Monday, September 22, 2008

Analysts: Online news viewers rising as newspaper readership falls

Newspaper readership is down -- especially among younger adults -- and so is newspaper circulation. But online TV viewing is on the rise overall, with news the most popular content category.

Consumers seem to be getting more of their news online these days and less of it from newspapers and traditional broadcast TV, suggest the results of some industry surveys.

About 20% of US households now use the Internet for TV viewing, almost double the online viewership as two years ago, according to a study released this week by The Conference Board and TNS.

In tracking online viewing across types of content, the survey found that the largest number of people (43%) tune in to news. Other results tallied included 39% for drama shows, 34% for sitcom/comedy shows, 23% for reality shows, 16% for sports, and 15% for user-generated content.

Almost nine out of ten online TV viewers do their viewing at home, while smaller percentages do so at work or in other locations, such as the library or a friend's home. The most popular methods for viewing content turned out to be streaming video (68%) and free download (38%).

Without mentioning alternatives such as digital video recorders (DVRs), the survey cited being able to watch broadcasts at their own convenience as the top reason why viewers watch TV online. Other reasons included a lack of commercials and "portability."

Conversely, results of a survey released in July by the Readership Institute showed a small drop in local newspaper readership in the US from the fall of 2006 to the spring of 2008, with a larger decline among younger adults aged 18 to 24.

Although the authors of the survey suggested that seasonal factors came into play, the total number of newspaper "non-readers" uncovered by the survey amounted to 36%.

Still, those who do read newspapers spend an average of 27 minutes per day reading it during the week, and 57 minutes on Sunday.

"The weekday findings are similar to previous results, [but] the weekend time spent, while similar to results from the last four studies, indicates a drop of 7 percentage points from our first study in 2002," according to the authors.

Meanwhile, on the newspaper circulation side, a report published this week by the UK's Media Guardian showed that, from August 2007 to August 2008 in that country, "serious daily papers jointly lost 3.99% of their [circulation sales], the middle market pair lost 5.03% and the populars lost 2.63%."

Yet although these particular surveys cover a lot of ground, they don't touch at all on other news delivery mechanisms, such as news magazines, radio, online newswires, and specialized Web sites.

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