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Benchmarks for Digital Publishers & News Sites

Posted by: lisa2020, lisa2020 2021-10-28 Comments Off on Benchmarks for Digital Publishers & News Sites

When was the last time you picked up a newspaper?

In the U.S., print media accounts for only 16% of total news consumption. Online, including social media, stands at a whopping 66%. This growth isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

It’s projected that by 2022, the average digital media user will spend just under eight hours a day online.  A growing market means more competition. And you can’t win if you don’t first understand where you stand among your main competitors.

This article is part of our series of industry benchmarking blog posts, aimed at helping you assess the standard averages in your industry, the results you should be aiming for, and the ways that you can improve. The methodology behind this analysis is based on a deep dive into the top websites in the news and media web industry.

All of the competitor benchmarking metrics below are based on Similarweb data for January – September 2021, looking at total traffic to the top websites in the News and Media category worldwide, in the United States and several other key markets.

Benchmarking metrics in news and media

Subscribers are using the internet as their primary news source. In the U.S., 86% of adults say they get their news from a smartphone, computer, or tablet. As online readership numbers grow, it’s important to understand how your site performs relative to the competition.

Consumers’ increased appetite for online news was fueled by the unprecedented outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 spurred a demand for constant updates and content optimization, as well as a remarkable surge in traffic to news sites. In 2020, the News and Media category had a total of 334.9 billion visits worldwide, an increase of 8.9% compared to 2019. In the United States, that growth was even more apparent with 22.7% growth year-over-year (YoY.)

Although total visits have slowed in 2021, 2020 is a tricky year to benchmark against as it was such an anomaly for most industries. When comparing September 2021 to September 2019, visits to news and media websites grew 11% in the U.S.

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Device split: desktop vs. mobile

Device split offers an understanding of where you need to focus your efforts when it comes to content and ad spend.

Top 100 websites in the category worldwide: 

  • Desktop – 38.4 in 2021 (vs. 39.4% in 2020)
  • Mobile Web – 61.6% (vs. 60.6%)

Top 25 websites in the category worldwide:

  • Desktop –43.3% in 2021 (vs. 44.0% in 2020)
  • Mobile Web – 56.7% (vs. 56.0%)

Pro Tip: Unsurprisingly, mobile phones are the most used devices for news consumption, particularly for smaller news and media sites. Make sure your website has a good user experience (UX), and consider offering an app to increase stickiness and time spent on your site.

Website traffic sources

Direct traffic the the primary channel for News & Media websites with sending 64% of traffic to the category.  Next up is organic search, which is responsible for 21.1% of traffic. This is proof of the importance of having a loyal readership and strong brand awareness. Further evidence to that can be found in the small investment in paid acquisition channels.

Social media, however, continues to expand its reach, and on average, drives 3.6% of all website traffic for the industry. Referrals are an important acquisition worldwide, whereas they play less of a role in the U.S.

Pro Tip: Compare the benchmarks above with your user acquisition sources to see where you might be underperforming. Also, look for shifts and trends over time. Direct is losing share to organic search, highlighting the importance of developing a strong SEO and content strategy by developing news content based on what people are most interested in.

News sites’ traffic share from social media

Once upon a time, consumers got their news primarily from switching on the TV or radio. Now, all they have to do is glance at their phone. As social media continues to spread its wings, platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have become a main source of news online. Though Facebook is the frontrunner, it faces fierce competition from Pocket in Germany, and from Twitter in both the U.S. and the U.K.

Stickiness: Unique Visitors / Total Visits

Visits-to-unique visitors is a valuable user engagement metric you can use to evaluate your content engagement level, choose the right keywords for optimization, and monetize your ad placements accordingly.

Top 100 websites in the category (worldwide):

  • Unique visitors (4.7 billion) / total visits (25.3 billion)  – 18.6%

Top 25 websites in the category (worldwide):

  • Unique visitors (2.4 billion)  / total visits (16.6 billion) – 14.5%

Top 100 websites in the category (U.S.):

  • Unique visitors (1.6 billion) / total visits (6.0 billion)  – 26.7%

Top 25 websites in the category (U.S.):

  • Unique visitors (960 million)  / total visits (4.6 billion) – 20.9%

As we can see, there’s a big difference between users worldwide and in the U.S. This is likely due to the fact that the main audience is more targeted at top publishers in the U.S., so those sites enjoy a higher percentage of returning visitors and subscribers.

Pro Tip: A site with a low visit to unique visitors ratio has a less involved audience, whereas a site with a high ratio has a better rate of engaged visitors.

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On-site key engagement metrics

Your visitors’ on-site user experience and satisfaction play a crucial role in determining whether they’ll browse on or click off. The three key factors that tend to have the highest influence are:

  • Average visit/session duration – Refers to the total duration of all sessions to a site divided by the total number of sessions during a specific timeframe. Longer session durations indicate more engaged visitors.
  • Average pages per visit – Denotes the total number of pages visited divided by the total number of visits during a specific timeframe. A higher number means visitors are browsing through the site and finding the content they want.
  • Average bounce rate – Represents the percentage of visitors who enter a site and then leave after viewing just one page. A lower bounce rate indicates that the content is relevant to visitors.

Below are benchmarks for these metrics across the U.S., the U.K, and Germany.

Top 100 websites in the category in the U.S.

  • Average visit duration – 5m 36s (vs. 5m 41s in 2020)
  • Average pages per visit – 3.9 (vs. 4.3)
  • Average bounce rate – 51.2% (vs. 51.8%)

Top 100 websites in the category in the U.K.

  • Average visit duration – 4m 19s (vs. 4m 20s)
  • Average pages per visit – 3.0 (vs. 3.6)
  • Average bounce rate – 51.2% (vs. 51.0%)

Top 100 websites in the category in Germany

  • Average visit duration – 3m 34s (vs. 3m 25s)
  • Average pages per visit – 3.1 (vs. 3.1)
  • Average bounce rate – 50.1% (vs. 51.4%)

Industry benchmarks for news apps

For many modern news seekers, the mobile-first mentality takes precedence. For marketers, that means understanding how your mobile app compares to industry standards is crucial. When looking at the top news apps, we see that while those in the U.S. receive much more average monthly visits,  which can be attributed to a greater population, Germany is a close second for install penetration rate – the percentage of devices in a given market that have downloaded that app.

High penetration rates support the fact that most users prefer apps over websites when it comes to news consumption.

Key engagement metrics for the top 5 news apps in the U.S.

  • Average monthly downloads – 5.3 million
  • Average monthly active users – 9.0 million
  • Average install penetration – 16.9%

Key engagement metrics for the top 5 news apps in the U.K.

  • Average monthly downloads – 66.8K
  • Average monthly active users – 1.2 million
  • Average install penetration – 14.4%

Key engagement metrics for the top 5 news apps in Germany

  • Average monthly downloads – 106.4K
  • Average monthly active users – 1.8 million
  • Average install penetration – 15.4%

Top news sites in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and beyond

Understanding who the top performers are in your industry is a good starting point for exploring ways to boost your online presence and increase your number of online subscribers.

Download our one-pager to get the fine print on which news outlets earn the best user engagement across the globe.