Roger Yu, USA TODAY
Today's younger and middle-aged audience isn't as interested in consuming daily news as older people and exhibits little evidence that its interest levels would rise with age, according to new data from the Pew Research Center.
In 2012, Gen-Xers -- those ages 33 to 47 -- watched, read or listen to 66 minutes of news, on average, the day before they were queried by Pew, relatively unchanged from eight years ago. The survey is conducted every two years, and Gen-Xers said in 2004 that they consumed 63 minutes of news per day.
Millennials -- ages 18 to 31 -- reported 46 minutes of news last year vs. 43 in 2004.
"News organizations have been confronting the problem of a shrinking audience for more than a decade, but trends strongly suggest that these difficulties may only worsen over time," wrote Andrew Kohut, founding director of the Pew Research Center in its survey results released Friday.
That older readers are more interested in news is hardly surprising. But the results undermine the news industry's general assumption that consumers' appetite for news grows as they start families, buy homes and enroll their children in local schools.
More distractions - streaming video, cable TV, tablets and other forms of digital media - are partly to blame, Kohut said. And "the older generations grew up during the Cold War and World War II, when people were more engaged with what's going on in the world," he said. "We saw a spike in interest in foreign news after 9-11 but it was short lived."
In 2012, members of the Silent generation, ages 67 to 84, spent 84 minutes a day consuming the news, according to the survey. Boomers, ages 48 to 66, averaged 77 minutes.
Less than half of Xers and Millennials -- 45% and 29%, respectively -- said they enjoy following the news.
But 58% of Silents and Boomers said they do. "This generational difference has been consistently apparent in the surveys over the years," Kohut said. "Older people simply enjoy the news more than the young do."
* Not surprisingly, the Internet as a news source jumped dramatically in the 8-year period between 2004 and 2012. The percentage of Xers who said they consumed news on the Internet the day before the survey query jumped to 49% from 29% in 2004, roughly equaling the 2012 total for TV news audience (52%).
* Xers who read a newspaper fell to 21% vs. 30% in 2002. Only 14% of Millennials read newspapers, down from 20% in 2002.
* Radio was more popular than newspapers among the younger audience, with 38% of Xers saying they listened to news from radio the day before the survey. And 27% of Millennials said the same. Both measures are little changed since the middle of the last decade, the survey said.