CNN Website Trouncing CNN TV

Cable news pioneer CNN continues to languish behind the competition but its website is growing fast.

CNN’s ratings have been on a steady decline since 2003, when it regularly got 689,000 households to tune in each day, to a low of 383,000 last year, according to Nielsen Media Research. For the first six months of this year, it’s up to 431,000. Fox News, its younger, more conservative competitor, routinely trounces it in the ratings, often garnering twice the household ratings and recently besting CNN in prime time for key coverage of the presidential debates.

Traffic continues to climb over at, however, with unique users up nearly 25% to 26 million in April compared with the same period last year. That, coupled with the 90 million worldwide subscribers to CNN Mobile, suggests that CNN’s breaking-news model fits in better online among sit-forward viewers than it does in the sit-back environment of America’s living rooms.

“We’re all pretty convinced that news doesn’t break on TV anymore,” said Eric Bader, senior VP-managing director of digital connections at MediaVest. “Almost everybody across pretty much every economic and age demographic learns of breaking news online, increasingly on mobile.” He points to coverage of Sept. 11 as most representative of the shift. “People didn’t have to channel surf to get to that urgent information, especially if you lived outside of New York.”

I’m atypical, since I’m a content provider as well as a news consumer. Still, I’ve moved almost entirely away from television and newspapers as information sources, with online taking up virtually all of that gap (and then some, since I’m spending far more time consuming news these days).

As to, the fact that it’s growing isn’t particularly interesting. The Internet is still a growing medium and broadband is only just now becoming a reality for most Americans. A look at their comparative traffic is more valuable. That, too, is good news for CNN:

Alexa Rankings Big Media Websites

The competitor sites were taken off the top of my head. Drudge Report, CBS News, and some others I tried were even lower than MSNBC, according to Alexa. Clearly, CNN and ABC News are doing something right that their broadcast brethren aren’t in driving Web traffic. Indeed, is amazingly anemic considering that it combines the resources of NBC News, MSNBC, and CNBC.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    The point you leave out is whether not the website for CNN is profitable. Without that you might just as well hang it up now.

    Also, if the medium is to blame, wouldn’t the trend be the same for Fox news, and their website? Last I saw, it was not. Perhaps the medium isn’t the issue, but rather the content.