STUDY: Readers Less Engaged with Content Found via Search or Social


In one of the week’s most interesting studies, the invaluable Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project found that readers who visit news sites directly are more engaged with the content they encounter than those who come across the same stuff on social.

This finding applies to search engines, too:

  • The average direct visit to any given news site lasts 4 minutes, 36 seconds
  • The average visit to the same site via a link on social or a web search lasts only 100-102 seconds

Unsurprisingly, the regular reader is more dedicated. There’s more…

  • Those who visit a site directly make 10.9 such visits per month, clicking on 24.8 individual pages
  • Readers who arrive at the site via search make only 3.1 monthly visits, clicking 4.9 pages
  • For Facebook, the numbers are even lower: 2.9 visits and 4.2 pages

Additionally, individuals tend to access sites one way or another, and there’s little crossover—either you’re a regular reader who goes directly to the source or you aren’t. And yes, the pattern applies to BuzzFeed too, though it won’t surprise you to learn that more people visit BuzzFeed pages via both direct visits and Facebook shares than they do other news sites.

While these results are most relevant to news editors and managers looking to better understand their own traffic numbers, they’re important to PR as well.

We see the study as confirmation of the fact that, despite all you read about paid media, social referrals, and measurement, there’s no real comparison to traditional earned media placements—even if they’re not printed on paper.

The best way to reach a given, well-read demographic is through the news sites its members frequent on a regular basis. In other words, your crazy uncle might click on a New York Times story for hate-reading purposes, but if he doesn’t visit the paper’s homepage regularly then he probably won’t take too much from the experience.

What do you think?