Who Owns the News: A Closer Look at Online News Sources
A deep analysis of America’s top 100 news sites reveals key shareholders, parent companies, and commonalities.
We set out to answer the question, “Who owns the news media online?” While many panic at the shrinking world of broadcast, print, and radio news, a rising number of people (about one in every four Americans) get their news online. We wanted to find out who owns the Internet’s top news networks, because, surely, the “wild west” of the Web would be less consolidated, right?
Well, yes and no … our research has shown us that a few of the companies that own everything have made their way into the online news scene as well. This chart of news sources shows clearly who owns what, and some of the biggest media companies also happen to own the most successful and prolific online newspapers and news websites. The wild space of digital news has produced a fairly worrying concentration of media ownership. Chart these media conglomerates and see how small the world of online news has become.
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These top 100 news sites were compiled using the following:
- The top newspapers by average Sunday circulation according to the Pew Research Center, which used Alliance for Audited Media data
- The top “digital-native” news outlets by monthly unique visitors according to the Pew Research Center, which used comScore data (not including those in the sports category)
- Alexa’s top sites under the category of news (not including user-generated and/or international sites)
While diving into our online media chart, let’s talk about who owns the major news networks. Media consolidation has been a huge issue offline as well as on, so we’ll point out some key players.
Who Owns the Media in the U.S.?
About 15 billionaires and six corporations own most of the U.S. media outlets. The biggest media conglomerates in America are AT&T, Comcast, The Walt Disney Company, National Amusements (which includes Viacom Inc. and CBS), News Corp and Fox Corporation (which are both owned in part by the Murdochs), Sony, and Hearst Communications. All of them save for Sony make an appearance in our online news sources chart.
Who Owns CNN?
The ultimate owner of CNN is AT&T. The CNN parent company is Warner Media LLC, which also owns HBO, Otter Media, Warner Brothers, and Turner Broadcasting System. Warner Media is then owned by parent company AT&T.
Who Owns the Fox News Network?
Fox News is owned by the Fox Corporation, which is owned in part by the Murdoch Family (39% share). It’s also important to point out that the same person with Fox News ownership, Rupert Murdoch, owns News Corp with the same 39% share, and News Corp owns the New York Post, HarperCollins, and the Wall Street Journal.
Who Owns NBC News?
The owner of NBC and MSNBC is Comcast. NBC’s parent company is NBCUniversal, an umbrella company that also owns Fandango, Hulu, Universal Pictures, and Telemundo. NBCUniversal is then owned by parent company Comcast.
Who Owns ABC News?
ABC News is a branch of ABC, which is a branch of Walt Disney Television, which is a branch of Disney Media Networks, which is part of The Walt Disney Company. Disney owns almost too much to mention here; we’ve made a chart of what companies are owned by Disney previously.
Who Owns CBS?
CBS News, owned by the CBS Corporation, is in turn owned by National Amusements. National Amusements has an 80% voting majority and also owns the major company Viacom, the company behind Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, CMT, and VH1.
Who Owns Mainstream Media Newspapers?
According to advocacy group Free Press, these are the major publicly traded newspaper companies with the highest revenue and number of daily papers:
- Gannett Co. Inc.
- Tribune Media Company
- Digital First Media (owned by Alden Global Capital)
- New Media Investment Group
- The McClatchy Company
- Advance Publications
- Berkshire Hathaway
- Lee Enterprises
- Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.
- Black Press Group
Which Online News Sources Are Largely Unaffiliated?
The following are not owned by one of the big six, a major corporation, or any company that owns multiple newspapers on this top 100 list. They are by and large independent:
While it’s important to consider who controls the media, it’s also important to remember that many media owners are hands-off in terms of content, but some are quite invasive. Will news companies run a story that paints their umbrella corporation in a negative light? It depends on the publication, the parent company, and the ethics of their journalists.