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Fact Sheet

June 6, 2018

Digital News Fact Sheet

    MORE FACT SHEETS: STATE OF THE NEWS MEDIA

    In the U.S., roughly nine-in-ten adults (93%) get at least some news online (either via mobile or desktop), and the online space has become a host for the digital homes of both legacy news outlets and new, “born on the web” news outlets. Digital advertising revenue across all digital entities (beyond just news) continues to grow, with technology companies playing a large role in the flow of both news and revenue. Explore the patterns and longitudinal data about digital news below.

    Audience

    CORRECTION: This fact sheet was updated on June 19, 2018 to correct the source notes in the charts for unique visitors and visit duration. Those data were misattributed to an audit of the news outlets with the highest traffic. The charts use data on those outlets from comScore.

    While online news includes the digital operations of many so-called “legacy” news organizations (those that originated in print or broadcast), this audience section presents data about digital-native news publishers – those originally founded on the web. (Data on the digital operations of legacy media outlets are included in other fact sheets where available.)

    The digital-native news outlets included in this analysis are those whose primary domain – the outlet’s flagship website – averaged at least 10 million unique visitors per month from October-December of each year analyzed, according to comScore, a cross-platform audience measurement company. There were 35 such outlets in 2017 (for a full list of outlets and collection methods, see the methodology).

    The average fourth quarter, monthly unique visitors for the primary domains of these outlets decreased 5% in 2017 to 22 million, compared with 23 million in 2016, according to comScore data. The average minutes per visit was 2.4 minutes, on par with 2016.

    Audience reach and engagement of digital-native news outlets

    • Unique visitors
    • Average visit duration

    Outlets have several options for reaching their consumers, including apps, newsletters, podcasts and aggregation platforms like Apple News. The use of those different tools varies across digital-native news outlets. In a Pew Research Center audit of 35 outlets conducted in early 2018, a majority of these highest-traffic digital-native news outlets (57%) have apps for at least one of the two main mobile platforms (iOS and Android). However, compared with 2017 there has been some movement away from offering apps on both platforms: 31% of digital-native news outlets offer both in 2018, down from 42% in 2017. Instead, more outlets in 2018 (23%) have just an iOS app than in 2017 (17%), while just one outlet (3%) offers only an Android app.

    Mobile app availability for digital-native news outlets

    Year Android only iOS only Android + iOS
    2016 5 23 35
    2017 3 17 42
    2018 3 23 31

    Pew Research Center

    Digital-native news outlets are also adopting other outreach and engagement methods. About eight-in-ten (83%) of these outlets offer newsletters, and 86% have an official presence on Apple News. A large majority (71%) release podcasts, and 63% allow comments on their articles.

    These outlets are also highly likely to use social media as part of their outreach. Similar to 2017, nearly all have official pages or accounts on Facebook (100%), Twitter (100%), YouTube (94%) and Instagram (89%). However, only about one-in-ten (14%) have an official channel or account on Snapchat, down about 10 percentage points from 2017.

    Audience outreach for digital-native news outlets

    • Outreach methods
    • Social media presence

    Economics

    Digital advertising continues to grow as a proportion of total advertising revenue, a trend driven in large part by growth in advertising on mobile devices. The estimates below are for all digital advertising revenue, not just for news outlets, and thus are an indicator of the general direction of the economic health of the digital realm rather than the digital news sector specifically. (There is no available economic data specifically for the digital-native news outlets studied above.)

    In 2017, according to eMarketer estimates, digital advertising grew to $90 billion, an increase from $72 billion in 2016. It was estimated to comprise 44% of all advertising revenue, up from 37% in 2016.

    Digital and non-digital advertising revenue

    Year Non-digital advertising Digital advertising
    2011 $124,821,360,000 $31,998,790,000
    2012 $126,908,330,000 $36,820,240,000
    2013 $126,215,710,000 $43,026,350,000
    2014 $125,629,150,000 $49,688,350,000
    2015 $123,091,720,000 $59,821,250,000
    2016 $123,253,560,000 $71,596,390,000
    2017 $116,948,742,000 $90,391,816,000

    Pew Research Center

    Mobile advertising revenue’s rapid growth continued in 2017, increasing from $47 billion in 2016 to $61 billion. Although desktop advertising revenue also saw an increase in 2017, mobile advertising revenue comprised two thirds of all digital advertising revenue.

    Digital advertising revenue on desktop and mobile

    Year Desktop digital advertising Mobile digital advertising
    2011 $30,382,520,000 $1,616,270,000
    2012 $31,971,450,000 $4,848,800,000
    2013 $32,359,000,000 $10,667,350,000
    2014 $30,540,460,000 $19,147,890,000
    2015 $28,131,490,000 $31,689,760,000
    2016 $24,895,690,000 $46,700,700,000
    2017 $29,688,442,000 $60,703,374,000

    Pew Research Center

    Looking more specifically at digital display ads, which include banners, videos and other advertisements that news organizations and other websites typically run alongside their content, revenue continued to rise in 2017. The rise was driven by growth in both mobile and desktop display ad revenue.

    Banner ads were the largest segment of this market in 2017 at $18 billion, growing 24% over the previous year. However, the sharpest growth in revenue was from rich media ads (those with interactive or audio/video components, 48%) and video ads (36%).

    Digital display advertising revenue by device and format

    • Desktop and mobile
    • By format

    Digital display advertising revenue continued to be dominated by just a few companies in 2017, with Facebook comprising 39% of this advertising segment, according to eMarketer estimates. Google comprised 13% of this segment, while no other company controlled more than 10% of this market (in 2017, Verizon purchased Yahoo and created a new subsidiary called Oath that incorporated Yahoo, AOL and Verizon’s other digital entities).

    In the mobile sector, Facebook captured half of mobile digital display advertising revenue, according to eMarketer estimates. No other company controlled more than 10% of the mobile market.

    Digital display advertising revenue by company

    • All digital
    • Mobile only

    Newsroom investment

    Roughly 13,000 employees worked as reporters, editors, photographers or videographers in the newsrooms of digital-native outlets in 2017, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics. (Digital-native newsroom employment and wage data are based on the “other information services” industry code, whose largest component is “internet publishing and broadcasting and web search portals.” For details see the methodology.) The median wage for reporters and editors was roughly $60,000 per year in 2017. (Data were not available in 2017 for photographers or videographers.)

    Employment in digital-native newsrooms

    • Employees
    • Wages

    Find out more

    This fact sheet was compiled by Computational Social Scientist Galen Stocking.

    Read the methodology.

    Find more in-depth explorations of digital news by following the links below: