The future of online news is social… and surprisingly casual. The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has released results of a study into audience behavior for the top 25 news sites in the U.S., and those results underline existing wisdom and offer a new idea of who is reading their news online, and how often, at the same time.
The study describes the importance of “casual users,” people who visit a news site only a few times per month and spend less than five minutes once there; 34% of users fall into that category, with a much smaller percentage (7% on average, although that number can be as high a 18% on sites like CNN.com) described as loyal readers or “power users.” The front pages of the sites were the most viewed pages for a majority, with online video ranking low on internet users’ lists of most viewed pages on all but two sites (CBS News, which may have been skewed by one particularly popular, much-linked story during the survey, and CNN).
Unsurprisingly, Google remains the “primary entry point” for most news sites, with Google searches and Google News acting as the biggest single driver of traffic to sites (Responsible on average for around 30% of all traffic). However, Facebook is described as “a critical player in news,” driving traffic to all but one of the top U.S. sites (Google News, itself an aggregator, is the holdout); Twitter, by comparison, only plays “a relatively small role in sharing of links to news sources.”
Whether news companies learn from the study – making their sites more searchable, reducing the amount of video and finding some way to more successfully monetize the casual readership, for example – remains to be seen, but let’s see if their Twitter streams suddenly become a lot quieter in the next few days…
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