March 18, 2014 Last Updated 5:16 pm

New Pew study shows the value of direct web traffic

The Pew Research Center has released a study that seeks to look at the way digital news is consumed online. The study looked at three months of data from comScore and finds that readers that enter a news website directly spend about three times as long on that site as those that come via a search engine or though social media such as Facebook.

PJ-news-pathways-03-10-2014-02“These direct visitors spent 4 minutes and 36 seconds per visit on news sites, while visitors who arrive from Facebook spent only 1 minute and 41 seconds and those from search spent 1 minute and 42 seconds,” Kenneth Olmstead wrote on the Pew Research Center website.

According to the report, visitors to a news website tend to enter that site the same way every time – in other words, if a visitor tends to find a site through search, this is the way they will regularly enter that site.

“The big thing publishers should take away from the desktop data, even if desktop is going away, is that: 1) method of entry matters to the experience and 2) they can’t control method of entry,” Patrick Cooper, NPR’s Director of Web and Engagement, is quoted in the Pew report.

Visitors who entered directly also were found to view more pages per month than casual visitors.

ReferralTraffic_TimeDespite this fact, Pew still found enormous variation in the time spent on a site, even when visited directly. FoxNews.com web users, for instance, spend over 9 minutes per visit, on average, compared to visitors to CNN.com. The Pew study does not speculate as to why this is, though both the level of community established on a site, and the ability to comment and read comments, has always been known to influence engagement.

Pew’s report looked at 26 news sites and pulled information from April to June of last year. The sites examined in the report came from comScore’s top “general news sites” and list of top newspaper sites, based on monthly unique audience, as well as Facebook’s internal list of sites shared with Pew Research.

In November, another Pew report showed the variance between news consumption across social networking websites. What that report found was that web readers consumed far more news through reddit, Twitter and Facebook than other social media sites, including LinkedIn, Instagram and Vine. Also, the report says that readers tend to get their news from just one social media site (68 percent), while only a small percentage of readers (9 percent) get news on three ore more social media sites.

Pew’s next report to be released should be its widely anticipated State of the News Media report which has come out this week in both 2012 and 2013.

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