The Impact of US Politics on News Apps

Apteligent collects billions of app load statistics each month across hundreds of mobile news apps of all political persuasions. We previously covered how world events (like terrorist attacks) can impact news traffic; now that the primary season is at an end we decided to see the impact US politics had on mobile news apps.

Over the course of a few months, we analyzed news apps to determine the ideal traffic for an “average news day.” In the graph below, this is represented by 0%. Spikes in the graph represent large influxes of traffic triggered by world events, while dips represent “slow news days.”

Although we have a global audience with major international media outlets on our platform, the majority of the views analyzed came from the US.

The graph below specifically looks at iOS news apps starting from the beginning of the year.

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Super Tuesday

The findings are fascinating. On average, the Super Tuesday primaries drove a 37% increase in traffic. The earlier Super Tuesdays drove higher traffic as the race was still fairly open and information was in high demand by those voting. By the end, when the results had less of an impact on the outcome, traffic dropped accordingly. Another factor that In this primary year that has to be taken into account was the sheer novelty and “entertainment” factor of the proceedings – specifically on the GOP side – may also have been responsible for driving higher traffic during the early primary period

table

Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton

Donald Trump has had a huge impact on both television and app traffic for news outlets. In fact, when he skipped the GOP Debate on 1/28, that caused a decrease in traffic by 21%! This is almost equal to the increase in traffic seen on the last Super Tuesday, 23%, when Hillary Clinton became the presumptive Democratic nominee. When Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee after the Indiana primary, app traffic increased by 28%.

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Republican vs Democratic Presidential Debates

The most surprising result came when we analyzed app traffic to Republican debates contrasted against Democratic debates. It’s been widely reported by Nielsen that the television ratings for the Republican debates were significantly higher than the Democratic debates – for the top three debates, the Republicans drove an average of 88% more viewers than the Democrats. For this reason we assumed app traffic would follow suit. To our surprise, the Republican debates only drove 4% more traffic to mobile news apps than the Democrats. Our theory? Audiences tuned into the Republican debates because they turned into a spectacle. Seventeen candidates, largely attacking each other instead of the issues, makes for great television but is largely uninteresting content for reading on a mobile device.

Conclusion

Mobile news traffic has been up 18% since the beginning of the year, largely due to the US political season. Other world events contribute as well but there is no denying the impact of US politics on news organizations. In particular, the primaries and the debates contributed to large spikes in traffic. There is a reason that most major news organizations are covering politics almost 24×7 – it draws a tremendous amount of viewership. For good or for ill we have five more months of it yet to go.

Anand Narayanaswamy is the editor-in-chief of Netans. He was recognized as a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for 9 years (2002 to 2011) and currently part of MVP Reconnect program. He is also part of the prestigious ASPInsider program. Anand has published several articles and reviews related to various software and hardware products for various software and technology related websites. He is also active on social media and also participates as an Influencer for various brands. Anand can be reached at admin@netans.com