News Consumption Statistics - Featured Image

25+ Remarkable News Consumption Statistics [2021 Edition]

Imagine a society without news.

A dark world where no one knows what’s going on outside the home or workplace.

The scenario doesn’t sound very appealing or even practical. News is a very critical part of our daily lives.

Here’s why:

News helps us keep tabs on what is happening around the world and how it may affect us. Also, news can be a source of entertainment for many people.

As these news consumption statistics will show, a lot has changed with the availability of the internet. The world has become a transnational network, and global news is just a click away. More and more people are looking for news online, and many of them use social media to learn about the latest events.

Top News Consumption Trends (Editor’s Choice)

  • Nordic countries have the highest number of paying online news readers.
  • Only one US newspaper had a daily circulation above 500,000 copies in 2020.
  • In 2020, the US cable news viewership reached an all-time high.
  • More than 30 million Americans tuned in to major-network evening news in 2020.
  • 48% of Americans receive breaking news from social media.
  • WhatsApp is the fastest-growing social news app worldwide.
  • Globally, 56% of media consumers are worried about fake news.
  • Fox News overtook local TV as the leading offline news source in 2020.

Trends in the News 2021

1. Nordic countries had the highest number of paying online news readers in 2020.

(Reuters Institute)

Internet publications require money to run, whether it’s in the form of subscriptions, donations, or memberships. For this reason, online news agencies have been trying to push users to pay for a long time.

So far, they’ve been most successful in Sweden and Norway, but the US is slowly catching up. Many people in these countries chose to pay to read their favorite news on the internet in 2020. In some cases, the year-over-year increases were significant.

News consumption stats show that 26% of media consumers from the Nordic countries paid for their news at least once in 2020. Norway is in the lead with 42% (up from 34% in 2019), and Sweden is second with 27% (same as in 2019). The US is at 20%, up from 16% in 2019.

2. Only one US newspaper had a daily circulation above 500,000 copies in 2020.

(PressGazette)

With an average of 994,600 copies sold daily in the first quarter of 2020, The Wall Street Journal was the only US newspaper with circulation above 500,000 copies.

News consumption statistics from Q1 of 2020 show that USA Today, once the country’s most popular newspaper, was now in a distant second with 486,579 copies sold daily. The New York Times ranked third (410,562 copies), The Washington Post was fourth (206,824), and Los Angeles Times rounded out the top five (193,015 copies).

The COVID-19 pandemic took a massive toll on print media. Many publishers laid off staff, while some even filed for bankruptcy. The annual print circulation data for 2020 is unavailable, but the numbers are likely to be significantly lower than in the year’s first quarter.

3. 47% of 45 to 54-year-olds rely on the local news to stay informed.

(Statista)

Looking at media consumption habits, the 45 to 54-year-old demographic loves local news. Only 6% of that age group doesn’t follow localized news at all.

Local news is least popular with 18 to 29-year-olds (32%). As you can see, the difference between these two age groups isn’t that large, suggesting that local news has a level of importance to both demographics.

4. The United States cable news viewership reached an all-time high in 2020.

(Variety, CNN)

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 presidential election, cable news networks had a very successful year, statistics on news consumption show.

Fox News grew its audience by 43% in 2020 and ranked among the top 10 networks overall in the advertiser-preferred 18–49 demographic. What’s more, the network had its most successful year ever, averaging more than 3 million viewers in primetime.

Other cable news networks also posted significant increases in 2020. MSNBC was up by 23%, while CNN grew its audience by a whopping 83%. In November 2020, CNN had the biggest monthly viewership in its 40-year history.

Where People Get Their News?

5. 35% of Americans preferred getting their news from TV in 2020.

(Pew Research Center)

Interestingly, the percentage of American adults who enjoy watching the news on TV is higher among older audiences. News consumption statistics by age show that 68% of media consumers over the age of 65 and 54% of those aged 50–64 get their news from television. For comparison, only 16% of news watchers aged 18–29 cited TV as their go-to source of information.

As for other traditional media outlets, 7% of American adults say they listen to the radio for news, while print publications have just a 5% share.

6. In 2020, 52% of US adults preferred getting their news from digital platforms.

(Pew Research Center)

Online news consumption saw significant growth in 2020, with more than half of adults preferring digital platforms. A closer look at news industry trends shows that 50% of digital news consumers primarily rely on news websites. Another 23.1% get their news from web searches, 22% from social media, and 4.9% from podcasts.

