An old, white, tech-averse audience

AN OLD, WHITE, TECH-AVERSE AUDIENCE…. A couple of weeks ago, data from Nielsen Media Research showed that Fox News’ audience isn’t especially diverse. While 20.7% of CNN’s viewers are black, and MSNBC’s numbers are similar, just 1.38% of Fox News’ audience is black.

As it turns out, the Republican network’s audience, while obviously larger and whiter than its rivals, is also much older.

In a survey released by analyst Steve Sternberg, Fox News has the oldest audience among fully distributed cable networks. The network’s average viewer last season was 65 years old, according to Nielsen. Heck, it’s viewers are even older than viewers of Hallmark Channel, Military Channel and Golf Channel.

Perhaps the reason viewers tend to leave Fox News on all day racking up hours of big Nielsen numbers is they can’t actually change the channel?

(Ah, Fox News, you know we only kid you because you sort of set yourself up for it).

For comparison purposes, CNN’s average audience is two years younger, and MSNBC’s is six years younger.

On a related note, as impressive as Fox News’ television ratings are, this doesn’t translate to much of an online presence.

On the tube, Fox’s ratings are so dominant that CNN is turning to prostitution-tarred former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer to revive its prime-time lineup. In fact, Fox host Bill O’Reilly recently suggested that rival news nets are all but irrelevant, saying, “If you want to know what’s really happening in America, you have to come here.” But with millions of Americans turning to the Web for more of their news on a more frequent and immediate basis, can that assessment actually be true?

Foxnews.com averages around 12 million or 13 million monthly unique users, according to Nielsen Online, rarely approaching the 35 million to 40 million uniques that leaders Yahoo News, MSNBC and CNN regularly deliver in aggregate.

There are competing explanations for this — no, smart guy, it’s not because Fox News viewers are illiterate — but perhaps the strongest argument is “the difficulty in recreating an online version of Fox’s trademark shoutcasting model, with blustery partisans and rhetorical melodrama.”

Regardless, as a long-term strategy, Fox News is going to have to adjust. An old, white, tech-averse audience is delivering strong ratings now, but it’s not a recipe for sustained success.