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US news goes mobile

News, 30 April 2015

WASHINGTON, DC: The onward march of mobile has been further demonstrated in the finding that 39 of the top 50 digital news websites in the US have more traffic to their sites and associated applications from mobile devices than from desktops.

This statistic emerged from the State of the News Media report, Pew Research Center's analysis of comScore data, which showed that four of the 50 had similar levels of mobile and desktop traffic and just seven had more desktop than mobile.

MSN news, part of the Web portal launched by Microsoft in the mid-1990s, remains heavily reliant on desktop visits, which were nearly four times as many as mobile.

The opposite situation prevailed at newer sites such as EliteDaily.com, UpWorthy.com, BuzzFeed.com and BleacherReport.com where most of the audience arrived via mobile.

Pew also noted that desktop visitors typically spent more time on these sites: this was true for half of the 50 sites, while mobile visitors spent longer on just ten sites, the remaining 15 being equally divided.

Once again newer sites like Vice.com and Gawker.com attracted longer viewing times, but long-established news brands like the Chicago Tribune and the LA Times were also present.

Few readers, however, lingered long. The best mobile performance in this regard came from BleacherReport.com, where the average time spent per visit was 3.5 minutes, compared to an average 2.2 minutes spent by desktop visitors.

Digital and mobile developments were also having an impact in audio news, where online radio and podcasts have been growing.

Pew reported that podcast downloads at NPR were up 41% year on year, while the percentage listening to online radio via mobile devices was rising as that pertaining to desktop listening was falling.

In particular, it highlighted the fact that 35% of cellphone-owning adults had listened to online radio in the car, traditionally a stronghold for AM/FM radio, up from 21% in 2013.

In broadcast media, meanwhile, Pew said that some areas were faring better than others, with local TV seeing marginally increased (+3%) viewership for evening news while network evening news was slightly higher again (+5%).

Cable news was worst hit, with prime-time median viewership down 8% across the three channels – Fox News, MSNBC and CNN.

Data sourced from Pew Research Center; additional content by Warc staff