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Reading habits in the U.S. - statistics & facts

On average, the daily time spent reading among American adults was just over 20 minutes in 2020. This marked an increase from previous years, likely driven by the hike in media consumption during the COVID-19 outbreak, but the way U.S. consumers read was changing even before the pandemic, and will continue to do so as media formats and devices evolve.

News consumption trends

The main way in which reading habits in the U.S. have changed is the medium through which Americans access news. In an age where updates can be found instantly via live news feeds, social media, and online video, the appeal of daily print newspapers has waned and most consumers now get their news on the internet or on television. Data on daily news consumption found that younger Americans now turn to social media for news, whilst their older peers head to network TV, with only a handful of consumers between 18 and 64 reading newspapers on a daily basis.

Books and magazines

Book reading remains a popular pastime, with the most recent data showing that over 70 percent of adults had read at least one book in any format in the past year. Additionally, Americans continue to spend around 110 U.S. dollars per year on reading. Survey data revealed that print was still the preferred book format, but book readers are growing more open to other options. Digital alternatives to print are becoming more popular as consumers capitalize on the accessibility and convenience which e-books and audiobooks offer, and revenue for both formats is rising.

Magazine readers also prefer print magazines to digital, but many magazine companies are taking advantage of the fact that consumers are increasingly likely to engage with their content via mobile web or video. Readership of print and digital magazines fell between 2019 and 2020 whilst magazines’ mobile web and video audiences both grew sharply during the same period.

What is clear is that printed books and magazines are still important to consumers and, at least in the immediate future, are unlikely to be replaced by their digital counterparts. The U.S. newspaper market on the other hand will continue to experience hardship in years to come as local papers close and more readers make use of free, online outlets instead. At the same time, digital book revenue will climb, and magazines will see further growth in their digital reader base.

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