Public relations professionals have turned their attention to online news and social media, but new research finds that Americans – especially older ones – still prefer to watch rather read or listen to news. And they get that news from television.
Most Americans who prefer to watch the news opt for television as their primary news platform, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of 3,425 adults.
Overall, 47% of Americans prefer watching the news rather than reading or listening to it, compared to 34% who prefer to read the news and 19% who prefer to listen to it. The figures remained essentially unchanged since 2016.
First for News Consumption
Television continues to rank first as the preferred platform for news consumption. Just over four-in-ten U.S. adults (44%) prefer TV; about a third (34%) who prefer the web, 14% prefer radio and 7% who prefer print. The survey found only a small increase in online news consumption and a small decrease in print news consumption since 2016.
Despite many recent online news video initiatives and the fact that nearly all adults get at least some news digitally, people who prefer to watch their news still also prefer television as their main platform for news. Among the roughly half of U.S. adults who prefer to watch their news, the vast majority – 75% – prefer television, while 20% prefer the web.
The takeaway for PR: TV remains a valuable publicity channel, especially for news with a visual hook. PR would be wise to consider network and local television when developing PR strategies. Creating compelling visuals and human emotion are the keys to getting earned media placements on TV broadcasts.
It’s also worthwhile to learn about important techniques for monitoring TV news.
It’s now considered essential for large and mid-size organizations to include broadcast monitoring in media monitoring. A broadcast TV Monitoring tool can notify organizations when they appear on TV news and they can usually avoid the cost of an on-going broadcast monitoring subscription.
Broadcast media monitoring enables PR agencies to win new clients and impress current clients, experts say.
“Television is still the most influential medium, reaching millions of viewers every day,” states broadcast media search engine TVEyes in its Broadcast Monitoring for PR Agencies playbook. “With television exerting this much influence, can you afford to be without broadcast monitoring in your agency? Without it, you’ll miss new business opportunities and underserve your clients. Even worse, you may put them at risk of a crisis.”
Readers like the Web for News
The Pew survey also reveals that most of those who prefer to read their news prefer the web to receive news (63%); 17% prefer a print product. About half (52%) cite radio as their preferred platform, 21% name television and 20% like the web.
The survey does reveal a gradual trend of more people watching news online. One-in-five news watchers now name the internet as their preferred platform, compared to 12% in 2016.
The portion of readers and listeners who prefer the web has not changed significantly since 2016, when a majority of those who prefer to read their news (59%) already named the web as their preferred platform.
Adults under 50 years old are more likely than older adults to consume news online, be it reading, watching or listening. About three-fourths (76%) of adults under 50 who prefer to read news prefer to read it online, compared with 43% of older adults. Similarly, about three times as many younger news watchers and listeners prefer to get their news online as their older counterparts.
Bottom Line: Television remains a favorite channel for news consumption, especially among older adults and those who prefer to watch news reports. That means TV is still a value public relations channel and that it’s essential for companies to include television in their media monitoring plans.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.