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Online news consumption: The biggest trends to get to grips with in 2017

Online news consumption: The biggest trends to get to grips with in 2017

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Reports of ‘fake news’ and the millennial and Gen Z population becoming increasingly sceptical of traditional news sources, have been rife this year so far…but despite this, online news and media consumption is booming. A newly released report by Hitwise claims that 1 in every 9 visits online were made to news and media sites in 2016; an increase of 11% since the previous year.

Readers also spent an average 5:04 mins per session on print media sites last year, with the Daily Mail topping the charts an average visit time of 7.48 mins, and The Guardian running closely behind at 6:10mins. Unsurprisingly, key political events such as Trump and Brexit have of course dominated the headlines, accounting for 5 out of the top 10 read articles across print media sites, in the first two months of 2017.

The Hitwise research offers much learning and insight for marketers, to adapt to their own news content strategies. Key takeaway points are…

Fast moving organic search terms offer a valuable source of inspiration

Fast moving organic search terms offer brand marketers insight into the topics and queries that are front of mind for consumers, at any given point in time. If monitored regularly, they can provide a rich source of inspiration for topical content creation, as well as offering first mover advantage to those on the ball.

To illustrate this point, Hitwise cites a helpful example relating to the relaunch of the Nokia 3310. Online buzz around the event broke almost two weeks before Nokia made its official announcement (at the Mobile World Congress on the 27th February), evident in natural search enquiries as the table below illustrates.


The Independent was the first news outlet to capitalise on this natural search traffic, gaining the highest share of downstream traffic in the two weeks leading up to the announcement. It kept ahead of the game by utilising the top searched for terms with high organic rates within its headlines, such as “relaunch” and “new”, to gain traffic. Other publishers such as The Sun, Telegraph and Tech Radar, took two weeks to catch-up.


It’s all in the timing

It goes without saying that being agile and responsive to breaking news, on an hourly basis, is critical for capturing market share. The day of the week, or time of day, are important factors marketers should also be considering.

The Hitwise research shows that UK news eclipses all other topics, peaking at 4-6pm on weekdays, compared to 12pm-7pm on weekends. US news also increases on the weekend, particularly from 4pm onwards.


Hourly news consumption also shifts with breaking stories. Marketers should be tracking these patterns to ensure they are publishing topical content at a popular time.

Standard online articles have a two-day lifespan

How long does an article ‘live’ for? Content marketers need to have an understanding of this in order to appreciate how frequently they should be writing and refreshing their content.

According to Hitwise’s analysis of BBC News, standard news articles, defined as content accessed through web browsers on desktop and tablets, typically have a two-day lifespan. However, popularity on Day 2 varies by topic e.g. from UK news (19% on Day 2) to US news (34% on Day 2), as the illustration below highlights. Interestingly, mobile-optimised content has a significantly shorter life of just one day, revealing that it ‘dates’ more quickly.


Audience profiles are constantly shifting

The lines between traditional right and left-leaning news sources are increasingly blurring. According to the Hitwise report, audiences that consume online news tend to shift more regularly than audiences of offline news, possibly because it’s easier (and more discreet) to experiment with reading sources online.

For example, comparing the month before and after Trump’s inauguration, left-leaning newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent gained readers from traditional right-leaning tabloids, such as The Sun, Express and Daily Mail (as the illustration below shows).


It’s important that content marketers keep a track of these shifts in their online audience, especially around key political or industry events. They should take note of the audience profiles that are consuming the most traffic, and particularly if they differ from what has historically been the biggest audience group. Understanding the sort of content that draws in particular audience groups and drives the most engagement is critical for forward planning.

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