June 15, 2016

State of the News Media 2016

Methodology

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 2016 industry data

The State of the News Media 2016 fact sheets consist of data originally generated by other individuals or organizations that Pew Research Center then collected and aggregated.

For the data aggregated from other researchers, Pew Research Center’s team took several steps. First, Center researchers 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 included 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, Pew Research Center endeavored to determine the value and validity of each dataset. That, in many cases, involved going back to the sources that collected the research in the first place. Where data conflicted, the Center has 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 and in all graphics in the report.

Analysis of comScore digital audience data

In order to provide as clear a sense as possible of the digital audience data of U.S. news organizations, researchers took several steps using digital audience measurement data from comScore, a cross-platform measurement company.

After the initial selection process, each comScore entry representing outlets or websites (“entity”) was individually vetted by researchers and unusual shifts in data over time were checked with comScore analysts. Using feedback from analysts, entities that registered increases or declines in unique visitors over the time period studied (October 2014-December 2015) that were likely due to inorganic changes in measurement or site structure were considered to not have trendable data and were removed from the analysis.

For all outlets, entities that are representative of an entire web domain (“total domain entities”) were used whenever possible. When domain entities were incomplete – i.e., when they did not represent traffic to an entire web domain – custom entities that represent the total domain were used when available. Multiple entities of the same URL that were the result of a structure change in the comScore database over time were considered comparable. Researchers consulted comScore analysts throughout the entity selection process.

Selection

The selection process for each fact sheet that included comScore data is detailed below.

African American News Media: While there is no official source or census of black-focused digital news media, the Maynard Institute – an organization aimed at helping media accurately portray all segments of society – tracks developments in this space. Each year for the past several years, the Institute compiles a list of black-oriented sites and submits it to comScore for ranking using web traffic data. While the Maynard list is not exhaustive, it is an established accounting of record of key stakeholders in the black digital news space. Of that list, 14 of the 19 sites were matched with their associated total-domain entities in comScore in our analysis. HuffPost BlackVoices, AtlantaBlackStar.com, BlackPlanet.com, BlackEnterprise.com and TheYBF.com did not have trendable data during the time period studied and are not included. The following 14 entities were used:

BET.COM
BLACKAMERICAWEB.COM
BOSSIP.COM
CLUTCHMAGONLINE.COM
EBONY.COM
ESSENCE.COM
EURWEB.COM
HELLOBEAUTIFUL.COM
MADAMENOIRE.COM
MEDIATAKEOUT.COM
NEWSONE.COM
THEGRIO.COM
THEROOT.COM
WORLDSTARHIPHOP.COM

Cable: Researchers used both the total-domain entity for each network and the entity representing the parent organization for the three major cable news networks (CNN, Fox News and MSNBC) in order to best represent all aspects of each organization’s web traffic in this sector. Only statements true for both entities were made about each network. The following six entities were used:

CNN Brand
CNN.COM
Fox News Digital Network
FOXNEWS.COM
MSNBC TV
MSNBC.COM

Digital-Native Publishers: Researchers assessed all domains from 11 comScore categories (Business/Finance, Directories/Resources, Entertainment, Games, Lifestyles, News/Information, Regional/Local, Services, Social Media, Sports and Technology) with at least 10 million average monthly unique digital visitors in the fourth quarter of 2015. From that set of entities, they then selected digital-native news websites using the following criteria:

  • Must be “born on the web,” i.e. not the website of a legacy news brand (Note: may be owned by a legacy media company).
  • It is a publisher of original content about news, defined as current events affecting public life (can include both original reporting and commentary/analysis). Sites are judged by an assessment of the material appearing on their home page. A review of top stories on the home page must render some evidence of original reporting, such as interviews, eyewitness accounts or referral to source documents, by a dedicated reportorial/editorial staff. Sites are also judged as news publishers if they self-describe as an organization that produces news, either in their subject headers/navigation bar and/or in their “about” or advertising section through usage of terms like “news,” “journalism,” “covering,” or “informing.”
  • It is not entirely focused on reviews, advice, recipes or unedited raw data.
  • It is not primarily a user-generated or aggregated content platform (such as Medium, Reddit or Wikipedia). Branded content such as NBA.com was also excluded.

The following 40 entities were used:

247SPORTS.COM
APLUS.COM
BLEACHERREPORT.COM
BREITBART.COM
BUSINESSINSIDER.COM
BUSTLE.COM
BUZZFEED.COM
CHEATSHEET.COM
CINEMABLEND.COM
CNET.COM
DAILYDOT.COM
DEADSPIN.COM
DIGITALTRENDS.COM
ELITEDAILY.COM
ENGADGET.COM
GIZMODO.COM
HELLOGIGGLES.COM
HOLLYWOODLIFE.COM
HUFFINGTONPOST.COM
IBTIMES.COM
IJREVIEW.COM
MASHABLE.COM
MIC.COM
OPPOSINGVIEWS.COM
QZ.COM
RARE.US
RAWSTORY.COM
REFINERY29.COM
SALON.COM
SBNATION.COM
SLATE.COM
THEBLAZE.COM
THEDAILYBEAST.COM
THEROOT.COM
THEVERGE.COM
THRILLIST.COM
TMZ.COM
UPROXX.COM
UPWORTHY.COM
VOX.COM

