Digital, Cable News Audiences Only Media to Grow in 2009

March 19, 2010

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Broadcast & Cable | Magazines | Media & Entertainment | Newspapers | Radio | Television | TV Advertising

For the third consecutive year, only digital and cable news saw audiences grow among the key sectors that deliver news in 2009, according to The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism.

As reported in “The State of the News Media 2010,” across cable, gains came largely from Fox News Network, although CNN gained viewers during the day. The report also indicated the Americans are increasingly “on-demand” consumers, looking for platforms that offer the news when they want it from a variety of sources.


Key data from the report includes:

Television News

  • Overall, median prime time viewership for the three main cable news channels grew 7% to 3.88 million in 2009 – but Fox alone grew by nearly 25% to 2.13 million viewers. MSNBC rose 3% to 786,000, while CNN slipped 15%, to 891,000.
  • Network news audiences continued to slip, though erosion appears to be slowing for evening news programs. For the year, viewership fell 2.5%. The NBC Evening News gained viewers for the year, while ABC’s World News Tonight lost the most heavily. A total 22.3 million viewers watch evening newscasts each night during the dinner hour, five times more than the number watching cable news at any given moment during prime time.
  • 12.8 million people watch morning shows, down 2.4% from 2008 and the fifth straight year of decline.


  • Newspaper print circulation lost 10.6% in 2009, following a loss of 4.6% in 2008. Total daily circulation is down 25.6% since 2000.
  • Newspaper ad revenue fell 26% in 2009, a rate of decline that was more than 50% steeper than a year earlier. Even online ads fell 10%. Newspapers responded by raising prices, which led to a total revenue loss of 22%.
  • Magazine circulation fell 2.23% for the second half of 2009, compared with the same period a year earlier. Single-copy sales fell 9%, following an 11% drop a year earlier. Across the six news magazines tracked, circulation fell 8.2%.
  • Magazine ad pages fell 26% for the year across the board. Time and Newsweek saw ad pages fall 17% and 26% respectively. Among niche news magazines, the only one to gain ad pages was The Week, which grew 9.5%.
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    • Of 4,600 news and information sites, unique visitors grew 9.25%. Top sites tend to dominate, with the top 7% pulling 80% of the traffic. The top 20 sites attract the majority of that traffic. Legacy media makes up the majority of the most popular destinations, though each year sees newly created websites joining the list.
    • Only 21% of people surveyed say they tend to rely primarily on one destination for news online. Most, 57%, use anywhere from two to five websites, with only 12% using more than six.
    • The findings of the study suggest news sites face a significant challenge in putting their content behind a paywall. Most people “graze” the web for news rather than relying on primary sources, with only about a third of people able to identify a favorite news site. Of those that did identify a favorite site, only 19.3% said they would continue to use the site if it put up a paywall.

    Monthly Web Usage Declines in February
    Even online media sites may face difficulties in increasing audience this year. Average US month-over-month internet usage declined in every category during February 2010, with most web brands and parent companies losing traffic, according to The Nielsen Company.

    The two most-viewed online media sources last month, AOL Media Network and Fox Interactive Media, both lost audience. AOL Media Network lost about 2% of its month-over-month audience, while Fox Interactive Media lost almost 7%.

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