How People Get The News: TV > Radio > Social Media > Newspapers

December 20, 2018

As consumers’ media behaviors shift, so are their ways of getting the news. In fact, people are about as likely to get news from a website or app as they are from watching local TV, and they’re now more likely to get news from a social media site than from reading newspapers in print. So finds the Pew Research Center in its latest analysis of news platforms, coming via a survey of almost 3,500 US adults.

The survey found that 64% of US adults at least sometimes get news from a news website or app, on par with the 64% who watch local TV news with that frequency. To be fair, TV news viewership appears to be slightly more common, with 37% watching often compared to 33% getting news from a website or app frequently.

Interestingly enough, more people watch local TV news (64%) than watch cable TV news (53%) or national evening network TV news (50%). This is one area in which pay-TV continues to excel, as most subscribers are very satisfied with their ability to watch local TV news and consider local programming a key differentiator for pay-TV relative to streaming services.

Meanwhile, Pew’s survey turns up another notable result: almost half (47%) of adults get news at least sometimes from a social media site. That exceeds the 41% who read newspapers in print with that frequency. (MarketingCharts’ latest US Media Audience Demographics report also finds that print newspaper readership has dipped under the majority threshold for the first time.)

TV Remains the Preferred Format

Although digital rivals TV for news consumption, TV comes on top for Americans were they to choose one platform. Some 44% prefer TV for getting the news, compared to 34% who prefer to get it online, 14% on the radio, and 7% via print.

Not surprisingly, TV and print have taken steps back from a similar survey conducted in 2016, while digital has made some advances in preference since then. It’s worth noting that slightly more adults this year prefer to get their news via the radio (14%) than did in 2016 (12%).

Platform Preference Does Vary, Though

There is an important (though somewhat logical) distinction in platform preference, though. TV is overwhelmingly the favorite option among the 47% of adults who prefer to get their fix by watching the news. Among the third (34%) of adults who prefer to get their news by reading it, far more express a preference for online platforms (63%) than print (17%) or any other platform.

And not too surprisingly, for the 19% who prefer to get their news by listening to it, radio takes the cake (52%), although some opt for online audio (20%) or TV (21%) in order to listen in on what’s going on. Among 18-49-year-olds who prefer to listen to the news, though, online audio (27%) is twice as popular as TV (13%) as the secondary option to radio (53%).

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