The only US news sites in the top 25 most-visited to have “power users” (those who visit more than 10 times per month) represent a double-digit percentage of their user base were among the top eight, according to [pdf] a May 2010 research report from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and The Nielsen Company. Data from “How People Interact with News Online” indicates CNN Digital Network (ranked number two by Nielsen) leads all the top 25 sites with 17.8% of its user base represented by power users.
ABC News Site Has Least Engaged Users
At the other end of the spectrum, ABCNews.com has the lowest level of user engagement out of the top 25 news sites, with 81.8% of users only visiting once per month and 4.5% visiting more than 10 times per month. Examiner.com has a slightly lower percentage of monthly users (81.7%), but only 0.8% of its users visit more than 10 times per month.
Casual Users Dominate Top 25 News Sites
On average, report data shows 77% of the traffic to the top 25 news sites came from users who visited just one or two times. The percentage varied among sites, but for all was more than half of their unique visitors for the month. Examiner.com, a local news aggregator site with some original content, had the highest percentage of these casual visitors (93%), followed by CBSNews.com (90%) and ABCnews.com (89%). Yahoonews.com, had lowest number of people who visited only once or twice, but it was still more than half (55%).
Most News Site Users Visit Less than 5 Mins.
Overall, the report indicates the audience pattern for the top 25 news sites in terms of time spent per visit forms a spoon-shaped curve. The plurality, between 30% and 40% of the audience, spends fairly little time on a site, less than five minutes.
The percentage that spends between six and 10 minutes per month then drops to about half that (between 15% and 20%). And it falls even further to between 1 and 5% for 41 to 60 minutes. However, an uptick occurs when looking at the percentage of those who spend more than one hour per month.
Biggest Audiences Spend Most Time
Sites with the largest unique audience rank at the top in terms of average time spent per visit. CNN.com and FoxNews.com enjoy the greatest percent of these heavy time users, 17% each. NYTimes.com has the third highest percent of audience using the site more than 60 minutes per month (12%).
And Googlenews.com ranks fourth for this group (11%). Report analysis indicates its users may leave to follow a link, but enough of its audience returns that their total minutes add up to more than an hour a month. Huffingtonpost.com is at the low end; just 6% of its users devote more than an hour each month to its content.
Google Top Outside News Site Referral
In the 40% of traffic that comes to top US news sites from outside referrals, a combination of Google Search and Google News is the biggest single driver, according to other report data which indicates on average, Google was responsible for 30% of outside traffic to these sites.
Google was the lead referring site for 17 of these major news sites and the second-ranked referring site for another four (see chart for top 25 US news site lists compiled by Nielsen).