The publishing world has been getting a lot of press lately. Ironic, isn’t it? Between the upcoming holiday season, the impending cookiepocolypse, and the environmental implications of nonfungible tokens (NFTs), everyone’s reading up on their favorite news providers. Digital subscribers are curious to see how publishers will adapt while still striving for both continued growth and innovation.
But that’s much easier said than done, especially in such a competitive market – one that’s shown a decline in readership following a significant coronavirus boom – a 12.4% decrease between October 2020 to 2021, to be exact.
So which publishers have proven their ability to pivot according to changing consumer demands and market fluctuations?
Using Similarweb’s suite of digital tools for publishers and media, we ranked the top ten publishers in the U.S. based on traffic share to give you a behind-the-scenes look at their digital performance. Read on to see who’s leading the pack and how you measure up relative to the top players. For this analysis, we define market share as the percent of traffic being sent to a particular website via desktop and mobile web.
The current leaderboard
There were 5.8 billion total visits to the top ten publishers in the U.S. between August and October 2021 – approximately 32% of the entire market.
Clearly, COVID-19 impacted the news and media industry. Huge spikes in traffic throughout 2020 can be attributed to new user behavior, such as increased mobile consumption and the need for vital information amid the global pandemic.
Although dropping below 2020 monthly visits, 2021 is still performing better than 2019, with an industry increase of 3.5% based on pre-pandemic levels (October 2021 vs. October 2019).
The table below shows the standout winners for different website metrics such as traffic share, visit duration, bounce rate, and more. Use these benchmarks to spotlight your strengths and pinpoint potential areas of improvement.
1. CNN: winner of digital market share
As of October 2021, CNN’s market share was 4% in the U.S in relation to the top 100 websites. If we compare the site’s traffic to just the publishers in this competitive set, the digital market share for CNN jumps to 19.4%. There were 364.3 million visits to cnn.com in October 2021. Talk about a crowd-pleaser!
While still in the number one spot, cnn.com saw a slight percent decrease of 3.8% in October 2021, while competitors like msn.com, news.yahoo.com, and cnbc.com grew.
2. MSN: a competitor on the rise
MSN is in a close second, nipping at CNN’s heels in the market share race. Currently, the site earns 18.2% of the traffic share for the top ten news websites. When looking at the broader U.S. market, this dips to 3.8%.
MSN was the only website in the top five to have a positive increase in traffic share in October 2021 – up 3.8% from the month before, pulling in a whopping total of 341.8 million visits in that month.
In addition, msn.com boasts better engagement rates compared to its competitors, with readers spending a longer time on the site and clicking through more pages. In fact, msn.com has the highest number of page views in this set.
3. Fox News: strategic winner during seasonal events
Fox News takes our third place spot with a market share of 13.7% and 257.2 million monthly visits in October 2021 across desktop and mobile web.
Compared to the others, foxnews.com has the longest visit duration by a minute. On average, users spend seven minutes and 25 seconds browsing through foxnews.com, compared to six minutes and 24 seconds on msn.com, the second-longest in the competitive set. If you’re looking to improve your engagement metrics, Fox News is a website to monitor.
If we take a more historical overview of the industry, foxnews.com experienced significant growth in the months leading up to and during the U.S. election, even surpassing msn.com in terms of monthly visits in November 2020. And in August 2021, when the world was watching the Gabby Petito disappearance, we can see monthly visits trend upwards with an increase of 10 million.
4. New York Times: boasts the most unique readers
The digital market share for the New York Times is 12.9% among the top ten websites and 2.6% when looking at the industry as a whole. There were 241.9 million monthly visits to nytimes.com in October 2021.
Although nytimes.com comes in fourth place for market share, the website has the second largest number of unique visitors, trailing slightly behind cnn.com, its top competitor. Remember that unique visitors reflect the number of individuals who visited nytimes.com in one day.
5. Google News: nabs the best bounce rate
In fifth place, we’ve got Google News. When analyzing just the top ten news websites in the U.S, market share for news.google.com sits at 9.4%, 3% less than nytimes.com
Compared to its competitors, news.google.com earns a significantly higher percentage of traffic from desktop compared to mobile web. Whereas other news sites are optimizing for mobile, Google has cornered the desktop market.
Device split could also explain Google News’s low bounce rate. News.google.com has the lowest rate compared to the competitive set. It’s the only website to fall in the 30% range. As most of Google’s users access it from their desktop, they’re more likely to browse longer before losing interest and jumping to another site.
Although they’re not currently in the top five, the rest of the publishers on our list are very competitive in the U.S. and pose a threat with growing market share.
Below are key metrics for October 2021 across desktop and mobile traffic in the U.S.:
- Traffic share within the competitive set: 6.2%
- Total industry traffic share: 1.3%
- Monthly visits: 115.8 million
- Unique visits: 41.3 million
- Visit duration: 3 minutes 8 seconds
- Bounce rate: 60.3%
- Traffic share within the competitive set: 5.4%
- Total industry traffic share: 1.1%
- Monthly visits: 102.1 million
- Unique visits: 35.6 million
- Visit duration: 3 minutes 9 seconds
- Bounce rate: 63%
- Traffic share within the competitive set: 5.2%
- Total industry traffic share: 1.1%
- Monthly visits: 97.4 million
- Unique visits: 36.0 million
- Visit duration: 2 minutes 21 seconds
- Bounce rate: 76.9%
- Traffic share within the competitive set: 5.1%
- Total industry traffic share: 1.0%
- Monthly visits: 95.4 million
- Unique visits: 34.3 million
- Visit duration: 2 minutes 31 seconds
- Bounce rate: 64.5%
- Traffic share within the competitive set: 4.5%
- Total industry traffic share: 0.9%
- Monthly visits: 85.1 million
- Unique visits: 39.9 million
- Visit duration: 4 minutes 28 seconds
- Bounce rate: 70%
Ready to make headlines?
This report focused on the top ten news sites in the U.S. using Digital Research intelligence, part of Similarweb’s digital suite for publishers and media that the top brands use worldwide to analyze audience development, monitor consumption habits, and strategize campaigns effectively.
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