A recent release by MSNBC reports that in the five weeks since Sept. 11, at least 45 percent of all 18-34 year-olds in the U.S. tuned into CNN at some point, compared to about 16 percent in August, according to Nielsen Media Research. At MSNBC, almost 30 percent of that demo watched at least 6 minutes of the cable channel during the same period, up from 20 percent the month prior. Fox News Channel captured 28.9 percent of younger viewers, compared to 12 percent in August.
For decades, younger audiences have been apathetic towards TV news programming and the number of news readers in their 20s and early 30s has been decreasing. But since Sept. 11, Internet news outlets such as CNN.com and MSNBC.com as well as the online editions of The Boston Globe an Chicago Tribune have experienced record traffic numbers.
A growth in the prime 18-34 year-old demographic would be most keenly felt at traditional media companies. At a time of shrinking advertising revenues and when media companies are incurring huge costs to cover the war in Afghanistan, the audience and readership gains among this group of consumers could eventually have a positive long-term impact on the news business.
"Younger readers have a personal interest now in what’s going on in the world. They’re turning to the newspaper to help them." said Ricky Matthews, publisher of the Biloxi Sun-Herald . Although there’s no demographic data available yet on who is buying all those papers, "the increases in circulation most newspapers have seen since Sept. 11, (is) primarily coming from younger readers, because the penetration among older readers is so strong already," said Christine Urban of Urban & Associates, a newspaper research firm.
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