The Fear of Every Washington Insider: Being Uninformed

Our annual media habits survey finds that Covid has changed how DC insiders stay informed

Where did you see that? Can you send me the link? If there is a common denominator for Washington insiders—no matter what policy or party they support—it’s an intense need to stay informed.

In our nation’s capital, FOMO—the Fear Of Missing Out—could more aptly be described as FOBU, the Fear Of Being Uninformed. FOBU drives a nearly insatiable appetite for the best sources of information.

To better understand this world, Subject Matter fields a media habits survey of Washington insiders each year, gathering a helpful overview of their preferred news, information and entertainment sources. We ask them to share their daily media consumption preferences from the moment they wake up, through the workday, and right up until they turn out the lights—or fall asleep, phone in hand, scrolling that last story. We also ask what sources they trust most and where they turn for policy or breaking news.

The 2021 results paint a fascinating picture of Washington insiders’ media habits 20+ months into the pandemic. (Conveniently, our 2020 research completed just before COVID forced many of us into the virtual work experience.)

What’s Changed Since Covid

  • We’ve fallen out of love with cable news. Just 35% of insiders are watching cable news daily today, compared to 51% pre-pandemic. The decline spanned both parties, but particularly Republican insiders.
  • We’re bullish on LinkedIn. This platform has seen a huge leap in daily use, with 57% of insiders using it every day, up from 34% pre-pandemic.

What Stayed the Same

  • Still on the “in” list: email newsletters. We haven’t lost our appetite for email newsletters from our favorite rags, especially first thing in the morning. Nearly 70% of insiders told us they read them daily.
  • Twitter always gets there first. We like to tweet—or at least we like to lurk. Twitter is still the top source for breaking news and the source most checked right before bed.

Check out the “Day in the Life” graphic of a Washington insider’s media habits below. Want more detail? Our full analysis includes top publications and party preferences. So if you’re feeling some FOBU on this topic, we’d be happy to talk more. media-habits