PEJ online traffic report: Google, Drudge beat out Facebook and Twitter

There are several groups of online news consumers, and they each behave differently. This means newsmedia outlets must  “develop separate strategies to serve and make money from each audience,” the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism announced today in a report studying the top 25 U.S. news websites.

Although audiences reach content via several routes, search aggregators are still the most popular way to get there. Search is followed by social media, and within social media, Facebook is more powerful than Twitter, the report explained. However, links aggregator website the Drudge Report was even more powerful than Facebook.

Unsurprisingly, Google was the top traffic driver for the 25 websites, responsible for 30 percent of their traffic.

Social media is a growing force, as Facebook was the second or third most important source of traffic at five of the sites. Twitter, meanwhile, “barely registers as a referring source,” an interesting result, as the microblogging site apparently plays a bigger role in breaking news than connecting readers to it.

Facebook drives anywhere from 1 percent (, AOL News) to 7 or 8 percent (ABC News, CNN and the Huffington Post) of traffic to the large news sites, while Twitter drives an average of 1 percent, the report states.

However, links aggregator the Drudge Report drove more traffic than either site, sending readers to all but six of the top sites in the study, and ranked second or third in more than half of them, ahead of Facebook.

Top brand sites depend heavily on “casual users,” the study found. For example, at, 85 percent of users visited the site just one to three times per month, and 34 percent spent just one to five minutes on the website each month.

“Power users,” meanwhile, visit a site more than 10 times per month, and spend more than an hour there over that time. These users made up an average of just 7 percent of overall users.

When users left a site, “share” tools that typically show up beside most news stories were among the most clicked-on links, according to the report.

Image: PEJ
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