Older Americans Consume the Most News

Those over 50 largely watch the evening news and read newspapers.

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Americans age 50 and over are the biggest consumers of news. Baby boomers between the ages of 50 and 64 spend an average of 81 minutes a day reading, listening to, or watching the news in newspapers, on the radio, on television, or online, according to a Pew Research Center telephone survey of 3,006 adults. Retirees spend even more time keeping up with the news. Seniors age 65 and older consume 83 minutes worth of news each day, compared to 70 minutes among the population as a whole.

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Newspapers. Baby boomers and seniors are largest readers of traditional newspapers. Almost half (46 percent) of seniors age 65 and older and just over a third (35 percent) of those age 55 to 64 pick up a print newspaper on a typical day, compared to only a quarter (26 percent) of the population overall. People in their 20s through their 50s are all about equally likely to read newspapers online (21 percent). Among seniors who use the Internet, 17 percent read a newspaper online yesterday, the Pew survey found.

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Online news. Almost half of baby boomers (46 percent) read news online at least three days a week and 33 percent use search engines to find it, which is similar to the population overall. But online news is not as popular among seniors, just 22 percent of whom read online news regularly. Cell phone news has not caught on among baby boomers (5 percent) or seniors (1 percent). And just a small fraction of baby boomers (6 percent) read news shared on social networking sites or Twitter, compared to 12 percent of the population overall. There are only modest age differences in blog reading. Baby boomers and seniors who use the Internet are almost equally as likely to peruse blogs as their younger counterparts.

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Television news and opinion shows. Those over age 50 are the biggest watchers of the evening network news. Some 42 percent of retirees and 37 percent of baby boomers age 55 to 64 watch the evening news on a typical night, compared to 28 percent of the population overall. Talk and opinion programs are also largely watched by older viewers. The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News, for example, is watched regularly by 16 percent of people 65 and older, but just 5 percent of those under 30. A similar pattern of primarily older viewership was found in the survey for other Fox News hosts including Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. The age pattern is the reverse for Comedy Central shows. For example, 13 percent of those under 30 watch The Colbert Report regularly, compared to just 1 percent of seniors age 65 and older. Another TV watching difference: seniors age 65 and older are less likely than those in other age groups to record news and opinion shows using a TiVo or DVR.