TV News: Good news, bad news about audience growth

At Poynter’s Future of News Conference, the Pew Research Center’s Paul Taylor said that — once again — the younger they are, the less they watch.

…researchers in 2012 asked consumers how many minutes they devoted to taking in the news the day before. While the Silent Generation spent 84 minutes with the news, Boomers devoted 77 minutes and Gen Xers reported 66 minutes, Millennials said they spent just 46 minutes consuming news — a figure that hasn’t changed appreciably since 2004.

It’s long been assumed that once someone ages, he or she is more likely to get interested in news, but Taylor says this “life cycle” effect doesn’t actually have scientific support.

So, getting young people hooked on TV news may actually be getting harder, but additional research from Pew does make for some short-term optimism.

…the audience for local TV news grew in all three major time slots in 2013. Viewership climbed 6% in the morning (5 to 7 a.m.) and 3% in the early evening (5 to 7 p.m.) newscasts, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis. The audience barely edged up—by .1%—in the late night slot (11 p.m.), a newscast that had suffered the biggest decreases in recent years.

The repPewViewershiport suggests that significant news events during sweeps periods, such as tornadoes, floods and the health care website controversy in November, may have prompted some of the improvement in audience numbers.

Whatever the reason, TV news organizations have a reason to go into the February sweeps period with a bit cheerier outlook.

Television remains the No. 1 source of news for Americans with 71 percent indicating that they watch local newscasts, according to Pew.

Graphic courtesy of