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Fact Sheet

August 7, 2017

Digital News Fact Sheet


    In the U.S., roughly nine-in-ten adults (93%) ever get 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.


    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 36 such outlets in 2016 (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 increased 12% in 2016 to nearly 23 million, according to comScore data. The average minutes per visit was 2.4 minutes.

    • Unique visitors
    • Average visit time

    There are many different audience strategies that news outlets use, and the mix of those strategies varies across digital-native news outlets. In 2017, a majority of these highest-traffic digital-native news outlets (61%) have apps for at least one of the two main mobile platforms (iOS and Android). A large portion (42%) of these outlets have apps for both platforms, while 17% have just an iOS app and 3% have only an Android app.

    Digital-native news outlets mobile app availability

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


    Pew Research Center

    Digital-native news outlets are also adopting other outreach and engagement methods. Fully 97% of these outlets offer newsletters, and 92% have an official presence on Apple News. Three-quarters, meanwhile, release podcasts and 61% allow comments on their articles.

    These outlets are also highly likely to use social media as part of their outreach. Nearly all have official pages or accounts on Facebook (100%), Twitter (100%), YouTube (97%) and Instagram (92%). Far fewer (25%) have an official channel or account on Snapchat.

    • Audience outreach
    • Social media


    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 2016, according to eMarketer estimates, digital advertising grew to about $72 billion, an increase from nearly $60 billion in 2015. It is estimated to comprise 37% of all advertising revenue, up from 33% in 2015.

    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

    Pew Research Center

    Mobile advertising revenue’s rapid growth is estimated to have continued in 2016, increasing from about $32 billion in 2015 to nearly $47 billion. Desktop advertising revenue, on the other hand, continued to decline in 2016, while mobile advertising revenue comprised 65% 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

    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 2016. The rise was driven by rapid growth on mobile, while desktop display ad revenue remained flat.

    Banner ads were the largest segment of this market in 2016 at just over $14 billion, growing 20% over the previous year. However, there was sharper growth for revenue from video ads (39%) and rich media ads (those with interactive or audio/video components, 43%).

    • Desktop and mobile
    • By format

    Digital display advertising revenue continued to be dominated by just a few companies in 2016, with Facebook comprising 35% of this advertising segment, according to eMarketer estimates. Google comprised 14% of this segment, while no other company controls more than 10% of this market.

    In the mobile sector, Facebook also held the largest market share (44%) of mobile digital display advertising revenue, according to eMarketer estimates. No other company controls more than 10% of the mobile market.

    • All digital
    • Mobile only

    Find out more

    This fact sheet was compiled by Galen Stocking, who is a research associate focusing on journalism research at Pew Research Center.

    Read the methodology.

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

    Growth in mobile news use driven by older adults June 12, 2017
    Searching for News: The Flint Water Crisis April 27, 2017
    How Americans Encounter, Recall and Act Upon Digital News Feb. 9, 2017
    More than half of smartphone users get news alerts, but few get them often Sept. 8, 2016
    The Modern News Consumer July 7, 2016