Audience Engagement Digital Publishing Top Stories
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As publisher traffic continues to surge, local news sees an 89% boost

Comscore’s latest report on shifting category trends for digital audiences amid pandemic shows that the surge to news publisher websites continues, with a further growth in the last few days.

“Last week, we looked at an aggregate of total digital visits to 40 of the top news publishers’ sites and saw the highest week of news visits this year, by far.  Looking at this same round-up for March 16-22, we saw continued growth. Visits were up 18% over last week, and 68% compared to February 17-23,” the report notes.

It further states that visits to all news content were up 45% for March 16-22 compared to February 17-23, and the growth continues as visits are up 13% compared to the prior week, eclipsing 8 billion total visits across all non-weather news content.

Local news was a big winner, Comscore found, as consumers try to understand how the Coronavirus will impact their day-to-day and their specific communities.

Comparing March 16-22 to February 17-23, visits to local news sites were up 89%, and were up 30% versus the prior week

The 89% growth versus February is the highest growth rate of any news sub-category (“General News” is next at +62%).

Comscore report

We’re seeing similar stories of traffic growthand consequent rise in subscriptions—from all across the globe, and not just from the major publishers:

Research from Chartbeat on how coronavirus is impacting the news shows that while content about the virus is driving a lot of global traffic, the Total Engaged Time (actual amount of time audiences spent actively viewing pages) for non-Covid-19 content is holding steady, in spite of the heightened interest in pandemic-related content.

The current average engagement across all (non-coronavirus) articles is 35 seconds, as shown in the graph below.

To put that number into perspective, engaging readers past the 15 second threshold is critical — they’re far more likely to return to the publisher site.

As we’re witnessing, digital content creators have blown that number out of the water.

Chartbeat report

“Getting readers to your site is not the issue right now, as our analysis shows. Rather, it’s maintaining a high level of engagement with those audiences over time (coronavirus content or not),” the report states.

To ensure that remains the case, we believe digital publishers, media companies, and content creators can all apply optimization tactics that encourage deeper reading.

Jill Nicholson, Chartbeat

Among referrers, according to the report, Google News is driving the highest traffic, with Chrome Suggestions not far behind. This is followed by Twitter, Bing, Flipboard, SmartNews and Yahoo!.

From a growth standpoint, Chartbeat says, most referrers have seen a sharp increase in traffic since March 8. For example, Bing has seen 110% growth, while Twitter and SmartNews have each grown by nearly 60%.

Google News (60%), Flipboard (46%), Yahoo! (35%) and Google Chrome Suggestions (25%) round out the list.