Verto Index: News Sites and Apps

This month’s Verto Index looks at the top news websites and apps in the U.S. among adults 18 years and older, and shows a ranking of the most popular sites and apps, from CNN to the San Francisco Chronicle. In this post, we address:

  • The relevancy of newspapers
  • The enduring popularity of The New York Times
  • How age and gender affects news-reading habits
  • The most popular days of the week for news sites
  • The future of online news

(This Verto Index includes audience data on both the websites and, where applicable, mobile apps of the stated news property.)

Are Newspapers Irrelevant?

Our latest Index data shows that the top positions are split between established media organizations: while CNN comes in at number one, it’s closely followed by more recent upstarts The Huffington Post and Reddit. The rest of the top-ten contenders are split between established news companies like The New York Times and The Washington Post and newer, digital-only outlets such as Buzzfeed. But looking beyond sheer user numbers, we see some interesting trends.

Click here to download the full Verto Index

The Gray Lady Learns Some New Tricks

Our data shows that one of the oldest news publishers in the U.S. is also one of the most engaging.

The New York Times is about to celebrate its 165th birthday. While its print edition remains an iconic symbol of the print news establishment, the company has spent the past few years significantly overhauling its entire digital strategy. Its innovation report was famously leaked back in 2014, revealing that The Gray Lady (as the paper has been nicknamed) was taking some striking steps to attract new readers and retain existing subscribers, launching bold interactive storytelling modules, experimenting with apps, and teaming up with Google Cardboard to deliver VR-driven story formats.

These gambits appear to be paying off – while The New York Times ranks fourth on our Index in terms of monthly users and reach, its users are some of the most engaged, as measured by the amount of time their users spent on the site (or app) per month, and the number of sessions per user per month. The Times’ proactive focus on digital has also produced a remarkably high percentage of mobile-only users – 62% of its users are mobile-only, putting the company in line with online-only Business Insider and just behind the San Francisco Chronicle (which has a much smaller user base).

In an election cycle year, it’s also no surprise to see Fox News high in the rankings – although it only comes in ninth in terms of monthly users and reach, it has the highest stickiness rating (Verto’s comparison of daily users to monthly users to quantify the most engaged users) – Fox News users spend a longer amount of time on their site/app and have the most sessions per month than any other news property in our Index.

Does Your Age Dictate Your News Preference?

Drilling further into our data, we see some interesting discrepancies across different age groups. While Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers are relatively democratic with their choices, Verto Analytics data shows stark preferences among some of the oldest and youngest news consumers. Among Millennials, unsurprisingly, Buzzfeed is nearly three times as popular as Fox News; Reddit and Forbes are more than two times as popular – perhaps Forbes’ 30 Under 30 feature is the new social currency here. On the other end of the age spectrum, Silents show a strong preference for more established news sources, such as Fox News and CBS News.

Click here to download the full Verto Index

Ladies Love Buzzfeed

Gender also plays a role in which sites and apps users prefer to get their news. Business Insider, The Wall Street Journal, and CNET attract some of the most male-heavy audiences; nearly 60% of their readers are men. Meanwhile, Buzzfeed decidedly skews exactly the opposite: more than 60% of its readers are women.

Popular Days of the Week for News Sites

Lastly, the day of the week impacts traffic the news sites and apps. Using CNN as a benchmark, we see that the top-ranking news site and app has relatively consistent user traffic throughout the week, with a slight dip on the weekends. In contrast, Fox News experiences a jump in users on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, while Buzzfeed sees a small user spike on Mondays – perhaps users in search of a few good memes to start the workweek.

Click here to download the full Verto Index

The Future of News

The last three years have seen a significant shakeup of the online news world, as established publishers have experimented with new apps and methods to deliver news while a series of startups has tried to create apps that aggregate and curate existing news sources.

A recent analysis of news startups notes that the past three years have been particularly brutal – Reverb, Zite, and Circa all shut down in 2015, and Flipboard continues to struggle amid executive losses and acquisition rumors.

No news aggregators or curations apps made it onto our latest Verto Index, which means that the best way to reach users could be by engaging with them where they already are – through the news sites that they’re already visiting. Establishing a brand and a reputation seems to be a key aspect of attracting an audience – Buzzfeed is the “youngest” property on our Index, but it’s still 10 years old. For newer startups trying to gain a foothold in the space, it may just be a matter of time.

Interested in learning more about our data on news and digital publishers? Contact us, or download the full Verto Index here.