UK news sites’ US audiences: competing in global attention markets

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One of my favourite images at the moment is this picture of the Telegraph news room. I like to present it as

a. an illustration to the point that media companies (and brands, for that matter) are competing in live markets for attention – it looks more like a trading floor than a newsroom to me and in a way that’s exactly what it is. Each story they put out competes in the networks for attention along hundreds of alternatives, from the Chinese Xinhau news agency to traditional rivals like the Guardian.  

b. a challenge to marketers – this is an image that shows media physically re-designing the way it works to adapt to the age of networks – what are we doing? 

A new study published in Journalism: Theory, Practice & Criticism adds a huge amount of detail to this idea of competing in attention markets by looking at the way that US and UK media are competing for the same readers.

The author of the report, Neil Thurman, senior lecturer in Electronic Publishing at City University, London, got in touch by email to flag up the report. Combining interviews with editors of UK news organisations with analysis of Nielsen data he’s come up with a highly interesting piece of work that should be read if you have an interest in how the media landscape is changing at the moment.  

Some of the key facts he highlighted from the report are worth filing away( my comments in italics)…

  • Online, the BBC News website gets more US readers than Fox News, USA Today, and the LA Times; and the Guardian more than Time Magazine and the Wall Street Journal in their home markets.

UK media are reaping the reward of English language content and competing direct for US readers.

  • The UK news websites studied received an average of 36% of their readers from the US, although that figure is as high as 73% for some.

73%! That has to be the FT, no?

  • The Drudge Report was the most important referrer of US readers to UK news websites, accounting for 25% of traffic.
  • The main Google search engine referred about 8% of US traffic and Google News 7%.

So Google News almost as important as Google main results  (which also include some news headlines) – but The Drudge Report overshadows the combined effort of Google’s two sources of traffic for UK news websites – incredible.

You can download Neil Thurman’s paper as a PDF – I’ll certainly be  taking a closer look.

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