How someone gets to a news organization’s website says a lot about the level of engagement and loyalty he or she displays toward the site and its content, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis conducted in collaboration with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. In this study of U.S. internet traffic to 26 of the most popular news websites, direct visitors—those who type in the news outlet’s specific address (URL) or have the address bookmarked—spend much more time on that news site, view many more pages of content and come back far more often than visitors who arrive from a search engine or a Facebook referral. The data also suggest that turning social media or search eyeballs into equally dedicated readers is no easy task.
These are among the key findings that detail how 1 million people enrolled in one of the nation’s most popular commercial internet panels have been connecting through their desktop and laptop computers with the most accessed or shared news sites of our time.
An analysis by Pew Research of three months of comScore data finds that among users coming to these news sites through a desktop or laptop computer, direct visitors spend, on average, 4 minutes and 36 seconds per visit. That is roughly three times as long as those who wind up on a news media website through a search engine (1 minute 42 seconds) or from Facebook (1 minute 41 seconds). Direct visitors also view roughly five times as many pages per month (24.8 on average) as those coming via Facebook referrals (4.2 pages) or through search engines (4.9 pages). And they visit a site three times as often (10.9) as Facebook and search visitors.