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US news consumption booms

News, 03 April 2017

NEW YORK: News consumption is rising significantly among US consumers, a trend attributed in large part to an "unrelenting flood of stories" ranging from presidential politics to the demise of much-loved celebrities, a study by Nielsen has suggested.

The insights group reported that adults in America collectively spent over 73.5 billion minutes consuming news content in the average week last year across national and local TV, radio and digital – an 18% annual increase.

More specifically, the typical consumer dedicated 18.5 hours to this activity a week in 2016, versus a total of just over 16 hours during 2012, when the last presidential election was held.

"News headlines were non-stop throughout 2016," Glenn Enoch, Nielsen's SVP/Audience Insights, explained in summing up the study’s findings.

"The unrelenting flood of stories included not just the presidential election but also Syria, refugees, Brexit, Zika, terror attacks, celebrity deaths, and tense relations between police and communities. Americans responded by watching, listening to and reading more news – a lot more news."

Such a trend has continued to gain traction in January 2017, Nielsen's figures indicate, with the typical adult spending 41 more minutes watching news each week than the 2016 benchmark. "The year is starting with even more news viewing, listening [and] reading than the 2016 average," said Enoch.

National cable TV news has been the main beneficiary of this uptick, claiming 20 additional minutes of weekly attention in the first month of this year compared with the average from last year as a whole.

Drilling down into the figures for 2016, Nielsen revealed that radio took the highest share of weekly news consumption, posting a total of 12.9% in its Personal People Meter markets.

National cable news claimed second place on 8.5% – an increase from 6% the previous year. News consumption on PCs also rose from 3.4% to 4.2% year on year, while smartphones witnessed a slight decline in share, from 0.9% to 0.7%, according to Nielsen's figures.

Data sourced from Nielsen; additional content by WARC staff