Time with News Grows to 70 Minutes
As was the case in 2000, people now say they spend 57 minutes on average getting the news from TV, radio or newspapers on a given day. But today, they also spend an additional 13 minutes getting news online (this figure was essentially nil in 2000), increasing the total time spent with the news 22.8% to 70 minutes.

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Pew analysis indicates this is one of the highest totals on this measure since the mid-1990s and it does not take into account time spent getting news on cell phones or other digital devices.

Demographics of Heavy News Users Match Digital Use Trends
The groups that are driving the increase in time spent with the news, particularly highly educated people, are most likely to use digital and traditional platforms. Fully 69% of those with some post-graduate experience got news through a digital source yesterday; this also is the group that showed the largest rise in time spent with the news from 2006-2008 to 2010 (from 81 minutes yesterday to 96 minutes).

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Meanwhile, broken down by age, the largest increase in minutes spent per day with the news (eight), is reported by Americans age 40-49, who went from daily average of 66 to 74 minutes. The second-highest increase, six minutes, was reported by Americans age 50-64, who went from a daily average of 75 to 81 minutes. Americans age 65 and older spend the most average daily time with the news, 82 minutes, but this has only increased one minute from the 2006-08 average.

Younger Don’t Use Digital News Platforms More than Older
While young people are most likely to integrate new technologies into their daily lives, they are not using these sources to get news at higher rates than do older Americans. Rather, those in their 30s are the only age group in which a majority (57%) reports getting news on one or more digital platforms yesterday.

The integration of traditional and digital technology is common among those in older age groups, as well. Nearly half (49%) of people in their 40s, and 44% of those between ages 50 and 64, got news through one or more digital modes yesterday; rates that are comparable to those 18 to 29 (48%). Digital news consumption is low only among those ages 65 and older, just 23% of whom used one or more digital modes for news yesterday.

Digital Doesn’t Fully Offset Newspaper Print Losses
Only about one in four (26%) Americans say they read a newspaper in print yesterday, down from 30% two years ago and 38% in 2006. Meanwhile, online newspaper readership continues to grow and is offsetting some of the overall decline in readership. This year, 17% of Americans say they read something on a newspaper’s website yesterday, up from 13% in 2008 and 9% in 2006.

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But the online audience is only partially stemming the decline in the share of Americans who turn to newspapers; even when all online newspaper readership is included, 37% of Americans report getting news from newspapers yesterday, virtually unchanged from 39% two years ago, but down from 43% in 2006. (These percentages still may miss some people who access newspaper content indirectly through secondary online sources such as news aggregators or search engines.)

1/3 of Public Got News Online Yesterday
Roughly a third (34%) of the public say they went online for news yesterday, according to other results from this Pew survey. This result is on par with radio, and slightly higher than daily newspapers. And when cell phones, email, social networks and podcasts are added in, 44% of Americans say they got news through one or more internet or mobile digital source yesterday.

About the Data: The biennial news consumption survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press was conducted June 8-28, 2010 on cell phones and landlines among 3,006 adults.

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