Mapping online news discovery in the UK

A tracking study explored how news content was discovered and consumed by 3,400 desktop users over one month in 2017.

The researchers used two case studies (the Westminster terror attacks and the forced eviction of a passenger from a United Airlines flight) and identifies the most successful news brands.

The results show the complex ways in which stories are found and consumed online and identify the news brands that were the most successful with search, direct traffic and driving social.

Best performing brands and formats

  • A few brands dominate - three (BBC, Guardian and Mail Online) accounted for 63% of all stories read
  • When it came to the Westminster attacks BBC News was used by 76% of all those who accessed any news story about the attacks; and was used as the only news source for 55% of users
  • Smaller brands can out-perform others by an aggressive use of social and search - the Independent performed strongly on the United Airlines story
  • Live blogs were by far the most popular online format during the first 12 hours of the Westminster attacks; a 53-second video was the key driver of the United Airlines coverage.
  • MSN performs well on desktop news access.  It comes bundled with Microsoft email and browsers


For the purposes of this study, engagement is defined as the average number of stories each visitor read over the month. 

  • BBC News – 31 stories per visitor
  • The Guardian – 15 stories per visitor
  • Daily Mail – 13 stories per visitor
  • MSN – 24 stories per visitor
  • Buzzfeed – 14 stories per visitor
  • Telegraph – 5 stories per visitor

This research raises questions about the quality and range of online news sources.  The researchers identify that further research to understand more about how discovery and consumption are different on mobile would be useful.

The full report is available online here.

Original source