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How Today’s Audiences Are Consuming Media (and Why You Should Care)

By Jenna Bruce on Tue, Oct 07, 2014 @ 07:32 AM |


There is a conventional wisdom that says media consumption can be divided along generational and economic lines, and that most people rely on just a couple primary resources for news. But, according to a survey by the Media Insight Project, an initiative of the American Press Institute and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, an entire audience of varying demographics currently relies on a mix of sources to get their news every week.

Here are some findings the study uncovered:

Americans Access the News Throughout the Day Across Multiple Devices

Keeping on top of news throughout the day and across various devices, formats and technologies has become somewhat of an American pastime. Thirty-three percent of survey respondents reported following the news all throughout the day, while 24% prefer to follow the news in the morning and 26% in the evening.

How Today’s Audiences Are Consuming MediaWhile many Americans follow the news on various devices (56% use a smartphone while 29% reach for their tablet), traditional media such as print and television still remain an important channel, even for those with the most gadgets. For example, 62% of respondents who said they use only one Internet enabled device reported to use the print version of a publication to get news as did 60% of people who use three or more mobile devices.

Americans Discover News in Different Ways

The study revealed that today’s consumers are discovering news through different means and generally using between three and five methods, from old-fashioned word-of-mouth to social media to electronic alerts. The most popular way Americans report discovering their news is directly from a news organization such as a newspaper, website or newswire.

A surprising finding was that people tend to discover news in old fashioned ways like word-of-mouth or over the phone (65%) more than they do with modern methods such as email or text messaging (46%), or through social media (44%).

A 2012 report on the State of the News Media put out by the Pew Research Center backs up the idea that, rather than gravitating toward one device or channel, a growing number of Americans are becoming multi-platform news consumers.

Here are some interesting findings from the report:

Multiple Digital Device Usage is growing

A majority of Americans get their news through at least one digital, web-based device. While laptops and desktop computers remain the primary digital platform for news consumption (54% of respondents get the news there), the number of consumers who get news on multiple digital devices is growing. Nearly a quarter of all U.S. adults, now get news on at least two devices–a desktop/laptop computer and smartphone, a computer and a tablet, a tablet and a smartphone, or on all three.

Consumers Go Directly to the Source

Like the Media Insight Project, this study also found that the most common way people get news is by going directly to a news organization’s website or app. In fact, previous PEJ studies have shown modern consumers who access news through search engines typically type in some variation of the website’s homepage name instead of searching by topic across different news sources.

Social Media Plays a Small Role in News Consumption

Social media usage has proven to be more hype than anything else when it comes to consuming news. While clearly a part of the digital news experience, only 9% of consumers follow news recommendations from either Facebook or Twitter.

Computer Users’ Exhibit Specific Behavior

Consumers who answered they get digital news only on their desktop or laptop computer have a very specific set of behaviors, 48% getting news using keyword search compared with at least 70% of those who use a smartphone, tablet or both for news. Similarly, 54% go directly to news websites or apps somewhat or very often, while 80% or more of those who get news on other devices do so.

Mobile Users Interact with Media More Often and LongerHow Today’s Audiences Are Consuming Media

Localytics, a closed-loop app analytics and marketing platform that helps brands acquire, engage, and retain users, shared its proprietary data with researchers involved in this study. Mobile users typically spend more time consuming news on mobile devices than any other device. Their findings also show mobile users go to news sites more often, spend more time per session and read more articles per session.

Just a decade ago, no one could have possibly grasped the level of media saturation we see today. Media is now moving toward being accessible anywhere and at any time by hungry consumers. That means tremendous opportunity for advertisers who want their message to have the biggest reach with the biggest return on investment.

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