How Do Readers Find News About the Presidential Campaigns? - eMarketer

Newsletters Sign-Up

Plans & Pricing

Does My Company Subscribe?

How Do Readers Find News About the Presidential Campaigns?

Just 15% of referral traffic came via social

June 21, 2016

Much of the referral traffic to news articles about US presidential candidates is internal, according to data analyzed by web analytics and content optimization software provider Indeed, 40% of traffic was from users who arrived at a post by clicking a link from somewhere else on the publisher’s site.

Referral Traffic Share to News Articles About US Presidential Candidates* Among Digital Publishers Worldwide, by Source, Nov 2015-May 2016 (% of total referral traffic tracked by analyzed referral traffic to news articles by digital publishers around the world about US presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, John Kasich and Ted Cruz between November 2015 and May 2016. The largest portion of referrals were internal, and no other source came close.

About one in five article views were direct—which could include dark social shares or clicks from other sources without tracking available. The No. 3 source of traffic was social media, which provided 15% of referral traffic to stories about the five major candidates for the Democratic and Republican Party nominations for president.

Just 10% of traffic, meanwhile, came from search, and a tiny 2% was sponsored.

Regardless of traffic source, news articles may not be the most persuasive way to learn about these candidates. Separate research from YuMe found that many internet users find TV news to be the most effective political marketing channel.

In fact, about six in 10 (61%) are most affected by political TV shows other than news programs. While it seems TV is the best channel to get political messaging to US internet users, there’s one exception to that rule—actual TV ads, a traditional and long-standing platform for political advertising, failed to find favor with internet users, only 42% of whom said the channel is most effective.

US Political Ad Spending, by Format, 2008-2016 (billions and % of total)

And despite the tiny share of traffic analyzed by that came from sponsored links, digital political ad spending is expected to nearly quadruple compared to 2014. Research from Nomura Securities revealed that broadcast TV makes up the largest share of US political ad spending. And in 2016, the channel is estimated to account for $6.06 billion of political ad spending or 59.4% of the total—a slight decrease in percentage compared to 2014.

But when compared to 2012, the last presidential election year, TV’s loss is larger, at 4.6 percentage points. And compared to 2008, the last time there was a presidential election without an incumbent, broadcast TV’s share of political ad spending was nearly 10 points higher than it will be this year.

Go beyond the articles

eMarketer PRO customers get quick and easy access to the exact data and analysis they need to make critical business decisions:


  • Go beyond the articles:

    eMarketer Products

    You've never experienced research like this.

  • Hear from our clients:

    Customer Stories

    Nearly all Fortune 500 companies rely on us.

  • Want to learn more?

    Contact Us

    Inquire about corporate subscriptions today.