Search engines and gossip blogs are having a growing impact on online news-consumption patterns, according to the just-released Hitwise US News and Media Report, which examines recent trends in online news.
Moreover, online news consumption is beginning to fragment, as users rely on a greater number of news sources, expanding usage of nontraditional news sites, according to Hitwise research director LeeAnn Prescott, author of the report.
Consequently, the share of visits to the top 10 News and Media websites declined 3.8 percent from March 2006 to March 2007, while the number of ranking websites increased more than 12% - to 8,001 - according to the report.
Google Grows as a Source of Traffic
Search engines, especially Google, are responsible for more News and Media category website traffic than ever before, according to the report.
Print News websites received 29.7 percent more traffic from Google in March 2007 than in March 2006, and Broadcast Media sites received 35.9 percent more traffic from Google in the same time period.
Search engines accounted for 23.3%, 17.0% and 41.6% of traffic to the websites of the Print Media, Broadcast Media and IT Media subcategories, respectively, according to the report.
News Aggregators (such as Yahoo News, Google News, and Drudge Report) and portals were also significant sources of traffic for News and Media websites. Traffic from portal frontpages to Print, Broadcast and IT Media websites constituted 4.9%, 17.0% and 11.9% of traffic, respectively, to sites in those subcategories.
Impact of Video
The amount of traffic leaving News and Media category sites for Multimedia category sites increased 196 percent from April 2006 to March 2007, according to the report.
News events that involved user-generated video, such as those related to the death of "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin and the hanging Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, helped drive traffic between News and Media and Multimedia websites, according to Hitwise.
"News events in 2006 exposed internet users to emerging sources of online information," said Prescott. "Search engines were more likely to be the first step for internet users in their search for information about breaking events, and search engine results from news video services, video sites like YouTube, and blogs were more likely to contain the information they sought, thus hastening the growth of non-traditional news sources."
Other key findings from the report:
- The market share of visits to the top 20 celebrity gossip blogs grew 42 percent from November 2006 to March 2007 as users sought uncensored and up-to-the-minute information on events involving Britney Spears and Anna Nicole Smith.
- PerezHilton.com was one of the fastest growing sites in this category, and increased in market share of visits by 621 percent from March 2006 to March 2007.
- Social news website Digg has succeeded in attracting a young, tech-focused base of users. The bulk of its downstream traffic went to Entertainment, News and Media, and Blog websites in March 2007, but it does not yet serve as a significant source of traffic to the News and Media industry.
- Local news consumption experienced an evolution with the rise of Topix, a local news aggregator and community website. Its market share of visits increased 81 percent from March 2006 to March 2007, and it showed above average representation with users in rural states such as Kentucky and South Dakota, indicating its success in engaging users in local communities.