The 10 Companies That Control the News

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10. Washington Post
> Total combined audience: 18.4 million
> Number of platforms: 3
> Total local TV audience: 5.6 million (18th highest)

The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO) is most well-known to the public because of The Washington Post, one of the most prominent newspapers in America. The Post broke the story of the Watergate scandal in 1972, which gave the paper even more visibility. What the wider public does not know is that the print version of Post newspaper is now a very small portion of the company, based on revenue.

The Post’s greatest presence among the national news media is by far the company’s flagship media site WashingtonPost.com because of the size of its online audience, which Pew puts at 12.2 million monthly visitors. The Post also has a moderate-sized national news commentary site, Slate. In its most recent quarter, sales from the newspaper division of The Washington Post Company were less than 15% of the company’s total revenue of $1 billion. The Post owns six local television stations that reach 4.82% of the nation’s total TV households. The Post is also a cable company, which does not contribute to its presence in the news industry, but obviously makes it a carrier of cable news from other companies like CNN and MSNBC.

9. Cox Media Group
> Total combined audience: 29.2 million
> Number of platforms: 3
> Total local TV audience: 6.2 million (16th highest)

Cox’s public news influence comes almost entirely on its great local strength, unlike most other companies on this list. The company does not own any national medium such as a TV network or newspaper, and its national presence on the web is relatively small. Although it does own the daily newspaper in one of the largest metro markets — The Atlanta Constitution. Cox has a dominant presence in both the local TV and radio markets. According to Pew, Cox owns TV stations in 14 local markets. Cox reports that these include WPXI-TV 11 in Pittsburgh and KIRO-TV in Seattle. Cox’s greatest strength as a provider of news is its tremendous radio network, which includes 84 stations, according to Pew. But despite the fact that these stations have a combined audience of more than 22 million listeners, the division brought in only $38 million in 2011.

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8. National Public Radio
> Total combined audience: 32.6 million
> Number of platforms: 2
> Total local TV audience: n/a

NPR is the only nonprofit media company on the list. Its national news presence comes largely from its radio audience of more than 27 million listeners. “About 93 percent of the U.S. population is within the listening area of one or more of the 975 stations that carry NPR programming. NPR’s 270 Members operate 822 of those stations, providing national and local news to individual communities,” NPR reports. The number of stations with NPR programming has doubled over the past 20 years. The network’s flagship shows are “Morning Edition,” which runs from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. ET on most NPR stations. This is “drive time,” as it is known in the radio industry, the portion of the day that usually has the most radio listeners in almost all markets. The other anchor show for the network is “All Things Considered,” which usually runs in “evening drive time” on the East Coast, between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

7. Hearst Corporation
> Total combined audience: 44.6 million
> Number of platforms: 3
> Total local TV audience: 13.3 million (9th highest)

Hearst’s weight in the news industry comes primarily from its substantial local presence with 27 televisions markets and its large number of daily papers. Hearst is also the second largest magazine publisher in the United States after Time Inc. However, these magazines are primarily service and women’s titles, and not largely news or news opinion journals. Hearst has TV stations in several very large markets, including WBAL-TV in Baltimore, WKCF-TV in Orlando and WDSU-TV in New Orleans. Hearst TV stations reach one-fifth of the total viewership market in the United States. A number of the Hearst papers are also the dailies in several large cities. These include the Houston Chronicle, The San Francisco Chronicle and the Stamford Advocate, which covers one of the large cities just north of New York City. Most of Hearst’s interactive operations concentrate on investments in other online companies.

6. Gannett
> Total combined audience: 49.9 million
> Number of platforms: 3
> Total local TV audience: 18.7 million (7th highest)

The core of Gannett’s presence in the national news market is USA Today, with a circulation of nearly 2 million on weekdays, second in the country only to News Corp.’s (NASDAQ: NWSA) The Wall Street Journal. Unique visits to the company’s news sites total more than 26 million, with the majority of that traffic nationally from USAToday.com. But Gannett is also the largest publisher of local daily newspapers, based on total circulation, in America with an ownership of 80 dailies, several of which are in the country’s largest cities. These include the Arizona Republic, The Indianapolis Star, Detroit Free Press and Louisville Courier-Journal. Gannett also reaches 16% of the American local TV market. Gannett has stations in Atlanta, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Washington D.C., among others. The evolution from being strictly a local news media company to having a national presence began 30 years ago with the launch of USA Today.