7. 18 to 29-year-olds were the most avid digital news consumers in 2020.

(Pew Research Center)

A staggering 71% of media consumers in this age group got their news from digital sources in 2020. The 30–49 bracket follows closely with 67%, the 50–69 age group is third with 52%, and the over-65 are fourth with 48% of digital news consumers.

8. 69% of people worldwide use their smartphones to access news.

(Reuters Institute)

According to 2020 mobile news consumption trends, more than two-thirds of people worldwide use their smartphones at least once a week to access news.

Somewhat surprisingly, smartphone news consumption rates are highest in places where flat-rate internet is less common, such as Kenya (83% of mobile users) and South Africa (82%).

More developed countries tend to have the lowest rates — for example, Canada is at 55% and Japan at 52%. However, recent trends indicate that, even in these countries, smartphones are quickly becoming the primary platform for digital news consumption.

9. More than 30 million viewers tuned in to major-network evening news in March and April 2020.

(Variety)

How many people watch the news?

Any other year, the numbers would’ve been unimpressive. However, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted US TV viewers to go back to watching the evening news live.

Between March and April 2020, close to 31 million people combined tuned in to watch the evening news across the three major networks — ABC, CBS, and NBC. This marked a record-breaking 42% rise from the same period in 2019 when about 21.9 million watched major broadcasters’ evening news.

Even PBS, a public broadcaster that doesn’t usually publish its ratings, boasted about a 34% rise in live viewership for the PBS NewsHour.

Many people still relied on digital platforms for the latest news, which brings us to the next question:

How many people get news from social media?

10. 48% of Americans receive breaking news from social media.

(Statista, Pew Research Center)

Billions of people have access to social media platforms and have started relying on them for the most recent news. Globally, the use of social media as a news source in 2020 was highest in Kenya (77%), Greece (73%), and Chile (73%).

The US ranked 15th out of 20 surveyed countries. Millennials are the most avid social media news consumers here — 57% say they read the news on social media daily.

Facebook is the most popular site with US adult news lovers at 36%. YouTube follows with 32%, and Twitter is third with 15%. In 2020, TikTok established itself as one of the most popular social media platforms, and 3% of Americans now get their news there.

11. 62% of US adults believe social media’s effect on the news is too big.

(Pew Research Center)

Social media platforms have algorithms that tailor their news content to each user’s interests and online behavior. However, 55% of Americans think this results in a worse combination of news than users would normally get.

According to a recent survey, 88% of US adults believe social media favors sensational content designed to attract clicks. Additionally, 79% believe certain media outlets get preferential treatment from social platforms.

For 55% of Americans, the most significant problem stemming from this is the distribution of one-sided news. Furthermore, 51% believe this enables the sharing of inaccurate or fake information.

12. The New York Times tops the list of the most respected newspapers in the US.

(Pew Research Center)

In this era of fake news, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories, readers are very skeptical about the news in general. There are also too many biased publications willing to fabricate facts that favor their political allies.

It’s not all bad, though, as recent facts about the news media reveal.

There are newspaper brands that will go the extra mile to ensure the news they publish strictly follows ethics codes. Some publications will even fire staff who plagiarize or exaggerate rather than report facts.

Many Americans still trust print journalism. According to a 2020 survey, the three most trusted newspapers are The New York Times (35%), The Wall Street Journal (32%), and USA Today (30%).

News Consumption Statistics - World Globe

World News Consumption Statistics

13. Only 38% of people worldwide trust the news.

(Reuters Institute)

Globally, people’s trust in the news has been decreasing for years.

In 2020, there were only five countries where more than 50% of people said they have complete faith in the news they hear. These include Portugal (56%), Finland (56%), Turkey (55%), The Netherlands (54%), and Brazil (51%). In the US, only 29% of news consumers said they trust mainstream media, down from 32% in 2019.

14. WhatsApp is among the fastest-growing social news apps worldwide.

(Reuters Institute)

Although Facebook and YouTube remain the leading social apps for news, online news consumption statistics show that the use of WhatsApp is increasing worldwide. In 2020, 47% of news readers used this app to learn the latest information and discuss it in WhatsApp’s private groups.

WhatsApp is most used in Latin America, South-East Asia, and Africa. Its social news market share is high in countries like Chile (40%), Brazil (48%), Mexico (39%), and Argentina (38%). Furthermore, 51% of news consumers in Malaysia, 50% in Hong Kong, and 47% in Singapore also use WhatsApp to get the latest information.

