April 29, 2015

State of the News Media 2015

State of the News Media Methodologies

Last updated April 2015

The State of the News Media report uses a range of different methodologies to study the health of the U.S. news industry, including custom analysis of news audience behavior, secondary analysis of industry data, and direct reporting to solicit information unavailable elsewhere.

State of the News Media 2015 Industry Data

The data for the State of the News Media 2015 fact sheets consists of data originally generated by other people or organizations that the Pew Research Center then collected and aggregated.

For the data aggregated from other researchers, the Pew Research Center’s team took several steps. First, we tried to determine what data had been collected and by whom for the media sectors studied. In many cases, this included securing rights to data through license fees or other means, and often including paying for use of the data.

Next, we studied the data closely to determine where elements reinforced each other and where there were apparent contradictions or gaps. In doing so, the Pew Research Center endeavored to determine the value and validity of each data set. That, in many cases, involved going back to the sources that collected the research in the first place. Where data conflicted, we have included all relevant sources and tried to explain their differences, either in footnotes or in the narratives.

All sources are cited in footnotes or within the narrative.

Analysis of comScore Digital Audience Data

In order to provide as clear a sense as possible of the digital news leaders among U.S. audiences, researchers took several steps using comScore analytics.

First, we analyzed listings in comScore’s General News category and their separate Newspaper category. In addition, we obtained audience data from comScore on roughly 400 digital-only news outlets identified by the Pew Research Center. Within those lists, researchers took a number of steps to focus as much as possible on the website level (such as a consumer-facing and recognizable dot com, rather than the bundled holdings of its corporate parent). From there, researchers assembled the list of top 50 news websites and associated apps, based on unique visitors. Some news organizations list their Web entities in comScore’s database differently than others. To be as consistent as possible, we created the following guidelines listed below. There are still some instances where, because of an organization’s structure, there could be additional traffic that is not represented here. We have tried to footnote all such cases.

  • For listings that own several sub-entities which are a part of the main Web presence (i.e. a user would have access to the sub-entity content once on the main website) we used the following guidelines:
    • If more than half of those sub-entities are news-focused, researchers defaulted to the larger entity as the listing and the unit of measure (an example here would be the Yahoo-ABC News Network).
    • If fewer than half of the sub-entities are news-focused, researchers used the largest news channel listed as the unit of measure. For example, U.S. News and World Report includes RankingsandReviews.com as well as USNews.com; we chose to break out and report USNews.com.
  • For listings that own sub-entities that are entirely different websites, but nevertheless are listed under a common owner, researchers examined the traffic for each of the websites (and any associated apps) separately. (An example here would be Cox Media Group or Media General, both of which own multiple local news entities that do not share any Web presence with each other or with their corporate parent.)

In new conversations with comScore in late April 2015, Pew Research Center was informed of and provided with new digital populations that are inclusive of app traffic for sites in the Cable News Fact sheet and in the case of CNN the addition of some sub-domains which are tracked separately in comScore.

All data for this report is from the month of January 2015.

For more information about comScore’s methodology, read here.

Media & News Indicators Database

This database consists largely of data originally generated by other people or organizations that the Pew Research Center then collected and aggregated. The data was then put into a chart format and the charts were organized by topic. The database can be viewed here.