Is the Web Really Gobbling Up Newspapers' Audience?

This graph from a recent Pew study on news readership is making the rounds. What do we see?


A few observations.

1) Our news diet is omnivorous, and always have been. In 1991, more than half of the country listened to radio news, and more than half the country read the newspaper, and more than two-thirds of the country watched news on TV.

2) Our news diet is pretty steady. The total time spent consuming news on TV, radio and newspapers is just under one hour, as TechCrunch notes, the same as in 2000. "TV makes up 32 minutes of that, radio is 15 minutes, and newspapers make up 10 minutes. Online news, however, takes up 13 minutes a day, so the print guys really have nothing to celebrate," they found.

3) While it's popular and partly accurate to blame the Web for stealing newspapers' audience, it's clear from the graph that both newspapers' and radio news' share of total audience has declined steadily since 1991.

4) It's rather remarkable how similar the fall of newspaper and radio news audience have been in the last 20 years. They have declined at almost the same pace for two decades.

5) When comparing Web to newspaper audiences, remember to think about time spent on each news source, because advertisers want eyeballs that are paying attention. According to an earlier Pew survey, the average American reader spends 2,000% -- yes, 2,000% -- more time with a physical newspaper than a newspaper Website.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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