US News & Media Report 2019

US News & Media Report 2019


2020 is just two months away and with it comes a new year of breaking stories, inventive technologies, and a presidential election in the United States.

Becoming the go-to source for American readers will be pivotal in the year ahead. To achieve this, news and media organizations need to know what audiences care about and where they currently go to consume content. Tailoring article titles to top issues and tracking how that differs by state over time can help publications win with readers online.

To better understand the political landscape in America, this report will answer:

  • Which types of publications are Americans reading?
  • How does that differ by state?
  • Which issues are most important to each state and which are less searched for?

What’s Inside


Political Landscape of America: Top Trends Ahead of the 2020 Election


Tactics for Online Engagement : Strategies to grow readership online


Political Landscape of America: Top Trends Ahead of the 2020 Election

CNN attracts the largest audience, Fox has the highest engagement

With the Democratic primary debates, impeachment discussion and climate change protests, it’s fitting that traffic to News & Media sites has grown +16%YoY in Q3 2019.

Publications like CNN, NBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post, are receiving the highest share of visitors to the News & Media industry. NBC News had the highest growth entering the top 10 this year.

Other titles, including Fox News and The New York Post, are also popular sources of information. Readers actually visited Fox News 42 times over the 13 week period, which is over 3x per week, making it the most engaging publication among the top 10.

Top News & Media Sites by Visitors 
13 weeks ending 9/28/19

Website Unique

1. CNN




2. NY Times




3. Fox News




4. USA Today




5. Washington Post




6. Forbes




7. NBC News




8. NY Post




9. CBS News




10. Express UK




Source: Hitwise, US. Top News & Media sites by unique visitors, 13 weeks ending 9/28/19.

Swing States Swing in Publications

Traditional red states, such as Alabama and Georgia, consume right-leaning content and traditional blue states, like New York and Vermont, read from left-leaning publications, but there are exceptions to the rule.

Illinois residents are more likely to read Fox News or The Washington Examiner than they are the New York Times or Huffington Post.

North Carolina, Tennessee and swing state Ohio are among the top over-indexing states for CNN and NBC News.

In fact, Ohio’s top over-indexed publications are CNN and Fox News. While Ohio spans the spectrum, other swing states leaned more in one direction over Q3. Floridians were most likely to read NBC, while Arizona residents were 24% more likely to read Breitbart.

Source: Hitwise, US. Index of Top Publications by State to standard US online population, 13 weeks ending 9/28/19.

Themes Top of Mind for Americans

With the 2020 election on the horizon, it’s essential for publications to understand which issues Americans care most about.

Social security, climate change and healthcare are themes that the highest rate of Americans searched for during Q3 2019.

Women’s rights is the topic several states are most likely to search for, including New Mexico, Louisiana, Hawaii and Wisconsin. Residents of New Mexico are nearly 600% more likely to search for women’s rights than the average American.

Certain states, like California, over-index on all themes, indicating that this is a key market to win media share from.

Source: Hitwise, US. Index of political issues by state to standard US online population, 13 weeks ending 9/28/19.

Now that we know states’ affinities for key themes and publications, which publications are over-indexing on those key issues?

Each of the top 10 publications is more likely to over-index on the economy, a top issue in the upcoming election.

Six of these publications are more likely to receive traffic from “women’s rights” searches. People who search for “climate change” are 44% more likely to visit Breitbart, the highest likelihood of any publication.

Understanding which publications already over-index for key topics can allow the industry to refocus and grow readership online.

Source: Hitwise, US. Index of political issues by publication to standard US online population, 13 weeks ending 9/28/19.

Key Takeaways

Political Landscape in America

Analyzing the online American audience begins with an understanding of where they currently consume content. While more people are visiting CNN, engagement on Fox News is higher, showing that there is a chance to engage readers across the political spectrum.

Understanding search keywords by state can provide publications and agencies with an opportunity to tailor their content on a regional level. Understanding which publications already over-index for key topics can allow the industry to refocus and grow readership online.

Once you have a foundational understanding of what online audiences are interested in, the next step is to engage and grow the readership base. Click the link below to access tactics on:

  • Using search to track seasonal trends
  • Leveraging article titles to get share on breaking news
  • Proving the value of high engagement audiences


Tactics for Online Engagement: Strategies for growing readership online

Use Search to Track Seasonal Trends

Getting ahead of a big event or story before others is critical to success in the news & media industry. Publications can leverage search to identify which terms are trending most for a particular topic.

Ahead of the MLB playoffs, fans were searching for the current “standings”. Once the post-season kicked off at the end of September, searches for ”schedules” increased 3.3x WoW in the week ending 10/5/19.

In the same time frame, searches for “tv schedules” increased 22x WoW, ensuring fans would be able to catch the games.

Aside from interest in when to watch the games, searches for ”brackets” and “odds” rose, indicating strong interest in betting during the post-season.

