Pew: Online news sites struggle to get advertising

Bambi Francisco Roizen · February 13, 2012 · Short URL:

Most news sites use in-house display ads; Yahoo News top site in offering targeted ads

As an owner of a news site, I can tell you that it's true: A lot of our ads in our newsroom promote our own services. If we're not promoting our events, we're promoting the ability to find your friends' start-up in our business network or we're promoting a competition.

Apparently, we're not alone. The top news sites in the U.S. have had "little success getting advertisers from traditional platforms to move online," according to a new study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. In fact, digital advertising is expected to overtake all forms of advertising in four years, or 2016. But the Pew report questions whether news sites will be able to take full advantage of the inflow of ad dollars.

The digital ads most news sites attract are standard ads that are availabe across most websites and are not targeted based on interests of users, which is the value of Internet advertising over offline advertising. 

More than 20 news operations, such as,, Huffington Post (now AOL's main news site), Yahoo News and Google News, were studied for the report. Here are some of the findings-

- In-house ads or promoting a news properties owns services filled more space than any other ads. Some 21% of ads were for the news site's own properties. At, more than 50% of their ads promoted their own products, like subscriptions to their magazine.

- The financial industry has a large presence across all the websites. At, the primary advertisers are financial offers, as well as job listings. This differs from CNN, where ads a lot of the ads come from insurance and telecommunications. Ads for financial products or services accounted for 18% of all Web ads captured, more than triple that of the next category.

- Groupon-like ads were fairly limited. Despite the rise in Groupon and LivingSocial as big advertisers and marketers, discount ads made up more than 10% of the ads on only five sites.

- Importantly, most of the news sites didn't feature "targeted" ads based on a consumer's behavior. Just three of the news sites - CNN, the New York Times and Yahoo News - distributed targeted ads. 




Image Description

Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

All author posts

Support VatorNews by Donating

Read more from our "Trends and news" series

More episodes