App Annie Index for General & Business News

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Welcome to the App Annie Index for General & Business News, where we bring you the hottest mobile apps in the news category across the iOS App Store and Google Play. This report highlights key trends that are currently shaping the state of mobile apps in the United States news industry. To find out what’s hot in other app categories, please check out the App Annie & Internet Retailer Index and App Annie’s May 2014 Index for Games and Index for Apps.



  1. The Technology Behind the Index
  2. Changing News Consumption in the Mobile Age
  3. Key Trends
    1. Newsflash: iPads Generate 80% of iOS Revenue for Top News Apps
    2. iOS Earns More Money, But Google Play Leads in Downloads
    3. Trusted News Outlets Reign Supreme on Mobile
    4. There is Always Opportunity to Increase Discovery
  4. More Movers and Shakers


1. The Technology Behind the Index

The information contained in this report was compiled from App Annie Intelligence, the leading market data solution for the app store economy. To see how our app store download and revenue estimates can help guide your critical business decisions, take the tour or request a demo today.

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2. Changing News Consumption in the Mobile Age

News consumption is changing dramatically with the rise of smartphone and tablet technologies. While confidence in newspapers and TV news dropped to all-time lows in the last two years, mobile devices are re-energizing the industry and encouraging Americans to consume and share more news. Although revenue from mobile channels remains low, big players such as NPR and The Wall Street Journal report that mobile traffic is gaining traction rapidly.

Adapting to the latest mass media channel isn’t a new phenomenon for news organizations. Industry leaders — The New York Times, CNN and more — have long since set up shop on mobile. Yet these apps are becoming increasingly customized and sophisticated to cater to today’s news consumers. In this report, we uncover the apps generating the most downloads and revenues in the general and business news category.


3. Key Trends

Newsflash: iPad Generates 80% of iOS Revenue for Top News Apps

In May, iPads were the source of about 80% of iOS revenue from the Top 10 grossing news apps in the United States. While consumers generally spend more for digital content on tablets compared to smartphones, the news sector reported double the iPad share compared to overall non-gaming apps in the US.

iPad drove the lion’s share of iOS revenue within the US news sector.

The iPad, and tablets in general, are particularly effective devices for consuming news. Larger screens display more content and can mimic the experience of reading physical newspapers and magazines. Readers are also more likely to consume in-depth content on tablets, as they tend to use these devices at home rather than on the go. These features can make consumers more willing to spend on tablet news apps and subscriptions.

The NYTimes for iPad app has been notably successful in generating app store revenue, even when compared to apps outside of the news category. Its monthly revenue ranked in the top 10 worldwide across non-gaming iOS apps for six consecutive months — from September 2013 to February 2014.


iOS Earns More Money, but Google Play Leads in Downloads

The Top 10 General & Business News apps in the US generated about three times as many Google Play downloads compared to iOS downloads in May. Considering that iOS and Google Play contributed roughly equal downloads in the US for overall non-gaming apps in May, it appears that Google Play was particularly effective at driving downloads within the news sector. 

Compared to iOS, Google Play drove a significantly higher proportion of news app downloads in the US.

In contrast, a staggering 95% of revenue from the top grossing news apps across the iOS App Store and Google Play came from iOS. While iOS has consistently brought in more revenue than Google Play, there is an unusually large skew in the news sector. As illustrated above, this was largely driven by the iPad. It’s important to note that three of the top-ranked apps by revenue were only available for iOS, yet the skew remains significant even after factoring in app availability.

These extreme splits by download and revenue suggest that Google Play and iOS users are approaching news apps in very different ways. News organizations should keep this in mind as they continue developing their mobile and monetization strategies. It will be interesting to see how the top-performing players in the industry respond to the distinct opportunities on each platform.


Trusted News Outlets Reign Supreme on Mobile

Given the subjective nature of news and journalism, brand strength and reputation are critical to a publisher’s success. According to the Reuters Digital News Report, 82% of Americans prefer to get their news from a source they know and trust. Therefore it’s not surprising that 14 of the 20 apps in this Index are affiliated with well-established news organizations, many of which have been active in the industry for decades.

Nevertheless, it’s still possible for new players to succeed. Flipboard, BuzzFeed, Zinio and Pocket have all gained popularity and credibility in the news sector. It’s notable that these apps are primarily news aggregators that draw content from other sources. They focus on app design and creativity to deliver content in fun, social and consumable ways.

BuzzFeed’s user interface is fun and customizable (left). Pocket integrates easy social sharing (right).


There is Always Opportunity to Increase Discovery

Strong App Store Optimization (ASO) strategies have the potential to boost success for up-and-comers in the industry. For example, data from App Annie ASO reveals that Zinio is the top ranked search result for the keyword “magazines.” The company has been very successful at optimizing its app description and keywords to increase the chances that new users discover and download the app. It’s ranked #5 in the top grossing news apps in this Index.

Zinio was ranked #1 out of 2,200 total search results for the keyword ‘magazines’ in the iOS App Store on May 31.

In the example below, we see that Yahoo — the #1 most downloaded news app in May — does not appear in the top 50 search results for keywords such as “news” and “breaking news.” Presumably consumers are locating this app in other ways — for example, by searching directly for “Yahoo” in the App Store or by browsing Top Charts. This goes to show that even the most successful apps have an opportunity to enhance discoverability by improving their ranking in search results.

Above are App Annie ASO results for Yahoo!’s iPhone app on May 31.


4. More Movers and Shakers

Pocket Explores Monetization Strategies

Pocket reported 10 million overall users as of September 2013 and it was the #6 most downloaded news app in May. While the app remains free to download, the company is now exploring ways to generate revenue from this large user base. A new premium offering was recently announced that will offer enhanced search, storage and tagging functionality for a subscription fee.

Consumers Generate News Content

Consumers are using mobile apps to participate in breaking news coverage and generate their own news content. Several top-ranked apps, including USA Today, CNN and BBC News, have in-app tools that encourage users to upload stories, photos and videos to share with the community. Some of the most compelling stories from CNN iReport are added to CNN’s official news coverage.  

Consumers contribute to breaking news with CNN iReport. (Image Source: Mashable)


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  • The app rankings reported in the App Annie Index are based on the download and revenue estimates available through App Annie Intelligence. The daily rank history charts and the home page feature app data are available to all users through App Annie’s app tracker solution, Store Stats.
  • In the App Annie Index, all apps and publishers are reported under their parent publishers, where available; for example, the CNN News app is reported under its parent publisher Time Warner, rather than its direct publisher CNN. Note that if you view the Time Warner parent publisher page on Store Stats, you will see the publishers under the parent publisher Time Warner, including CNN. The CNN News app will be listed under the CNN publisher page.
  • App Annie Index revenue rankings are based on revenue that the iOS App Store and Google Play earned from paid downloads and in-app purchases. They do not include revenue earned from in-app advertising.
  • Certain trademarks and/or images used in this report may belong to third parties and are the property of their respective owners. App Annie claims no rights in such trademarks or images.
  • This General & Business News Index includes apps that were identified by App Annie as providing current events content and information related to general and/or business news via written, audio or video formats. It does not include news apps focused on vertical-specific subcategories. Vertical-specific subcategories include but are not limited to:
    • Automotive News, Education News, Entertainment News, Fashion News, Health News, Home and Garden News, Investment & Stock News, Political News, Real Estate News, Science News, Sports News, Tech & Gaming News


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