Nationally, hard news engagement across legacy and digital platforms dramatically fell in 2021. After a significant jump at the pandemic’s start, local news website views have been on a steady decline. While those that watch local television news infrequently haven’t seen any significant shifts in consumption. CivicScience data show frequent viewers (everyday/most days) are turning their attention elsewhere, dropping eight percentage points from the beginning of 2021.

The story is similar for national news as well. Since November 2020, news consumption across most mainstream news outlets has declined.  This is particularly true for those that are more left-leaning in political orientation.  CNN saw a dramatic decline, from a third of U.S. adults saying they watch the network most for national news to just 16% in Jan 2022.  Fox News was the only cable network to see an increase, up 11 percentage points from November 2020. 

Seeing the decline in left-leaning networks, it’s not surprising that we are also observing a significant shift in political party affiliation among news consumers since the 2020 Presidential election. Democrats are traditionally less engaged in hard news outside major election years, but the gap in political affiliation among news content audiences is widening at an alarming rate. 

It is most prevalent among newspaper and digital-only audiences.

It’s clear that declining political engagement has impacted overall news consumption among Democrats. Political news fatigue is real, and Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to say they have felt it after a major election or campaign cycle.

While news consumption is down, overall consumption is not.  TikTok users have more than tripled since the beginning of 2020, and a third of U.S. adults visit YouTube daily! 

So, if Americans continue to swim in content, where are the eyeballs going?  Across all political party lines, we have noticed an uptick in consumers following lifestyle trends and current events. Interest in fashion, music, cooking, and home grew significantly from 2021 to now.

What does it all mean?

It’ll be increasingly important for publishers, content creators, and advertisers to keep a pulse on these ever-evolving audience trends. Understanding shifts in demographics and interests will improve content engagement, retention, and advertising performance.