This month’s Verto Index looks at the most popular news brands (apps and websites) among U.S. adults (ages 18 and above), from the New York Times to Forbes. This Verto Index includes audience data on both the websites and, where applicable, mobile apps of the stated news property. We also dig in to which news brands are the most engaging, and which brands are best at leveraging their mobile audience.
The Ten Most Popular News Brands
The ten most popular news brands (based on number of monthly unique users) are a blend of establishment outlets and digital-first or digital-only media companies; seven of the top-ranking news brands were originally founded as traditional print or cable news companies. The oldest company on our Verto Index, The New York Times (founded 1851), has been hailed as something of a digital transformation success story; it’s also the top-ranking news brand, with 55.3 million unique users per month. CNN, the country’s first cable news channel to provide 24-hour coverage, is a close second, drawing 53.7 million monthly unique users per month. And the third- and fourth-ranking news brands are two outlets known for their outwardly conservative and progressive voices, respectively: Fox News (46.7 million monthly unique users) barely edges out the Washington Post (45.3 million monthly unique users). And Business Insider, the “youngest” brand on our Index (founded in 2009) is the most popular digital-only news brand, with 43.8 million monthly unique users.
The Most Engaging News Brands
Stickiness is how Verto measures audience engagement with a given digital property, by calculating how likely a user is to return to a given service day after day. Some of the smallest news brands on our Verto Index are also some of the stickiest, indicating that niche audiences may lack huge numbers, but could be the most loyal and engaged readers. The stickiest news brand on our Index is SmartNews, a curated news aggregator, which has just 2.4 million monthly unique users, but a stickiness of 51% (in comparison, the top-ranking New York Times has 55.3 million monthly unique users, but a stickiness of just 8%). Even more important, those users spend an average of six hours and 39 minutes using SmartNews per month, spread across 95 monthly sessions – or more than three sessions per day. The Drudge Report has a similarly small audience of just 2.5 million monthly unique users, but a stickiness of 40%; its users spend almost 4.5 hours per month reading the Drudge Report, with an average of about one session per day (or 33 sessions per month).
SmartNews isn’t the only news aggregator to earn a high stickiness rating. Flipboard’s two offerings – one of which (Briefing) comes pre-installed on all Samsung devices – claim more than 20 million monthly unique users combined, but share nearly the same stickiness rating: Briefing is 25% stickiness, while Flipboard’s eponymous brand rolls in at 24% stickiness, with similar amounts of time spent and monthly sessions. But there’s a much larger discrepancy between the two apps when you examine how much time the average user spends across each app: Flipboard readers spend nearly two hours and 20 minutes per month reading the app, with near-daily activity (24 sessions per month), while Briefing readers spend barely half an hour using the app per month, with markedly shorter individual session times.
Mobile Audiences and the Power of Native Apps
Unsurprisingly, native news apps designed for the two biggest mobile operating systems – Android and iOS – are also some of the most popular mobile-only ways to consume news. On a related note, three of the five stickiest news brands (as seen above) are also mobile-only apps. News for iOS is the leading mobile-only news brand, with nearly 20 million monthly unique users and more than 9% reach across the U.S. adult online population. Briefing, Flipboard’s native app for Samsung phones, claims nearly 16 million monthly unique users and 7% reach, and (as mentioned previously) a high stickiness rating of 25%. And although Google Play Newsstand only racks up 7.2 million monthly users (slightly more than 3% reach), those readers like to take a deep dive into the news, spending an average of more than 41 minutes per month reading news through the app.