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BBC Dominates UK Market for Desktop News Consumers

But other outlets can score with social and search

August 30, 2017

UK desktop and laptop users are reading more news content from the BBC’s website than any other source, according to a study by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford. But other UK news providers have found opportunities to eat into BBC’s dominance.

Research firm YouGov tracked online news consumption among UK desktop and laptop users in March and April 2017 for the study, finding that the BBC was the source of 39% of news stories read—the largest share of any UK publisher.

Just two other sites garnered double-digit shares of news consumption—The Guardian with 14%, and Mail Online with 10%. When combined, The Guardian, Mail Online and the BBC were the source of 63% of stories read, and 64% of time spent reading news stories on PCs during the study period.

YouGov also found that 78% of the BBC’s desktop and laptop readership arrived by heading directly to its site. In fact, more than half of UK internet users reading on a PC accessed news content by going straight to a publisher’s website, with notably smaller shares using social media, search or other so-called side-door access points as an intermediary.

Preferred Way in Which UK Internet Users Discover Digital News Content, April 2017 (% of respondents)

The study found several UK news brands have become highly reliant on readership traffic via indirect routes like social media and search. Online-only newspaper The Independent drew the fewest readers from direct traffic. But print stalwarts such as The Sun, the Daily Mirror, Metro and The Telegraph also received more of their digital traffic from search, social media and other indirect routes than from readers coming straight to their sites.

These sites are capitalizing on traffic derived from these digital pathways. For example, during coverage of the violent ejection of a passenger from a United Airlines flight in April, The Independent pulled more traffic to its site from both search and social media than any other news outlet examined in the study.

The study attributed The Independent’s strong performance to its focus on content that resonates strongly on social media and in search results, such as video- and photo-heavy versions of the story posted to Facebook and Twitter.

Cliff Annicelli


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