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Fox News Digital sees best quarter ever as online traffic surges amid pandemic

Fox News Digital sees best quarter ever as online traffic surges amid pandemic
© Greg Nash

Fox News Digital had its most-visited quarter in history in the first three months of 2020, drawing nearly 120 million unique visitors to its platforms during the time period, according to Comscore.

The performance came during a news cycle that included the Senate's impeachment trial of President TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE, and the coronavirus pandemic — which has caused web traffic to surge at a number of media companies.

"There’s been a ton of news," Fox News Digital Vice President and Editor-in-Chief Porter Berry told The Hill in a phone interview. "You look at Iran, you look at impeachment, you look at the day the world changed, over the month the world changed with coronavirus."

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Berry, a former executive producer for "The Five" and "Hannity," says Fox News Digital's integration with the broadcast, podcast and streaming entities at Fox News Media has accelerated traffic as consumer habits change in the way they get news and information.

"We’re taking the best stuff that happens on Fox News Channel, whether it’s a write-up with a short clip, and that clip may be 60 seconds to a couple minutes, or three minutes," Berry said. "People are busy or they were before people were staying at home. And serving the audience with bite-size clips when they’re leading busy lives is a great way to engage them.

"We’re doing that more and more on digital. That’s been a really big piece of our editorial strategy over the last few months and before. But it’s really grown over the last few months," he adds. "So, we’re taking the biggest moments from the biggest interviews and the best analysis from our channel and making it available to our digital customers."

A recent Pew Research Center study shows that the share of Americans getting their news online is growing.

"In 2018, 34 percent of U.S. adults said they preferred to get news online, whether through websites, apps or social media. That’s compared with 28 percent in 2016," Pew Research, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., reported in September.

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Employment in the digital arena has also exploded, with digital newsrooms increasing in employee count by 82 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to Pew.

"The number of digital-native newsroom employees increased from about 7,400 to about 13,500 during this 10-year span. This increase of about 6,100 total jobs, however, fell far short of offsetting the loss of about 33,000 newspaper newsroom jobs during the same period," reported Pew, citing statistics from the Labor Department.

The coronavirus pandemic and ensuing economic crisis has also given an opportunity for news outlets to tell different kinds of stories. 

Berry says that one initiative at Fox called "America Together" is an example of spotlighting the sacrifice of ordinary Americans pitching in to help others in need, with viewers and readers themselves providing the content.

"This is an idea that was pushed by [Fox News] CEO Suzanne Scott," Berry said, noting that more than 3,900 viewer and reader submissions have been made to the section. "It’s a big priority to her that in the midst of all this strategy and all this crisis, there’s still a lot of really good things going on."

Candid.org, a nonprofit tracker of philanthropic efforts, reported this week that charitable donations from the public, private and religious sectors reached $7.9 billion last week. Nearly two-thirds of donations came from within the U.S., far exceeding any other disaster to hit the U.S. since 9/11.