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Aug. 29, 2017, 10:45 a.m.
Audience & Social
LINK: www.digitalnewsreport.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Shan Wang   |   August 29, 2017

News organizations vying for readership in the U.K. are fighting a hard fight against three well-established giants. Stories from the BBC, the Guardian, and Mail Online accounted for 63 percent of what readers read during mid-March through mid-April 2017, according to Reuters Institute research published on Tuesday. (The BBC’s share alone: 39 percent.)

The same three outlets also accounted for 64 percent of the time spent reading the news in the sample of online news readers that Reuters studied.

The Reuters study tracked the desktop and laptop browsing habits of 3,455 news readers in the U.K. and also analyzed behaviors during two major news events: the Westminster terrorist attacks in March and the forced removal of a passenger from a United Airlines flight in April. (A major caveat: The study looked at desktop behaviors, so doesn’t take into account “consumption of headlines or snippets within distributed environments or native consumption of articles via Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP, Apple News, etc. It also excludes short or live video consumption within distributed platforms.”)

The BBC’s website was the dominant news source during the Westminster attacks: 76 percent of those studied who read any news story about the attacks used the BBC, and 55 percent relied only on the BBC. The Reuters study found that readers were also searching specifically for BBC sources, e.g., “terror attacks + BBC.”

When it comes to reader engagement with and loyalty to specific news outlets, the BBC once again comes out on top:

BBC tops the list with an average of 31 stories per unique visitor, followed by MSN (24), the Guardian (15), BuzzFeed (14), the Mail Online (13), and The Times (9). No other UK national publisher has an average of more than five stories accessed by each visitor per month. Publishers like the Sun and Mirror, which have managed to build up huge loyal readerships in print, are generating just four and three stories per visitor each, with an average time over the whole month of just over four minutes for each publication.

The BBC’s longstanding status also helps it secure direct traffic: In the study period, 78 percent of visits to BBC news stories were direct traffic (the rest a mix of social, search, and links from other sites). Social media is the way in for other outlets looking to compete with the dominant news brands. (Again, this particular study focused on desktop behaviors; on mobile social media would be an even more significant traffic driver.)

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