There was no shortage of big stories in 2013 – from the Pope Francis announcement to the Boston Marathon bombings – and people turned to CNN.com to follow the events online. While Fox News and MSNBC continue to draw more TV audiences away from CNN, CNN Digital maintained strong leads over both networks online in 2013.
CNN Digital averaged 67 million unique visitors per month last year, 117% higher than Fox News Digital (31 million uniques). In the increasingly important mobile space, CNN Digital averaged 30 million unique visitors per month, 56% higher than Fox New Digital (19 million uniques) and 311% higher than MSNBC (7 million uniques).
CNN is the clear-cut number-one news network on Twitter and Facebook with 41 million followers across all branded Twitter accounts and more than 18 million fans across its branded Facebook accounts. CNN will need to leverage CNN.com and social more to recapture its primetime TV dominance, but based on the 2013 digital results the CNN brand is far from in trouble.
For more on CNN Digital’s remarkable 2013 and its plans for 2014, we spoke with CNN.com’s Lead Homepage Editor Carl Lavin.
Lost Remote: For news sites, spikes in web traffic are often the result of tragic stories. What are some positive stories from 2013 that people came to CNN.com for?
Carl Lavin: Events-wise, 2013 positive stories that attracted big audiences in terms of pageviews included the Oscars (February), Punk fashion gala at the Met (May), Mars rover (August) and the christening of the royal baby (October). In terms of one-off pieces, examples included material on travel, lifestyle and entertainment, including stories on best beaches and aviation fans who stalk the world’s biggest planes.
LR: What are some 2014 initiatives you are working on to build upon the success you had in 2013?
Lavin: Video, mobile, and – given the 2014 midterm elections – politics.
LR: Editorially, how does your approach differ between the desktop version and the mobile version of CNN.com?
Lavin: Time of day is a big factor. Desktop is more of a weekday, midday priority. Mobile usage is particularly high on evenings and weekends. Severe weather events and other breaking news that impacts people right now are very relevant to our mobile audience, since people carry their phones with them all the time. On mobile, a more straightforward approach to storytelling and presentation tends to work better, in contrast to a desktop presentation that incorporates more room for explanatory text and larger images.
Lavin: On tablets, video views per visit are much higher than on desktop. For big planned events – Oscars, Super Bowl, State of the Union – we tap into the huge appetite for a second screen. Our digital audience is also a TV audience, and holds a phone or tablet in hand while watching the event. Our editorial staff keeps a continuous rat-a-tat-tat of content to capture and expand the conversation. Mobile users are attracted to our live blogs, curation of tweets and other social media, and are eager to participate with comments or other contributions.
LR: Compared to 2012, how has CNN.com’s audience demographics changed, if at all?
Lavin: With our surging social media and mobile numbers, we are growing our younger audiences.
LR: Anything else?
Lavin: We’ve been able to tap in to the heart of our audience through collaborating with the mobile, social and internal metrics teams. We’ve made examining audience behavior part of our daily routine and it’s become folded into our everyday decision-making.