The app is most popular in Kenya, where 67% of people use it to get news.

15. 56% of people worldwide worry about fake news.

(Reuters Institute)

Statistics about news consumption worldwide reveal that the level of concern is highest in Brazil, where 84% of media consumers say they don’t always know if the news they’re reading is fake.

Similar levels of concern exist in Portugal and Kenya (76% each). The US ranks fifth with 67% of concerned media consumers, behind fourth-placed South Africa (72%).

Statistics of News Consumption Over Time

16. China had the earliest form of news media in 202 BC.

(PsPrint)

Way back in 202 BC, China had local news media referred to as Tipao. Tipao mainly focused on imperial bulletins and palace reports, and runners only distributed the news to bureaucrats.

In ancient Rome, the government distributed news sheets to the public as early as 131 BC. The news was mostly about executions, trials, military campaigns, and politics.

Moving to Colonial America, Benjamin Harris was the first person to print an actual newspaper in 1690. Unfortunately, the government arrested Harris because his paper included political criticism.

Let’s look at more historical news consumption statistics.

17. John Campbell published the first successful US newspaper in 1704.

(PsPrint)

Campbell, a Boston postmaster, stayed away from politics to avoid upsetting the government.

In 1722, the colonial government jailed another popular publisher for criticism over the government’s failure to protect people in New England from pirates.

But things started changing during the industrial revolution:

By 1890, some newspapers circulated millions of copies. During this time, newspaper suppression was unheard of, giving publishers more liberty to print unbiased news.

18. US newspaper circulation in 2020 was at an 80-year low.

(Pew Research Center, PressGazette)

In 2020, the newspaper circulation in the US was the lowest since 1940.

The downward print media consumption trends started in the 1970s when publishers began cutting costs by shutting down many evening newspapers.

Sunday papers held their ground until the end of the 1980s. By the early 1990s, their circulation also started gradually declining, just as the popularity of 24-hour news channels began growing.

As news consumption statistics over the century show, the US newspaper circulation has been steadily dropping each year since then.

With no national newspaper managing to cross the one-million mark and only one selling more than 500,000 copies in 2020, it was the least successful year for print journalism in the 80 years that official circulation numbers have been monitored.

19. In 2020, TV reclaimed its position as one of the most popular news consumption sources, statistics show.

(Reuters Institute)

According to a 2020 report, the COVID-19 pandemic helped television — local, network, and cable — grow its viewership and strengthen its dominance in the media landscape.

For an entire decade, the internet was gradually overtaking television as the go-to source of information. However, 60% of US media consumers and 71% of their UK peers said they got their news from TV in 2020, marking a 5% uptick from January 2020, right before the pandemic hit these countries.

And while most news channels had their most successful year in 2020, online news statistics show that the internet is still the number-one news source worldwide.

20. 67% of global news consumers now watch online video news.

(Reuters Institute)

Besides social media, news websites with video content are very popular among media consumers worldwide.

News consumption statistics from 2020 reveal that Turkey had the highest share of online news viewers (95%), followed closely by Kenya (93%) and the Philippines and Hong Kong (89% each).

In the US, 61% of news consumers get their information in the form of online videos. These include individual video stories, on-demand broadcasts of network news shows, and satirical takes on the daily news (e.g., The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight).

Statistics on News Consumption and Generations

21. 48% of millennials prefer news that contains augmented reality.

(Agility PR Solutions)

Augmented reality is a hit with millennials, with nearly 50% opting for it compared to traditional news presentation. Generation Z also shows a considerable interest in technology, at 47%. Only 20% of baby boomers care about virtual reality, while 33% of Gen-Xers prefer it to the traditional way of presenting news.

22. Millennials consider 76% of the news they consume to be entertainment.

(Agility PR Solutions)

Media consumption statistics show that just over three-quarters of millennials consider what they read or watch as entertainment. The demographic least interested in entertainment news is baby boomers (50%).

23. 44% of millennials don’t think journalism is relevant to them.

(Agility PR Solutions)

Shockingly, 44% of millennials don’t care for journalism. Generation X statistics aren’t that good either, with just 41%. As for Gen-Zers, 39% don’t find journalism relevant.

This is yet another learning point for media companies.

Media outlets and journalism companies should consider looking for better ways to appeal to these demographics. Millennials, Generation Z, and Generation X all prefer sensory news.