Publications can leverage this information to produce content tied to schedules and how to watch. So which publication received the most traffic from playoff-related searches?

Trend of “MLB Playoff” Searches

Source: Hitwise, US. Trend of “MLB Playoff” related terms, 6 weeks ending 10/19/19.

The Washington Post received a third of all traffic for “MLB playoff” searches to the News & Media Industry. The news publication produced content on playoff schedules and brackets which certainly contributed to traffic.

Sports-centric publications, such as Bleacher Report and Sports Illustrated, also earned high traffic from “MLB playoff” searches. Over 75% of clicks to major media outlets, such as Fox News, NY Post and Bloomberg, came from mobile searches.

Tracking top trending terms around a major event and tailoring content to it can generate high traffic for publications online.

Share of Traffic for “MLB Playoff” Searches to News & Media Industry
13 weeks ending 9/28/19

Source: Hitwise, US. Share of downstream traffic for “MLB Playoff” related-searches to News & Media Industry, 4 weeks ending 10/19/19.

Identify Top Articles to Improve Engagement

Once media agencies understand who is winning the story, they should analyze articles to understand how. The keywords that drive readers to click can inform a publication’s tone and sentiment when they cover the same topic.

Coverage of the new Joker movie was riddled with sarcastic tones and readers gravitated towards articles that included negative and skeptical reviews.

Asking “are you kidding me?”, stating that the movie was “not worth” it and using language such as “bleak” and ”terrible” led to high traffic for the movie reviews.

Parsing out key terms within article titles can help publications determine which tone to use with audiences across key topics. 

Top Articles Containing “Joker” and “Review”
7 days ending 10/10/19

  Article TitleNews

‘Joker’ Review: Are You Kidding Me?

NY Times


Apparently, After All That Drama,
‘Joker” is Terrible



Love it or hate it, the Joke movie
presents a tempting fantasy

The Verge


‘Joker’ Review: The Laugh’s On Us



Joker movie review: No one’s laughing
in this bleak, violent spin-off



Joker Wants to Be a Movie About the
Emptiness of Our Culture. Instead, It’s
a Prime Example of It



‘Joker’ (Spoiler Filled) Review: A
Unique Comic Book Movie, Not
Worth the Controversy



Box Office: ‘Joker’ Scores Record
$13.3 Million on Thursday Night



‘Joker’ toes fine line in portraying
the making of a monster



‘Joker’: What to Read About the
Divisive New Film

NY Times


Negative reviews, like “terrible” and “bleak” receive high article volume, but positive spins, such as “tempting fantasy” also generate traffic.

Source: Hitwise, US. Top articles containing “Joker” and “Review” by page views, 7 days ending 10/10/19.

Prove the Value of High Engagement Audiences

Proving the value of your most engaged readers can establish strong and relevant ad sponsorships.

High frequency readers are those who visited the publication’s website 4+ times each month from June – August. This audience is a key segment to target because their frequent readership indicates that they are more likely to interact with your sponsors than average readers.

High frequency Cosmopolitan online readers are mainly high-earning women aged 55-64. Most of their viewing is done on mobile and they search for Nordstrom Rack and Louis Vuitton.

Glamour’s high frequency audience skews towards women 25-34 years old with average incomes. They are most likely to search for LOFT and J.Crew in addition to viewing most Glamour articles on their desktop/laptop devices.

Leveraging this information can help Cosmopolitan develop strong placements with Louis Vuitton and help Glamour expand relationships with J.Crew.

Comparison of High Frequency Audiences
13 weeks ending 8/31/19

AgeFemale 55-64Female 25-34
Income$100K+$50K - $75K
Device SplitDesktop: 33.6%
Mobile: 66.4%
Desktop: 58.2%
Mobile: 41.8%
Retail Search Terms“nordstrom rack”
“louis vuitton”
“nordstrom rack”

Source: Hitwise, US. Demographic profile and top indexed searches for high frequency Cosmopolitan and Glamour readers (those who visited 4+ times each month from Jun – Aug), 13 weeks ending 8/31/19.


Key Takeaways

Tactics for Online Engagement

  • Track top trending terms around a major news event to tailor content and generate high traffic.
  • Parse out key terms within article titles to determine which tone to use with audiences across key topics.
  • Identify attributes of your most engaged audience to establish key ad sponsorships

Hitwise + News & Media

Hitwise works with leading News & Media agencies, such as Penguin Random House, ABC, and The Telegraph, to help them better understand their readers and viewers. With profiling data from Simmons and clickstream behaviors, News & Media companies use Hitwise to learn about what their audience is interested in and how to best position messaging to those distinct segments. Article-level data allows publication sand agencies to track the latest stories and benchmark their share around key topics to the competition.

Interested in more insights on the News & Media industry?

Hitwise will help uncover digital insights into your strategic audience segments. 

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