Television news starting to feel the brunt of digital media consumption

Michelle Clancy | 01-10-2012

While print publications have been struggling for years in the face of digital news, it now appears that traditional television news may be losing its hold on the next generation of news consumers, according to research from the Pew Research Center.

The changing demographics of the TV news audience are particularly noticeable in the audiences for local and cable news. The overall share of Americans saying they regularly watch local television news has slipped from 54% in 2006 to 48% now and in that regard it remains one of the news sources with the broadest reach. But the number of 18-to-29 year-olds regularly watching local news has fallen from 42% in 2006 to 28% today.

The reasons for this have to do with anytine, anywhere access to information. Online and digital news consumption continues to increase, with many more people now getting news on cell phones, tablets or other mobile platforms. And perhaps the most dramatic change in the news environment has been the rise of social networking sites. The percentage of Americans saying they saw news or news headlines on a social networking site yesterday has doubled from 9% to 19% since 2010. Among adults younger than age 30, as many saw news on a social networking site the previous day (33%) as saw any television news (34%), with just 13% having read a newspaper either in print or digital form.

Over this same period, the regular audience for cable news also has aged. In 2006 and 2008, there were only modest age differences in regular cable news viewership. But in the current survey, more than twice as many of those 65 and older as those younger than 30 say they regularly watch cable news (51% vs. 23%).

When it comes to individual cable news outlets, the research found that CNN's regular audience has declined since 2008. Four years ago, nearly a quarter of Americans (24%) said they regularly watched CNN; that has fallen to 16% in the new survey.

Regular viewership for both Fox News and MSNBC has not changed much in recent years.
About one-in-five Americans (21%) say they regularly watch Fox News, while about half as many (11%) say they regularly watch MSNBC.