The newest Pew Research Center’s survey of where and how people get their news has been released, and while Fox News is still polling the oldest viewership, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart are pulling the youngest. As Stewart educates his young viewers in the ways of FNC on a nightly basis, it is clear that he is the biggest long term media threat to Fox News.
The good news is that digital media is causing people to spend more time each day with the news. According to the Pew Research Center for People and the Press survey of where and how people get their news, “The net impact of digital platforms supplementing traditional sources is that Americans are spending more time with the news than was the case a decade ago. As was the case in 2000, people now say they spend 57 minutes on average getting the news from TV, radio or newspapers on a given day. But today, they also spend an additional 13 minutes getting news online, increasing the total time spent with the news to 70 minutes. This is one of the highest totals on this measure since the mid-1990s and it does not take into account time spent getting news on cell phones or other digital devices.”
Newspapers are still struggling and have only partially been able to make up for the decline in print readership on the Internet. Print newspaper readership has declined from 38% in 2006 to 24% today. Online newspaper readership has grown from 9% in 2006 to 17% today. When the totals are combined 37% of Americans said that they got their news from a newspaper, which puts the industry on par with the radio and the Internet, but way behind television.
Speaking of television, Fox News has been able to hold its audience share because Republicans have been fleeing to the network. In 2002, Republicans were just as likely to watch CNN as they were to watch Fox News, but eight years later, 40% of all Republicans regularly watch FNC. Twelve percent of Republicans watch CNN and 6% watch MSNBC. Fox News does not lead the cable news ratings because there are more Republicans in the United States. They lead because they have been successful in consolidating the Republican audience.
It is no surprise than that Fox News, just like the GOP caters to an older audience. Sixty three percent of Bill O’Reilly’s viewers are over 50 years old, and 65% of Hannity’s viewers are over 50. Only 44% of the nation as a whole are over 50 years old, so the over 50 demographic is overrepresented on Fox News. If the younger viewers aren’t watching Fox News, then what are they watching?
The answer to this question can be found on Comedy Central Monday through Thursday from 11 pm-12 am. Colbert and Stewart’s audiences are young. In fact, they were the youngest in the survey. Eighty percent of Colbert’s audience is between 18-49, and 74% of Stewart’s audience falls into the 18-49 demo. Although their audiences are double the amount of liberals in the overall population, Colbert and Stewart also appeal to Libertarians, as they make up 29% and 27% respectively of their audiences. Interestingly 53% of Colbert’s audience and 43% of Stewart’s said that they watch these programs for entertainment. They may come for the entertainment, but they also get a healthy dose of the news.
Fox News has made no secret of their distaste for Colbert, and especially Jon Stewart, and it is pretty obvious why. Colbert and Stewart are educating an entire generation of younger viewers to critically think about what they see in the media. The long term health of Fox News is going to depend on their ability to attract and retain younger viewers. These are the same viewers that are watching Jon Stewart expose and mock Fox News on a nightly basis. This is why FNC goes out of its way to impugn the credibility of Stewart anytime they can. It is funny to think that the competition that may do the most long term damage to Fox News is not Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow, but a comedian who hosts a nightly mock newscast on a comedy network.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA.Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association