CivicScience | Even After 130 Years, National Geographic Captures a Wide Demographic Across all Mediums

General, Media & Entertainment

Even After 130 Years, National Geographic Captures a Wide Demographic Across all Mediums

Image Credit: Photo by asoggetti on Unsplash

You may know them from the iconic yellow magazine border, skimming through the travel photos as a kid, or maybe you watched Free Solo and still recommend it to your friends. Whether it’s from their magazine, television shows, or movies, National Geographic is a recognizable name to most people. National Geographic continues to bring storytelling of adventure and discovery to audiences today as it has done for the past 130 years. But how does a media company maintain an audience for more than a century? 

A CivicScience survey of over 3,000 U.S. adults found that 38% of people watch the National Geographic Channel often and 13% of people read National Geographic Magazine. To understand the target market behind their audience, we looked further into who their viewers and readers are to find out what makes them unique from the general population. 

Demographically, Watchers and Readers are Different

When it comes to understanding who is reading and watching National Geographic, age group is a factor that differs between these two groups. For the channel, older generations are more likely to watch often — and the frequency of watching declines with age. Specifically, U.S. Adults ages 55 years or older watch the channel the most with 43% saying they watch it at least “somewhat often”.

Surprisingly, the age bracket that reads the magazine is the opposite. 

Despite the struggles of the print industry, National Geographic Magazine still brings in many readers, especially in young adults. What many may believe is an industry that could be phased out by younger generations may not be the case with the magazine. 17% of U.S. Adults under 25 surveyed say they read National Geographic Magazine regularly. That’s a huge reach for a magazine. Even for older generations, about 1 in 10 U.S. adults who are 55 or older regularly reads the magazine. 

Similar to the comparisons of age, the type of area people live in differs between National Geographic watchers and readers. For watchers, a majority live in rural areas, followed by suburbs and then cities. The opposite is found in readers, where 15% of adults who live in a city read the magazine.

Although there are differences in both groups, it’s important to note the cross-over of those who watch and read National Geographic. Of those who watch National Geographic regularly, ⅓ also regularly read the magazine. An intersection between groups makes sense, since fans may like watching and reading both. But, since a majority of very active watchers don’t read the magazine, it’s interesting to look further at differences between both markets.

National Geographic Channel Watchers Dislike Streaming

When it comes to understanding people who watch the National Geographic Channel, a large factor is how they primarily watch TV. More than half of active viewers (those who say they watch “very often”) prefer watching TV live. What’s even more interesting is that despite National Geographic programs being available on several streaming services, the channel’s more active viewers are the least likely to watch TV online, with only 6% preferring online streaming.

Even though a highlighted service within Disney+ is the National Geographic Channel content, there is little difference in Disney+ subscription between those who do and don’t watch.

While the common theme across all National Geographic watchers is that overall, they spend less time on streaming services, fans frequent Netflix more often than Hulu.

Not only do viewers watch more live TV, but more than half of frequent viewers also watch local news daily.

While the National Geographic programs tend to focus on global adventures and discoveries, it’s no surprise that viewers share similar interests. Those who watch National Geographic very often are more likely to visit State or National Parks, with half of these viewers going a few times a year.

Aligning to the global focus of the channel, people who watch National Geographic are more likely to speak more than one language. Not only do viewers over-index non-viewers for the number of fluent languages, but they also over-index the general population. For active National Geographic watchers, 23% speak two languages and 11% speak three or more, which is much higher than the general population, where only 17% of U.S. adults speak two languages and 3% speak three.

National Geographic Magazine Readers are Passionate About Education

When it comes to the format National Geographic Magazine readers prefer when reading books, there is only a slight variation from those who don’t read the magazine at all. For those who read the magazine, a majority prefer reading print, whether that be new or used. The largest difference between magazine readers and non-readers is if they don’t read books at all. 15% of adults who don’t read the National Geographic Magazine regularly say they don’t read books at all, which is significantly higher than the 6% of National Geographic readers who say they don’t read books.

As one might expect, National Geographic Magazine readers find education very important. When asked about how they value education, 19% of magazine readers would say it’s a passion, which is more than double the 7% of non-readers who responded the same.

But these readers are not limited to National Geographic, they also expand their educational reach to broadcasted news. Magazine readers are more likely to listen to NPR, with more than half of those surveyed saying they listen to NPR on the radio.

Demographically, the target markets for National Geographic’s Channel and Magazine have key differences between age brackets and where they live. Despite these differences, core characteristics of National Geographics mission such as education and exploration are common interests found across both groups. Although many may believe that print-based companies are on the trajectory to phase out, the wide audience across the country for different mediums may bring them to another 100 years of storytelling and adventure.

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