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US mobile news consumption sees huge increase ahead of midterms

David Murphy

With voting in the US midterm elections taking place tomorrow, new data from mobile insights consulting firm Global Wireless Solutions reveals that Americans’ use of mobile devices to consume right-leaning news has risen by 86 per cent, far exceeding its high point during the previous election cycle.

In stark contrast, consumption of left-leaning media has declined by 23 per cent during that time and has lagged behind right-leaning outlets since November 2021, despite being consistently more popular for the previous two years, and in the last election.

The research is based on the mobile usage trends of 200,000 adult smartphone users, with 54m data points analyzed daily. The study found that this increase was part of a wider rise in the consumption of media since the 2020 election. At its peak during this midterm election cycle, total mobile news consumption is up 18 per cent compared to its high point in January 2021 with Americans now spending 93 minutes a week reading the news on mobile devices.

What’s more, the data showed that it was men who were driving this growth of right-leaning outlets, with a dramatic 110 per cent increase in minutes of media consumption, compared to January 2021. At least some of this increase has been at the expense of left-leaning media, which has seen consumption by male users decline 10 per cent since its peak after the 2020 election. These changes were also reflected in key battleground states, where men are consuming 139 per cent more right-leaning media in 2022, whereas left-leaning media has stayed flat.

Another key dynamic revealed was in the media consumption by Hispanics. Hispanic men are now consuming 152 per cent more minutes of right-leaning media in 2022 – an average of 204 minutes per week. Consumption of left-leaning media by Hispanics has declined by 31 per cent since 2021. 

“Our data paints a clear picture: overall media consumption is on the rise and has been for a while; in September of this year it was nearly twice as much as in September of 2019,” said Global Wireless Solutions CEO, Paul Carter. “Mobile technology now makes it possible to have live media at your fingertips from almost anywhere in the country, and this is empowering Americans to consume their chosen outlets at any time of the day. Whether it’s the rise in 5G, which GWS data shows more than half the country have access to, or increasingly sophisticated devices, mobile technology has become the bedrock of our growing appetite for media. This uptick in news consumption represents important behavioral data that we’ve collected through our panel – helping to identify trends and make predictions; more specifically, what’s important to Americans now and what’s on their horizon.”

Data presented in this release is collected from GWS’s OMCP between January 2019 and September 2022. The OMCP is an opt-in consumer panel that measures mobile app usage and content, mobile network performance, and consumer perceptions.

The OMCP collects consumer data anonymously from Android smartphones 24 hours a day, seven days a week, whenever and wherever consumers use their devices. Panelists also have the option to participate in surveys fielded directly to their Android smartphone. OMCP panelists (aged 18+) are recruited from the top 41 metropolitan areas across the US, along with consumers located in less populated areas (overall covering 98 per cent of the US population). Approximately 54m data points are generated daily by panelists. Data is anonymously collected and reported in aggregate for market research purposes only. All information collected is weighted to a user’s demographic representation of the US population (aged 18+).

Classification of left-leaning media outlets vs. right was primarily extracted from Ad Fontes Media. In addition to using this source, GWS focused on larger media outlets in terms of media presence, popularity, and the amount of news consumed among panelists. Data on average minutes of news consumption is based on insights from users who access mobile news via dedicated news apps on their smartphone.