Against the backdrop of recent congressional hearings on Facebook privacy breaches and use of user data, of allegations that the publisher of the National Enquirer paid hush money to a woman in advance of the 2016 election, and of President Donald Trump’s “fake news” vitriol, 2018 has been quite a year for U.S. media.
But when it comes to news, how many people in the United States read, listen, watch or Google to learn about local, national and international news?
The answer may surprise you. According to the Pew Research Center:
- Just 50 percent of U.S. adults get news regularly from TV — down from 57.1 percent in 2016. Local TV news is still the medium of choice, not network news, but even that is declining.
- Just 28 percent of American adults say they turn to cable outlets for news and information. There are people still looking for news on television, but the numbers are way down.
- About 9 in 10 adults (93 percent) get at least some news online either from a mobile device or desktop computer. More Americans are going to news organizations’ websites or social media tools to find news. Indeed, podcasts are generating new users looking for connectivity and news.
For all its problems, Facebook attracts about 68 percent of U.S. adults, rivaled only by YouTube. Twitter, by most accounts, attracts 67 million users — a number that has grown since the service began in 2006 despite criticism that it “manipulates” results.
But hear this: Listening to news remains very popular, with the audio sector split between traditional radio like AM-FM dials, online radio and growing numbers of podcasts. And many may be surprised to know that public radio is still popular. The top 20 NPR-affiliated radio stations had an average total weekly listenership of 11 million in 2017, up from 10 million the previous year, according to Statica, which tracks statistics.
So, for all the controversy over “fake news,” digital invasion of privacy, lack of media transparency, bots, Russian meddling and distrust of news organizations, the news beat goes on.
But there is one last surprise in the Pew study: Almost 7 in 10 Americans (68 percent) feel worn out by the amount of news there is these days. Whose fault is that?
Tara D. Sonenshine is a former U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. She advises students at The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs.