News Consumption Slump - Is It Because News Stories Are 'Hard To Follow'?

News consumption -- TV, social media, and otherwise -- continues to be fraught with issues.

Some blame social media for corrupting the process -- dragging all sorts of misinformation into their questionable heap of content. And then you have the traditional straight-ahead news journalists who, it seems, everyone loves to hate.

So who do we go to for the ultimate truth?

This all comes on top of other research showing that time spent with all news content is “plummeting,” according to an Axios report. TV networks such as MSNBC and CNN are down anywhere from 30% to 40% and more for specific viewer segments, for example.

Hatred and suspicion are all around us. But here's one wrinkle that we have to consider: According to a Reuters Institute report, a significant proportion of younger and less educated people say they avoid news "because it can be hard to follow or understand.”



The suggestion here is the news media could do much more to simplify language and better explain or contextualize complex stories.

So are the news writers and editors to blame here? Or is it something else? Is your deep echo chamber -- your home TV news network, for example -- bias at work here? No doubt some of this gets muddied as social media news becomes more misdirected.

Another, more dominant side to news indifference is the devoted news consumers who still contend that the Presidential election was scammed, stolen, or otherwise not legitimate. Evidence be damned -- at the moment. Emotion tethered to empty pixels can carry the day.

Now go further. Ask yourself whether there are TV news consumers who don't believe Russia has invaded Ukraine. Or whether some believe that the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York or Uvalde, Texas were a hoax, just as conspiracy theorists claimed following the Sandy Hook elementary school mass shooting. (For the latter, we have Alex Jones to thank).

Okay -- now that I've got your attention, watch key on-air news hosts and what they might say after a specific news report.

This might include: “We here at MSNBC confirmed that news.” Or: “we at Fox News Channel were unable to confirm that news.” Or: “We here at CNN had no comment from officials to our inquiries.”

These are important disclosures that journalists and news hounds do follow. But increasingly -- and perhaps unfairly -- given everyday news consumers' limited free time -- non-work, non-leisure time -- the biggest question arises: Do you have time to get this right? Unfortunately, the news never stops.

Wait, this just in... :

Associated Press just found the expanded use of drop boxes for mailed ballots during the 2020 election “did not lead to any widespread problems and revealed no cases of fraud, vandalism or theft that could have affected the results of the election.”

Okay, now get to work.

9 comments about "News Consumption Slump - Is It Because News Stories Are 'Hard To Follow'?".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 20, 2022 at 12:30 p.m.

     Wayne, it's fine for Axios to take the latest Nielsens for some demos and some cable news channels and use them to say that TV news viewing is "plummeting"compared---I assume--- to  a few years ago but that's nothing more than a writer's hype. Sure, some TV news programmers have lost some viewers they acquired during the height of the pandemic-induced stay-at-home  fear wave---but TV news in its totality is still garnering about the same share of total viewing---around 10-15% for an average adult-----as it always has---in recent history, at least.

    Also, young folks watch very little TV news, not because they don't understand what the newscasters are saying but because they could care less about most news items---except those that are about them, personally, and/or about their little peer group and its interests---hence these people get what passes for "news" mostly from social media and it's why they know almost nothing about important world events, the wild and fractured political scene, etc.

  2. Leo Kivijarv from PQ Media, July 20, 2022 at 2:38 p.m.

    Great points, Ed. Also, news consumption has peaks and valleys, jumping during elections (after September) per more than 20 years of Nieslen data, and during unexpected events (e.g., 9/11, invasion of Ukraine). Often the deep declines referenced the following year by some researchers are skewed (such as January 2022 compared with January 2021 after the January 6 insurrection). If you look at newspapers, for example, New York Times reported 8 million digital subscribers in 2021 - that's 4x the most print subscribers they ever had in the 1980s/1990s). Younger demos are using apps to access the news, particularly those that are embedded in their phones like Apple News on iPhones.

