How widely do visitors read across news and media sites? Our data on breadth of visit

There’s a clear link between Recirculation and loyalty. The deeper a visitor gets into your site, the more likely they are to return. To keep visitors on site and engaged, it’s important to understand how they read across different categories and topics and what content is most likely to encourage another click. 

To better understand the connection between different news categories, our Data Science team analyzed the behavior of more than 1 billion visitors to news and media websites during a recent 30-day period. Using Chartbeat’s own machine learning algorithm to classify articles within the categories of the IPTC taxonomy, we were able to see how factors like referral source, device type, and frequency of visit influence the amount and types of categories read. Here’s what we learned.

Most visitors read 1-2 categories

In a month-long analysis of visitors to News and Media sites in the Chartbeat network, we found that more than 70% read 1-2 categories of news while only 29% read 3 or more. When we examine breadth of visit at the session level, visitors averaged 4 sessions and read an average of 1.3 categories during each visit.

The most popular category on news and media sites in our network is “crime, law, and justice.” For readers who engage with more than one category, the most popular combination is “crime, law, and justice” and “economy, business, and finance.” The next most popular duo is “crime, law, and justice” and “disaster, accident, and emergency incident.”

How do referral sources affect breadth of visit?

In addition to examining the data on a network-wide scale, we also looked into how factors like referral source affect the number of categories read. Across all referrer types, we found that the majority of visitors still engage with 1-2 categories. 

The strongest signal here comes from Search where 69% of visitors read a single category. This trend reinforces previous findings that audiences choose different types of stories depending on where they discovered the content. Because Search audiences are drawn to stories with factual, timely information, they are less likely to move on to other categories after satisfying their original inquiry.

On the other end of the spectrum, the type of visitor most likely to read more than 1 category comes from External sources such as news aggregators. 41% of visitors from these sources read one category while 59% read 2 or more.

How does device type affect breadth of visit?

When we examine the breadth of a visit by device type, we see that more than 60% of visitors read 1-2 categories whether they’re on Mobile, Desktop, or Tablet. Desktop and Tablet readers have a similar percentage of 3+ category readers (33% and 34%, respectively), both of which are higher than Mobile readers at 29%.

How does loyalty affect breadth of visit?

When we break out breadth of readership during a visit by loyalty type, new and loyal visitors distinguish themselves in opposing ways. 83% of New visitors read 1 category while 73% of loyal visitors read 3 or more.

Previous research has shown that though smaller in number, loyal readers consume about 2.5 times as much content as new readers. In doing so, it’s clear that they read a variety of categories and topics on their preferred site. In addition to “crime, law, and justice,” “Health,” “arts, culture, entertainment and media,” and “human interest” are popular categories for this cohort.

Takeaways from the research

Over 70% of site visitors read 2 or less categories per month, and 40% read only one category. This means that the average reader will be more likely to recirculate to articles within the same category than popular articles with unrelated topics.

The most popular category on news and media sites by unique visitors is “crime, law, and justice.” The most common combination of categories is “crime, law, and justice” and “economy, business, and finance.”

Loyal readers are more likely to read across multiple categories than new or returning readers. 73% of loyal visitors read 3 or more categories in a month, indicating an opportunity for greater variety in the content recommended to them.

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