Navigating Factional Media Consumption

For decades, Americans got their daily information predominantly from three sources – radio, newspapers, and television. News magazines, like Time and Newsweek, provided a more in-depth analysis of current events and despite being upwards of a week behind the news cycle, still held influence with the public. Today, that model of news consumption has dynamically shifted.  

This trend is not new, but as consumers react to current political events and as technologies further evolve: sourcing, viewing and reading habits also continue to shift in ways that are having a profound influence on our society and the mechanisms that influence current events.

Factional Viewing 

The growth of talk radio in the mid-1980s and the Internet a decade later fractionalized news consumption like never before.  By satisfying Americans’ insatiable demand for instantaneous updates, while comforting large swaths of the populace that had lost their trust in many traditional media outlets, talk radio conditioned some consumers to seek alternative sources that fall more in line with their point of view. 

  • According to a study by the Columbia Journalism Review, liberal voters prefer to get their news from a consortium of outlets like CNN, NPR, MSNBC, and The New York Times. Not surprisingly, conservatives prefer Fox News as their primary outlet.
  • Despite some proclaiming the decline intalk radio, millions of Americans rely on talk show hosts for their daily source of information.  Neilson reports that listenership is growing by double digits every year, even among 18-34-year-olds. These listeners are more likely to vote or contact their congressman than typical news consumers.  Access to these shows through guest bookings can be an enormously cost-effective way to speak directly to millions of people
  • Just as radio and television viewing has become based upon finding comforting ideological outlets, Internet-based platforms like Breitbart.com on the right and the Huffington Post on the left reach millions of Americans with their combination of news and commentary.  Their readers tend to be more activist and partisan than other consumers at other outlets.
  • One news outlet seems immune to the partisanship.  Local television news garners views and trust from voters across the political spectrum, in part, because oftheir reliance on straight reporting rather than commentary and their predominant focus on local events.

Internet News Consumption Grows Yearly 

The gap between television and online news consumption is closing.  As of August 2017, 43% of Americans reported getting news online, a share just seven percentage points lower than the 50% who often get news on television.  The number of Americans who get news from Television has fallen, while the portion of Americans who get news online – either from news websites/apps or social media – has grown dramatically. 

Pew Research shows that two-thirds of Americans now get their news from social media. 

Strategic Impact 

Penetrating the public consciousness in an environment of factionalized information consumption requires a segmented and variable channel campaign that encompasses both earned and paid media from trusted voices.  Often a smaller, targeted campaign can produce the dollar-over-dollar impact that is superior to a broader, expensive ad buy. Strategic decisions should be driven by segmenting larger audiences into smaller pieces, audience analysis, and message targeting. Our team of professionals can help you sell your message, identify your audience, develop the right messaging and cost-effectively deliver impact.