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The vast majority of adults in the United States get at least some news online (via smartphone, computer or tablet), 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.
The 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. This includes both digital-native news publishers, such as Axios or HuffPost, and so-called “legacy” news organizations (those that originated in print or broadcast) like The New York Times or Fox News that met those traffic levels. There were 97 such outlets in 2020 (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 2020 was 32.1 million, an 11% increase over the 29 million visitors those sites received in 2019, according to Comscore data. The average minutes per visit was 1.95, down from 2.13 minutes in 2019.
Website traffic and time spent for news outlets
Outlets have several options for reaching their consumers online, including apps, newsletters, podcasts and aggregation platforms like Apple News or Flipboard. The use of those different tools varies across news outlets. In a Pew Research Center audit of 97 outlets conducted in mid-2021, about seven-in-ten of these highest-traffic news outlets (73%) have apps for at least one of the two main mobile platforms (iOS and Android). Those outlets that do have apps tend to offer them for both platforms: About two-in-three (64%) have apps for both platforms, while 9% have just an iOS app. None only offer an Android app.
News outlets are also adopting other digital outreach and engagement methods. Nearly all of these outlets offer newsletters (93%) and have an official presence on Flipboard (95%) or Apple News (88%). Three-in-four release podcasts, and 39% allow comments on their articles.
These outlets are also highly likely to use social media as part of their outreach. All outlets studied here have an official presence on Facebook and Twitter, while at least nine-in-ten have a presence on Instagram (96%) and YouTube (93%). Fewer outlets have accounts on TikTok (57%) and Snapchat (26%).
Digital outreach methods for news outlets
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.
In 2020, according to eMarketer estimates, digital advertising grew to $152 billion, an increase from $132 billion in 2019 and $111 billion in 2018. It was estimated to comprise 63% of all advertising revenue, up from 55% in 2019 and 49% in 2018.
Mobile advertising revenue also continued to grow rapidly in 2020, increasing from $87.3 billion in 2019 to $102.6 billion. Between 2011 and 2020, mobile advertising revenue increased roughly sixtyfold, from $1.7 billion in 2011 to $102.6 billion in 2020. Desktop advertising revenue increased from $30.3 billion to $40.6 billion over the same time period. In 2020, mobile advertising revenue comprised two-thirds of digital advertising revenue on mobile and desktop devices, up from 5% in 2011.
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 for most formats in 2020. The rise was driven primarily by growth in mobile display ad revenue (desktop display includes advertising on desktop and laptop computers and other nonmobile internet-connected devices).
Video ads were the largest segment of this market in 2020 at $41.4 billion, growing 30% from the previous year. Banner ads also showed double-digit growth, rising 14% over 2019 to $35 billion in 2020.
Digital display advertising revenue by device type
Digital display advertising revenue continued to be dominated by just a few companies in 2020. Facebook comprised 45% of this advertising segment, according to eMarketer estimates. Google accounted for 10% of this segment, while no other company controlled more than 5% 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. And in 2021, after this data was collected, Verizon sold Yahoo to Apollo Global Management.)
In the mobile sector, Facebook captured more than half (60%) 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
Roughly 18,000 employees worked as reporters, editors, photographers or videographers in the newsrooms of digital-native outlets (outlets that were born on the web) in 2020, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS). (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 [LINK].) The median annual wage for reporters was roughly $73,000 and it was $69,000 for editors in 2020, while the median annual wage for photographers was roughly $75,000. (Data was not available in 2020 for television, film and video editors and camera operators.)
Employment in digital-native newsrooms
This fact sheet was compiled by Senior Computational Social Scientist Galen Stocking and Maya Khuzam, who was a Research Assistant at Pew Research Center from 2019-2021.
Find out more
Read the methodology.
Pew Research Center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder. This is the latest report in Pew Research Center’s ongoing investigation of the state of news, information and journalism in the digital age, a research program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, with generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
* Note (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:
- Facebook Posts in Early Days of Biden Administration Reflect Ideological Divide, June 14, 2021
- 70% of U.S. social media users never or rarely post or share about political, social issues, May 4, 2021
- Partisan differences in social media use show up for some platforms, but not Facebook, April 7, 2021
- News Use Across Social Media Platforms in 2020, 12, 2021
- More than eight-in-ten Americans get news from digital devices, 12, 2021
- Many Americans Get News on YouTube, Where News Organizations and Independent Producers Thrive Side by Side, 28, 2020
- Key facts about digital-native news outlets amid staff cuts, revenue losses, July 14, 2020
- As COVID-19 Emerged in U.S., Facebook Posts About It Appeared in a Wide Range of Public Pages, Groups, June 24, 2020
- U.S. Media Polarization and the 2020 Election: A Nation Divided, Jan. 24, 2020
- Americans favor mobile devices over desktops and laptops for getting news, 19, 2019
- Americans Are Wary of the Role Social Media Sites Play in Delivering the News, Oct. 2, 2019