News engagement fell off a cliff in 2021


Engagement with news content plummeted last year compared to 2020, and given the ongoing decline in interest in news about COVID-19 and politics, it doesn’t look like 2022 will be much better.

Why it matters: The Trump era and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic created a one-of-a-kind media moment that will be hard for news companies to replicate.

  • With fewer singular storylines capturing America’s collective attention, news consumption was more scattered and diverted to sports.
  • Data shows that that the Omicron variant is not jumpstarting Americans’ engagement in COVID news like it did at the onset of the pandemic.

By the numbers: Primetime news viewership was down 36% across the three major cable networks, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, with the steepest decline during that time frame happening at CNN, per Nielsen ratings.

  • Broadcast viewership was also down for broadcast networks’ evening news shows, but the declines weren’t as drastic, the Associated Press notes.
  • App downloads for the top 12 mainstream publishers dropped 33%, according to data from Apptopia. Downloads to news apps fell most dramatically during the second half of the year.
  • Engagement on social media with news articles nosedived, according to data from NewsWhip. Interactions (likes, comments, shares) dropped 65% between 2020 and 2021, despite more articles published.
  • Website visits for the top performing news websites in the U.S. tracked by Similarweb in the first 11 months of 2021 dropped 8%.


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