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Outlets hurt by dwindling public interest in news in 2021

The presidential election, pandemic and racial reckoning were stories that drove intense interest and engagement to news outlets in 2020. To a large degree, 2021 represented the inevitable hangover.

Various metrics illustrate the dwindling popularity of news content.

Cable news networks were the main form of evening entertainment for millions of Americans last year. In 2021, weekday prime-time viewership dropped 38% at CNN, 34% at Fox News Channel and 25% at MSNBC, according to the Nielsen company.

The decline was less steep but still significant at broadcast television evening newscasts: 12% at ABC’s “World News Tonight” and the “CBS Evening News;” 14% at NBC’s “Nightly News,” Nielsen said.

The Trump era saw explosive subscriber growth for some digital news sites like The New York Times and Washington Post. Yet readers aren’t spending as much time there; Comscore said the number of unique visitors to the Post’s site was down 44% in November compared to November 2020, and down 34% at the Times.

While a Dec. 23 headline on the Los Angeles Times front page — “How Much More Can We Take?” — referred to COVID-19, it could easily be applied to the news appetite in general.

For the most part, smart news executives knew the peaks of 2020 were not sustainable.

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