Very few Americans watch more than 10 minutes of cable news channels in a given day


A blog post of mine earlier today (HERE), which dealt in part with the political influence — or lack of it  — of cable news channels, focused mainly on Fox News.

THIS ARTICLE deals with the same subject from a somewhat different angle:

In polls, well over half of Americans report watching cable news at least sometimes. Those channels are growing shoutier. The Pew Research Centre, a think-tank, found Fox News more negative about Mr Obama in 2012 than four years earlier, and found similar changes in MSNBC’s coverage (just 3% of its Mitt Romney stories were positive).

Yet those who blame Fox and MSNBC for dividing the country should check their sums. Markus Prior of Princeton University has dug into data, much of it unpublished, from ratings companies who remotely track viewing habits in sample households. His conclusion is that Americans fib about what they watch, and that large majorities simply shun cable news. Perhaps 10-15% of the voting-age population watch more than 10 minutes of cable news a day, a share that rises modestly before exciting elections. For most individual news shows (including hybrids like Jon Stewart’s satirical “Daily Show”), 2 million viewers counts as a wild success. That is the equivalent of 0.8% of voting-age Americans.

In 1969 half of American homes tuned into the big networks’ evening newscasts (it helped that their cautiously high-minded, eat-your-greens reporting was all there was to watch at dinner-time). The advent of cable gave those bored by politics somewhere to flee. If obsessives now dominate political debate, Mr. Prior suggests, the real culprit is not Fox but choice. Fiery partisans continue to watch lots of news, but other Americans prefer football or “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”.

The changes are not over. News-lovers are greying (hence all those arthritis ads on TV). For several years most young Americans have told Pew that they do not “enjoy” following news, in any medium. They don’t seem to be changing their minds as they age. In time, politicians may be begging for any coverage at all.



  1. AmazingScott

    We no longer own a television (got rid of it several years ago, hadn’t watched it in almost a decade) but back when we did have one and occasionally used it my beef with the news was that it was about 50% paid commercials disguised as real news, and that’s not counting the 20 minutes per hour of commercial breaks. It’s about the same for local news broadcasts, they will say ANYTHING to get you to watch the commercials. Now I flip thru a few websites for headlines that interest me (science & tech, arts & lit, etc) and mostly ignore the political stuff. I don’t see much future for any of the slanted news delivery systems, but I think that there will always be room for intelligent, objective reporting.

    • Completely disagreed. There is a bright future for slated news delivery systems, especially online. HuffingtonPost, DailyKos, HotAir, The Dailybeast, and probably a dozen more from both sides of the isle are doing quite well publishing highly biased content. It brings tons of clicks and pageviews from devoted readers, and thus, more advertising. There is no reason for it to not continue to grow and flourish.

      Even in the TV news world, MSNBC, despite poor ratings, still probably draws a small profit. How else would they stay in business?

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