United States

Population 319m
Internet 87%
Trust in news 32%
(12th out of 12)
Interest in news 67%
(=7th out of 12)

The US media environment is highly commercial, highly competitive, and increasingly fragmented. Analysts could describe three rough generations of news organisations: those with prestigious newspaper, television, or radio legacies (along with a struggling cohort of metropolitan newspapers and local network TV affiliates); the first generation of digital media companies (including Yahoo, MSN, and Huffington Post); and the latest wave, born in the social media era (Vox, BuzzFeed, and Upworthy).


TV, radio, print

Digital reach

Newspapers 35%
Broadcasters 53%
Pure players 52%


Cross-platform reach

Newspapers 56%
Broadcasters 88%


Traditional (offline) reach

Newspapers 45%
Broadcasters 82%


Top digital subscriptions

  • Local/City Newspaper
  • New York Times
  • Wall Street Journal

But a generational framing doesn’t quite capture the market’s dynamism or complexity. Social platforms play a crucial role; Facebook is an important gatekeeper with publishing ambitions, reddit hosts significant conversations, and Twitter can drive large volumes of traffic, even as messaging applications like Snapchat become strategically important. The market keeps evolving, changed by youthful and agile companies like Vice, new joint ventures like ABC and Univision’s Fusion, and new product launches like New York Times’ Now mobile app. High-profile journalists switch companies, destabilising once-predictable hierarchies, and promising news start-ups of two years ago have bankrupted or imploded today.

Public media, based on a combination of government appropriations, donations from users, and corporate sponsorship, offer additional content to niche audiences both locally and nationally.

This year’s data continue to show a difficult period for legacy media, a changing of the guard in the native digital news companies, and the big national broadcasters holding their ground after previous falls.

Among the big individual losers was Yahoo News (now at 23%), losing almost a third of its reach in two years and MSN losing about a fifth. In contrast, the Huffington Post is up almost a third to 22% and Buzzfeed almost doubled to 10%, reflecting aggressive hiring in hard news and investigations, and a sophisticated use of data and test-driven optimisation.

There aren’t many people paying for news in the US, almost no overall growth, and very little easy money left on the table. Despite major newspaper companies touting more subscriptions in their annual reports (the New York Times has over 800,000 digital subs) this survey shows virtually no increase in total news payers since 2013. The remaining non-payers overwhelmingly believe they’d never pay, or pay only a small amount – a mean yearly figure of $8. In this environment the newspaper companies advertise aggressively and widely offer discounts. That’s the context for the boom in native advertising examined in detail later in this report.

Apple devices vs the rest (news usage)

Top social networks*

* Use weekly for news