Last week, my article, “Is Google News the Tail Wagging the News Search Dog?,” appeared in Search Engine Watch – just as Search Engine Strategies was getting underway in London. The article cited data showing that Yahoo News and AOL News have larger unique audiences than Google News – in the US. So, what's the story in the UK?
According to comScore Media Metrix, there were 17.3 million unique visitors to General News sites in the UK during December 2006. The #1 site in the category was BBC News, with 7.8 million unique visitors. Yahoo News was #2, with 3.6 million unique visitors. Google News had 2.7 million, The Sun Online had 2.6 million, Guardian.co.uk had 2.5 million, MSN News had 2.4 million, AOL News had 1.9 million, and Times Online had 1.9 million.
UK data from Nielsen//NetRatings provides a similar picture. BBC News ranked #1 in the Online Current Events and Global News Destinations category during December 2006, with 6.2 million unique visitors. Yahoo News was #2 with 2.6 million unique visitors. Guardian Unlimited had 2.1 million unique visitors, Times Online had 1.6 million, The Sun had 1.5 million, Google News had 1.3 million, MSN News & Weather had 1.1 million, and AOL News had 1.0 million.
When I showed this data to people in London last week, many said they were shocked by two findings.
The first was that Yahoo News, not Google News, was the top dog in UK news search.
On the other hand, very few of the people who I talked with in London seemed interested in the strong showing of MSN News or AOL News – or the fact that four of the top eight news sites are news search engines. Most of them appeared to be more concerned about who was on top.
The second shocker was the appearance of The Sun, one of Britain's “red top” tabloids, in the rankings.
Unlike the “quality” newspaper sites in the UK, the red tops feature photos of scantily clad women on Page 3 and sensational stories like the one reporting that “Brit boobs are biggest.” And, going down-market now appears to be as popular a way of building an online audience as developing distinctive journalism that readers cannot find elsewhere.
Meanwhile, very few of the people who saw these findings seemed even remotely interested to hear that the BBC News is optimizing its headlines for news search engines. Most of the “lads” wanted to turn back to The Sun and re-examine Page 3.