Hispanic News Media: The two Hispanic TV news outlets studied (Telemundo and Univision) were matched with their associated total-domain entities in comScore. For newspapers, the three daily Hispanic newspapers that were both listed in the Editor and Publisher DataBook and had data available in the Alliance for Audited Media were matched with their associated total-domain entities in comScore. The following five entities were used:

ELDIARONY.COM
ELNUEVOHERALD.COM
LAOPINION.COM
TELEMUNDO.COM
UNIVISION.COM

Magazines: Of the 14 news magazines studied, 12 were matched with their associated total-domain entities in comScore. The entities associated with The Nation and Bloomberg Businessweek did not have trendable data during the time period studied and are not included in this analysis. The following 12 entities were used:

ECONOMIST.COM
FORBES.COM
FORTUNE.COM
NATIONALREVIEW.COM
NEWYORKER.COM
NYMAG.COM
ROLLINGSTONE.COM
THEATLANTIC.COM
THEWEEK.COM
TIME.COM
VANITYFAIR.COM
WIRED.COM

Network TV: Researchers used both the total-domain entity for each network and the entity representing the parent organization for the three major domestic news networks (ABC News, CBS News and NBC News) in order to best represent all aspects of each organization’s web traffic in this sector. Only statements true for both entities were made about each outlet. The following six entities were used:

ABC News
ABCNEWS.COM
CBS News
CBSNEWS.COM
NBC News Digital
NBCNEWS.COM

Newspapers: Researchers analyzed the comScore data of the top 49 newspapers by average Sunday circulation for Q3 2015 according to the Alliance for Audited Media data, with the addition of The Wall Street Journal. Each was matched with its associated total-domain entities in comScore. The following 50 entities were used:

AJC.COM
ARKANSASONLINE.COM
AZCENTRAL.COM
BALTIMORESUN.COM
BOSTONGLOBE.COM
BUFFALONEWS.COM
CHICAGOTRIBUNE.COM
CHRON.COM
CINCINNATI.COM
CLEVELAND.COM
COURIER-JOURNAL.COM
DAILYNEWS.COM
DALLASNEWS.COM
DENVERPOST.COM
DISPATCH.COM
ELNUEVODIA.COM
FREEP.COM
INDYSTAR.COM
JSONLINE.COM
KANSASCITY.COM
LATIMES.COM
MERCURYNEWS.COM
MYSANANTONIO.COM
NEWSDAY.COM
NJ.COM
NORTHJERSEY.COM
NYDAILYNEWS.COM
NYPOST.COM
NYTIMES.COM
OCREGISTER.COM
OREGONLIVE.COM
ORLANDOSENTINEL.COM
PHILLY.COM
POST-GAZETTE.COM
SACBEE.COM
SEATTLETIMES.COM
SFGATE.COM
STAR-TELEGRAM.COM
STARTRIBUNE.COM
STLTODAY.COM
SUN-SENTINEL.COM
TAMPABAY.COM
TBO.COM
TENNESSEAN.COM
TRIBLIVE.COM
TWINCITIES.COM
USATODAY.COM
UTSANDIEGO.COM and SANDIEGOUNIONTRIBUNE.COM (combined; publisher changed the listed name of their primary website in July 2015)
WASHINGTONPOST.COM
WSJ.COM

Public Broadcasting: The two public broadcasting organizations studied (NPR and PBS NewsHour) were matched with their associated total-domain entities in comScore (PBS NewsHour does not have a total-domain entity associated with it in comScore, so we used the entity “PBS NewsHour”). The following two entities were used:

NPR.ORG
PBS NewsHour

Analysis

For each website, minutes per visit and unique visitors for October-December 2014 and October-December 2015, U.S., were acquired from the comScore Media Metrix database for Total Digital Population and Mobile (Multi-Platform) and Desktop (Desktop only).

Comparisons year over year are between monthly averages of October-December 2014 and October-December 2015 data.

For sites that didn’t meet the reporting threshold for one month out of a quarter, we averaged across the two months for which we had data.

Researchers considered the difference between a site’s desktop and mobile monthly average unique visitors or average minutes per visit to be significant if one was at least 10% greater than the other.

Analysis of Nielsen Media Research data

The analysis of viewership trends for cable, network, local TV and public broadcasting is based on Nielsen Media Research data.

For local TV, Nielsen provides audience data from all media markets in the United States (210 markets in total). Data represent affiliates of the four major networks – ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC – across four sweeps periods – February, May, July and November – for all the major timeslots for which affiliates air news.

In 2009, local television audiences were measured in March rather than February because of the scheduled transition to digital television. Therefore, the 2009 average includes March instead of the traditional February sweep.

For cable TV, Nielsen provides audience data for the three major cable channels: CNN, Fox and MSNBC. This includes prime-time, daytime and total daily viewership. For network TV, Nielsen provides audience data for news programming broadcasted by the three networks – ABC, CBS and NBC – in the morning and evening, as well as audience data for the Sunday morning talk shows and TV news magazines.

For the first time this year, the viewership data is presented here in weighted form, made newly available to Pew Research Center by Nielsen Media Research for all years starting with 2007. Weighted data better account for the number of programming hours in a given broadcast month, though they do not differ substantially from unweighted data. All numbers have been updated in both the cable and network factsheets, including the text and graphics. While in past years the Center has provided cable viewership data in both average (or mean) and median (the midpoint in a series of data), Nielsen does not make weighted data available in median form and therefore the median is no longer included in this analysis.

Media & News Indicators Database

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