  3. John Grono from GAP Research, July 20, 2022 at 8:24 p.m.

    Axios raises an interesting suggestion that people are avoiding news "because it can be hard to follow or understand.”

    In a delicious irony, I am applying that same logic to Axios reports.

  4. Dane Claussen from Nonprofit Sector News, July 21, 2022 at 4:26 a.m.

    MSNBC's daily audience and CNN's daily audience are each less than 1% of the US adult population, according to Nielsen ratings, so the fact their audiences are plunging is interesting but not alarming. What's alarming is plunging numbers of Americans getting high-quality news from anywhere.

  5. John Grono from GAP Research, July 21, 2022 at 7:07 a.m.

    Dane, just wondering what the 1% you mention is.   Is it the average rating, which given that they are 24 hour news, is hardly surprising.

    If so, the 1% would mean that on the average minute during the day there would be 1% of the US population (~3m) would be viewing. 

    The daily reach (the proportion of the population that watched at least sometime during the day) is the better metric.   I'll go out on a limb and guess that their reach would be double figures each day, and per week it is likely to be 20+%.   Ed, you may have the data.

  6. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 21, 2022 at 8:44 a.m.

    John, I believe that Dane is citing the most relevant stats as both of these cable channels reach less than 1% of the population per minute---a reflection of viewing time---or tonnage. Their daily reach is a matter of conjecture as I have not seen anything from Nielsen on this, however, from time to time Nielsen has produced monthly reach tallies and others---MRI, for example---have asked respondents about reach on a weekly and/or monthly basis as has Pew. I doubt that CNN's monthly reach is much above 25% of all adults---except during crises reporting periods while MSNBC probably has a lesser reach---if folks representing either channel care to provide data that would be welcome.

  7. John Grono from GAP Research, July 21, 2022 at 8:58 a.m.

    True Ed, but it is the 'average minute rating' which is the same as the 'average minute reach'.   But it doesn't mean that those cable channel reach less than 1% of the population - they AVERAGE less than 1% per minute across the 1,440 minutes in the day.

    Do you have the software to get 'time-zone' analyses?   An 00:00-24:00 reach tells how many people viewed the channel.   In essence they have a single programme offering unlike most broadcasters.   It's a bit like the Super Bowl which is most often reported with the average minute audience (i.e. the 'media trading metric), the peak minute, and also by the reach of the 4 hour broadcast.   As a researcher I look for the programme reach to gauge the size, and the average minute as to how "sticky" the audience is.

  8. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 21, 2022 at 9:16 a.m.

    John, the degree of consumption endurance varies by program type, demo, etc. so you can't use a formula approach to estimate the reach of a channel relative to its average minute audience size. For example, CNN develops proportionately more reach per rating point---as these accumulate---than Fox, even though the latter has a much larger average minute audience. The reason is that the average CNN viewer spends less time---often much less time---per visit compared to a Fox News viewer. So you need actual tabs to get a realistic fix on what each chnnel generates in terms of daily, weekly or monthly reach.

  9. John Grono from GAP Research, July 21, 2022 at 4:50 p.m.

    Totally agree Ed.

    Here in AU media agencies have TV analysis software that is based on the elemental TV ratings data set (i.e. the panel per person per minute).   The user can specify the demo(s), the date(s), the market(s), the time-period/zone(s), the channel etc(s), the audience metric(s) and run the analysis themselves.

    For example, a 30-minute programme might get an average minute audience of 1m, but across the 30 minutes the reach mave have been 1.25m.   That means that the average person only viewed 80% (i.e. 24 minutes).   That doesn't necessarily mean that people are switching out as they may have switched in late.

    Here in AU we get the actual tabs every day of the year the following morning.   The media agency may see a shortfall of a programme in the buy and can start negotiating make-goods that morning (though that is mainly done after the week's buy because of the ups-and-downs of individual programmes they can be evened out).

Next story loading loading..