Among the Indian news websites, The Times of India continues to be the clear leader with 12.7 million unique visitors in August, 2013.
There has been significant growth in the Indian daily readership of news and information content in the past year, with an increase of 34 per cent to 9.4 million average daily visitors to the category. The data is based on comScore's recently released report highlighting online news readership in India based on data from its comScore Media Metrix service.
According to the report, total unique visitors to Indian news websites grew to 45.9 million in August 2013, from 40 million in August 2012, recording a rise of 15 per cent a year. Similarly, total visits to Indian news websites grew from 259,686,000 in August, 2012 to 364,592,000 in August, 2013, recording a rise of 40 per cent a year.
Among the Indian news websites, The Times of India continues to be the clear leader in the category, maintaining its No. 1 position since last year with 12.7 million unique visitors in August, 2013. India.com sites showed 25 per cent growth, breaking into the Top 10 for the first time with more than 7.1 million unique visitors. Also, 16 of the top 20 news properties are currently local news publishers.
Speaking to afaqs!, Kedar Gavane, director, comScore India suggests that several factors have contributed to this growth in readership of Indian news sites.
"There has been a significant growth in the number of internet users in India in the past 12 months. This has naturally led to an increase across several categories including news/information. News/information globally has an average reach of 80 per cent. In India, this number is around 58 per cent and this will grow significantly as news/information consumption is one of the popular activities among the internet users. With social sharing and faster reaching of news content to masses, this will catalyse the growth further in the coming months," he adds.
The comScore numbers take into account users from home and work locations and above 15 years of age and do not cover the mobile universe. However, according to Gavane, the increased engagement (page views, time spent) can be attributed to the fact that the frequency of news/information access is much higher on mobile and tablets.
Data also suggests reader engagement for the news category has spiked within the past year, with users spending on average 31 per cent more time on news sites at 41.6 minutes per visitor. DivyaBhaskar.co.in and Bhaskar.com demonstrated especially strong engagement at 100.3 minutes and 62.1 minutes, respectively.
Other niche news sites with more modestly-sized audiences - including Jagbani.com, PunjabKesari.in, and Navbharat Times - also generated high engagement with a higher number of page views per visitor than the category average of 48.
However, commenting on whether there are trends visible in terms of vernacular news readership growth online, Gavane states that comScore currently does not separately report vernacular sites in India. "Although most of the players have grown in numbers, there is a significant increase among regional dailies in different languages like Manorama, Bhaskar, Jagran, Loksatta and several others," he states.
Meanwhile, continuing a past trend, many of the top Indian news sites have also seen a significant amount of traffic from abroad. FirstPost.com generated the highest share of its audience from abroad at 51.3 per cent, followed by Manorama sites at 45 per cent. The Times of India, as the most prominent news brand, also successfully extends its audience into other markets with 37.8 per cent of its audience coming from abroad. NDTV India sites and The Indian Express Group also have more than 30 per cent of their respective audiences coming from outside of India.