The saturated news media coverage of the events leading to NBC’s suspension of the anchor Brian Williams last week left many people wondering what all the fuss was about. In the age of digital, fragmented media, who watches network news, anyway?
The answer may surprise you.
Even though many people consume news on cable TV or on a laptop — or on their mobile device or via hip, satirical outlets like Comedy Central — tens of millions each night tune in to watch the networks’ evening news programs. More Americans turn to the network evening news to find out what’s happening than to any other type of news except for local news.
New digital sources of news like Facebook and Twitter show few signs of replacing traditional news outlets for those who are even moderately interested in the news. The Pew Research Center reports that a visitor who arrives directly at a digital media outlet will visit, on average, nearly 25 news pages. A visitor who arrives at the same outlet’s site via Facebook or Twitter will visit fewer than five news pages. Social media may be introducing people to headlines and news stories, but readers are not spending a lot of time (they linger less than two minutes) on the news pages they visit, they don’t visit many pages, and they don’t become routine visitors to those news pages over time.
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