24. In 2020, 57% of millennials got their daily news from social media.

(Statista)

Where do millennials get their news?

Unsurprisingly, a vast majority of US millennials get their daily news from social media.

However, it is surprising to learn that 28% of them also listen to news radio every day. Television comes in third with 25%, online-only media outlets are fourth with 24%, and cable news rounds out the top five with 21% millennials watching it daily.

Only 10% of millennials read newspapers every day in 2020. Meanwhile, podcasts are becoming more and more relevant as a news source — 8% of US millennials listen to them daily to stay informed, another 10% multiple times a week, and 8% once a week.

News Consumption Statistics - Vintage TV

TV News Consumption Statistics

25. Local TV news stations saw a drop in ad revenue in 2020.

(Statista, Pew Research Center)

Back in 2017, the US local TV news market had combined revenue of $27.87 billion. 

Since then, however, the five major local TV companies have experienced a steady drop in ad revenue — and it continued in 2020. Overall, these companies and the 600 local stations they operate saw a median ad revenue decrease of 24% from 2019.

But 2020 was far from gloomy for local news broadcasters.

Due to the positive trends in news consumption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people turned to local news for the latest information. As a result, their cable carriage fees grew by an unprecedented 37% year-over-year, resulting in a median revenue bump of more than $87 million.

26. Fox News overtook local TV as the leading source of offline news in 2020.

(Statista)

Fox News had its strongest year ever in terms of viewership, but it also managed to dethrone local TV stations as the top offline news source in the US.

According to 2020 facts about news consumption, 29% of media consumers cited Fox News as their go-to offline news source. Local news is right behind with 28%, while NBC (and its cable news channel MSNBC) and CNN tied for third place with 24% each.

This certainly makes sense.

In a year full of major events — including the global pandemic and the presidential election — TV stations kept viewers glued to their screens with regular updates and live reporting throughout the day. Print media couldn’t compete with this, which explains why only 18% of Americans chose local newspapers as their preferred offline news source.

Media Consumption Statistics: In Conclusion

How people consume news has changed over the years. Different demographics also have unique preferences and are not afraid to choose one news source over the other. 

Although 2020 was very successful for TV and online media outlets, recent news media consumption trends show there’s a lot that media companies need to work on to appeal to different audiences.

Bottom line:

Online news sources have gained momentum in recent years. However, we can’t ignore other news sources like newspapers, as generations of media consumers still love them. Television has also seen a massive spike in ratings due to major global events in 2020, but maintaining those high ratings will certainly be challenging.

Ultimately, each demographic likes their news a certain way, so there’s a clear need for every media outlet to develop ways to engage all of them.

FAQ

What is news consumption?

News consumption is the consumer’s intake of news. Whether it’s through conventional (newspapers, radio, and television) or online news sources, different demographics have different ways of gratifying their need for news.

What percentage of Americans watch TV news?

According to a 2020 survey60% of Americans watch the news on TV. The percentage is much bigger than in previous years, but it’s hardly surprising. In 2020, the whole world fought with the COVID-19 pandemic, and many media consumers turned to TV for the latest updates. The US presidential election and the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump also undoubtedly contributed to the rise in TV news viewership.

How much is the news industry worth?

It’s difficult to assess the news industry’s exact value, as most news outlets are part of large corporations. For example, Fox News and The Wall Street Journal are both part of the NewsCorp, AT&T’s Time Warner owns CNN, and MSNBC is part of Comcast’s NBCUniversal conglomerate.

For this reason, financial reports put news outlets in a broader category — media and entertainment. According to industry insiders, the US market was worth $720 billion in 2020, while the global entertainment and media industry was worth about $2 trillion.

How much time do people spend watching the news?

According to data from September 2020, Americans spent an average of 7 hours and 5 minutes per week watching the news. For comparison, the average weekly time spent watching the news was 5 hours and 46 minutes just a year earlier, indicating a 13% year-over-year increase.

How do millennials get news?

Most millennials prefer getting their news online, with 57% citing social media as their go-to source of information. Surprisingly, 28% of millennials said they got their news from the radio in 2020, 25% watched major-network news, and 21% watched cable news broadcasts daily. Only 10% of millennials got their daily news from newspapers.

How many people get their news from Facebook?

Facebook is by far the most popular social media platform for news, with 36% of US adults getting their news there in 2020. YouTube is in second place with 23%, and Twitter rounds out the top three with 15%, news consumption statistics show.

Sources:

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