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US Media Consumption trends: Tectonic shifts emerge

Attest, a consumer research platform, has released its third annual US Media Consumption Report and the findings show further seismic shifts in the way Americans are consuming media in 2021.

For publishers navigating Covid disruptions, a digital ad spend boom, and fatigue for bad news, the report points to a significant decrease in TV consumption and a marked rise in social media consumption – 93% of Americans now spend some portion of their day on social media, making it the country’s most popular medium.

Here are some of the report’s key ‘at a glance’ data points:

  • Americans’ favorite social media platform is YouTube, with 87% using the platform at least once a month, followed by Facebook (82%).
  • TikTok saw substantial growth with just under half of Americans using the platform at least once a month (48%). The vast majority of consumers also appear to have missed the Clubhouse craze with 83% saying they never use the platform. 
  • Gen Z (aged 18-25) used social media on a daily basis the most out of all those polled (at 96%). Strikingly, however, the boomer generation (aged 55-66) came next (at 87%). 
  • Over two-thirds (67%) of consumers say they do not have any paid-for content subscriptions for news media. Of the minority who do subscribe, digital subscriptions (20%) are only just ahead of print (18%). 
  • For the first time since the report was launched, more than half of consumers say they listen to podcasts (56%), compared to 48% in 2020.
  • Netflix dominates in the streaming wars, with nearly one in seven Americans having a subscription (69%). This is followed by Amazon Prime which is used by over half (52%) and Disney Plus (36.9%) as the most popular streaming services amongst consumers.  
  • There has been a collapse in consumers watching TV news, with just under a third of Americans (32%) regularly tuning into news content in 2021, compared to 46% in 2020. Meanwhile, nearly one in five consumers (19%) say they now watch no live TV in 2021, versus 14% in 2020.

The findings dovetail with similar research conducted by Business Insider which shows that ‘time spent with digital video, smartphones, CTV, subscription OTT, and digital audio will maintain their gains from 2020 and continue claiming even more time going forward’. A key driver is the use of smartphones which saw American consumers’ average time spent on their phones reaching 3:13 hours per day over the past year.

Research from the Future of Audience and Revenue Study produced by AI-driven audience engagement solutions provider Futuri shows similar data points, with national newspaper websites (New York TimesWashington PostWall Street JournalUSA Today) capturing only 19 per cent of Americans as audiences gravitate to social media and Google.

Worryingly, trust in news fell to a new low point with the the majority of Americans not trusting major TV outlets. Of the organisations analysed by Futuri (CBS, CNN, NBC, ABC, PBS, FOX, MSNBC and Newsmax), none were trusted by more than half the respondents, with credibility scores ranging from 30 – 47 per cent. This decreased for young Americans to 23 – 34 per cent.

The message is very clear to media executives: now is the time to accelerate innovation to keep pace with media’s evolution, or risk being left behind.

Daniel Anstandig, CEO, Futuri Media

Speaking to WNIP, Jeremy King, CEO & Founder of Attest said: “Perhaps the most interesting finding from our research is that newspapers aren’t quite aging in the way we would expect them to. While it’s no bombshell that the New York Times remains the most well-read publication in the United States, the breakdown of who is reading newspapers regularly will raise some more eyebrows.”

“Millennials come in first, with 32% reading a print newspaper on a weekly basis. This is followed by Boomers at 25%, Gen X at 23%, and Gen Z at 16%. For those who believe only the older demographics are still cracking open a newspaper, this data may come as a surprise.”