The amount of time Americans spend on mobile devices and social networking sites is accelerating rapidly — and their news consumption habits are shifting accordingly.
In a Pew Research Center survey of 3,003 U.S. adults, 17% said they accessed news on cell phone or tablet device the day before. Even more — 20% — said they regularly get news from social networks like Facebook or Google+, nearly the triple the number that did a year ago.
Interestingly, Twitter did not prove a popular news source for most, because its userbase is still comparatively small. Just 13% said they have used Twitter or read Twitter messages, 11% said they have seen news on Twitter and three percent said they received news through Twitter the day before. By comparison, 53% said they use other social networking sites, a group that includes Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, and 19% said they received news from one of those sites yesterday. It’s likely the vast majority were referring to Facebook.
Overall, 39% of participants said they accessed news online the day before, up 10 percentage points from 2008.
As news consumption through desktop browsers, mobile devices and social networks increases, print news sources continue to suffer. Less than a quarter said they read a print newspaper the day before, about half the number who did in 2000. Magazine readership has likewise declined, though at a softer rate: 18% said they read a magazine in print the day before, versus 26% in 2000. Book-reading has, at least, remained flat, but more Americans are now reading books through electronic or audio devices.
Television continues to be the top daily news source for Americans. Fifty-five percent of survey participants said they watched news on TV the day before, down three percent from the year before. However, the hold TV news has on the American public may be slipping, particularly among younger consumers: Only about a third under the age of 30 said they watched TV news yesterday, a sharp drop from the 49% who said they did in 2006.
Among individual cable news outlets, CNN has been hit the hardest in the last four years. Nearly a quarter of U.S. adults said they regularly watched CNN in 2008; this year, only 16% said they did so. Regular viewership for Fox News and MSNBC has remained steady, at 21% and 11%, respectively.
Those figures aside, the study suggests that Americans who do watch TV news spend far more time with it than other news sources. Participants who said they watched TV news the previous day spent an average of 52 minutes watching it. Radio listeners, by comparison, spent an average of 45 minutes, and those who accessed their news online or through a mobile device spent an average of 40 minutes consuming news.
Where news consumption habits shift, ad dollars are likely to follow. TV advertising levels, which so far have remained steady despite growing competition from online advertising outlets, could be negatively impacted should younger consumers continue to gravitate towards other channels. Print, it is clear, still has a tough road ahead. The landscape for social networks and mobile looks promising, but only if marketers can figure out how to demand better ad rates for those channels.
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