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Digital News Fact Sheet

MORE FACT SHEETS: STATE OF THE NEWS MEDIA

A vast majority of adults in the United States get at least some news online (either via a mobile device or desktop/laptop), 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

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 is 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 to December of each year analyzed, according to Comscore, a cross-platform audience measurement company. There were 37 such outlets in 2018 (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 in 2018 was 22.4 million, similar to the 21.7 million in 2017, according to Comscore data. The average minutes per visit was 2.0, down from 2.4 minutes in 2017.

Audience reach and engagement of digital-native news outlets

Pew Research Center

Pew Research Center

Outlets have several options for reaching their consumers, including apps, newsletters, podcasts and aggregation platforms like Apple News or Flipboard. The use of those different tools varies across digital-native news outlets. In a Pew Research Center audit of 37 outlets conducted in mid-2019, just under half of these highest-traffic digital-native news outlets (46%) have apps for at least one of the two main mobile platforms (iOS and Android). This is down from the 2018 figure of 57%, which drew from a somewhat different group of sites. Those outlets that do have apps tend to offer them for both platforms: About four-in-ten (41%) have apps for both platforms, while 5% have just an iOS app (down from 23% among the 2018 group of sites). None only offer an Android app.

Mobile app availability for digital-native news outlets

Pew Research Center

Digital-native news outlets are also adopting other outreach and engagement methods. Over eight-in-ten (84%) of these outlets offer newsletters, and almost all have an official presence on Apple News (95%) or Flipboard (92%). A large majority (73%) release podcasts, and 54% allow comments on their articles.

These outlets are also highly likely to use social media as part of their outreach. Similar to 2018, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram are widely used, with all outlets in 2019 having an official presence on each. However, only about two-in-ten (22%) have an official channel or account on Snapchat, up 8 percentage points from 2018.

Audience outreach for digital-native news outlets

Pew Research Center

Pew Research Center

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 publicly available economic data specifically for all digital-native news outlets studied above.)

In 2018, according to eMarketer estimates, digital advertising grew to $109 billion, an increase from $88 billion in 2017. It was estimated to comprise 49% of all advertising revenue, up from 43% in 2017.

Digital and non-digital advertising revenue

Pew Research Center

Mobile advertising revenue’s rapid growth also continued in 2018, increasing from $57 billion in 2017 to $71 billion. Although desktop advertising revenue also saw an increase in 2018, mobile advertising revenue comprised almost two-thirds (65%) of all digital advertising revenue.

Digital advertising revenue on desktop and mobile

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 2018. The rise was driven by growth in both mobile and desktop display ad revenue (desktop display includes advertising on desktop and laptop computers and other non-mobile internet-connected devices).

Video ads were the largest segment of this market in 2018 at $30 billion, growing 36% from the previous year. Banner ads also showed sharp growth, rising 31% over 2017 to $22 billion in 2018. Data from 2016 and earlier was estimated using a different methodology and can be found archived here. For more information, see the methodology.

Digital display advertising revenue by device and format

Pew Research Center

 

Pew Research Center

Digital display advertising revenue continued to be dominated by just a few companies in 2018. Facebook comprised 40% of this advertising segment, according to eMarketer estimates. Google accounted for 12% 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 2019, Oath was renamed the Verizon Media Group.)

In the mobile sector, Facebook captured more than half (58%) 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

Pew Research Center

Pew Research Center

Newsroom investment

Roughly 13,500 employees worked as reporters, editors, photographers or videographers in the newsrooms of digital-native outlets in 2018, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics (OES). (Digital-native newsroom employment and wage data is 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 annual wage for reporters was roughly $62,000 and $63,000 for editors in 2018. (Data was not available in 2018 for photographers or videographers.)

Employment in digital-native newsrooms

Pew Research Center

Pew Research Center

Find out more

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

Read the methodology.

** (November 2019): We have removed a previously posted data point from this sentence because of methodological concerns about measuring total online news use using an online panel. A new data point for online news consumption is available in this blog post.

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

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