- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Americans get their news from local television, cable news networks and local newspapers in that order, according to new research.

Nightly network news programs, Internet sources, morning talk shows, public TV and talk radio follow in popularity - leaving National Public Radio and national newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and USA Today at the bottom of the heap, according to a Gallup Poll released Tuesday.

Such hair-splitting rankings matter in an era when major media companies struggle with dwindling revenues, debt, competition for audience and the strain these issues place on traditional journalistic ideals from a more lucrative time.

But death knells for news are premature. The survey found that most news organizations are “holding steady” as they pursue the nation’s omnivorous news consumers.

More than half of the respondents - 51 percent - watch local newscasts daily, 13 percent tune in a few times a week, almost a quarter say they occasionally rely on local sources. Forty percent watch cable news, 16 percent watch several times a week, and 27 percent occasionally.

Forty percent also read a newspaper every day, with 16 percent reading several times a week and 27 percent occasionally, Gallup found.

Interest lags somewhat after that. About a third look to the nightly network news to catch up on the day’s events on a daily basis; 31 percent to the Internet. Twenty-nine percent favor morning news programs, 28 percent prefer public television, 18 percent talk radio, 18 percent NPR and 9 percent nationally distributed newspapers.

Negative opinions are also telling: 68 percent of the respondents reported they “never” looked at a weekly newsmagazine; 60 percent never read national papers and 53 percent never tune in Sunday morning public-affairs programming. Forty-six percent said they never tuned into NPR.

Comparisons with a similar Gallup survey taken in 2006 reveal the meandering of the audience, meanwhile.

“Only cable and Internet news sources appear to be growing their audiences in any measurable way. At the same time, most media are holding steady or slipping only slightly, which may come as good news for some,” said Gallup analyst Lymari Morales.

The greatest gain of audience was enjoyed by Internet-based news - up by 13 percent among those 30 to 49 years old, 10 percent among those ages 18 to 29, and 8 percent among those 50 to 64 years of age.

The greatest drop in audience was among those 65 and older who preferred local TV news, which fell by 10 percent. The demographic, apparently, now watches cable news, where there has been a gain of 11 percent.

“These data suggest the audience may still be there for most traditional news sources, underscoring the need for media organizations to find new ways to turn eyeballs into revenue,” Ms. Morales said.

The survey of 1,009 adults was conducted Dec. 4-7 and has a margin of error of three percentage points.

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