Fragmentation of audience

The stereotypical picture of the American family in the 1950s and 1960s includes familiar images of men settling down to read the town's daily newspaper or gathering with the family to watch one of three or four television channels. Today, the members of that family may choose from hundreds of television channels or hundreds of thousands of sites on the Internet. Not surprisingly, the percentages of people watching prime-time broadcast television and reading a daily newspaper have dropped steadily in the past three years, according to a Newspaper Association of America analysis of data compiled by Scarborough Research. 1

Similar numbers are shown in a study of election news by Pew Research Center for The People And The Press. The number of people who consider newspapers a primary source for election news dropped from 48 percent in April 1996 to 31 percent in January 2000. Radio also dropped, with cable television apparently taking over some of the audience. The most startling numbers showed that younger viewers are getting news from sources that many people, perhaps including the sources themselves, would consider entertainers: "Nearly half (47%) of those under age 30 are informed at least occasionally by late night talk shows (13% regularly and 34% sometimes), with significant numbers saying the same of comedy shows (37%) and MTV (25%)." 2