There’s plenty of talk at the moment around the relative value of one audience over another, with questions about whether small premium audiences have more inherent worth to a publisher than a huge but more broad userbase. Even when audiences overlap, there are a number of questions about the degree to which those audiences are being effectively sold.

So it’s always handy to take a look at the comScore digital market overviews, to determine who are the leaders in the audience stakes for their digital content, in addition to how those audiences are consuming it. As publishers enter the third stage of their transition to online publishing – the mobile leg of the race – we’ve broken out five key takeaways from the latest comScore report to see how some of the best performing sites compare to one another.

1. Google is still squeaking ahead of Facebook in terms of raw reach

For the month of June in the UK, more people in total were still using Google’s sites than were using Facebook, but narrowly. The following figures take into account users reached on both desktop and mobile devices:


Image from comScore’s digital market overview June 2015 report.

In turn Facebook only narrowly squeaked ahead of the BBC’s network of sites, and both reached nearly twice as many people as did the top performing pure-news site on the list, Mail Online. 

Given Google’s seeming omnipresence, that actually makes Facebook and the BBC’s reach all the more startling. However, there are significant differences in the devices on which the users of each of the top three actually consume their content.

2. Google is still receiving the largest multi-platform audience

While the amount of Google’s users who visit its sites purely on mobile is relatively tiny, it more than makes up for it by having a group of users who it reaches on both mobile devices and desktop. Again, while that’s a result of Google’s functionality as a search engine which has essentially the same importance on desktop and mobile, it’s notable that 


Image from comScore’s digital market overview June 2015 report.

The key points here are that the news pure-play of Mail Online is actually seeing over half of its audience coming to its sites purely on mobile devices. For a publisher who’s betting on its huge digital reach (following the acquisition of Elite Daily, it now reaches over 50 percent of US adults aged 18 – 34 each day) but has yet to find a way to halt its consumer media losses, that’s concerning since monetising mobile users is considerably harder.

In fact, the two organisations on comScore’s list who dominate the mobile ad market – Facebook and Google, naturally – are among those who have a relatively small proportion in the UK of mobile-only users, compared to their multi-platform userbase.

3. Google and Facebook’s mobile – tablet usage proportions are markedly similar

But despite the huge discrepancy between audiences who only use Google and Facebook on mobile, those who are using them on mobile devices have an extremely similar profile in terms of which devices they’re using:


Image from comScore’s digital market overview June 2015 report.

Unsurprisingly, Apple Inc. – which manufactures tablets and therefore has more of an impetus to have content that works on tablets – has the largest proportion of users that visit on tablet only, although the BBC and Microsoft aren’t particularly far behind.

4. Google dominates desktop, but Facebook is chasing on mobile

Desktop users regisitered more unique visitors to each of the top sites in June than mobile users did, but as we noted in our roundup of the Ofcom report that has the potential to change soon:

Not only do more users have access to smartphones, they are choosing to spend much more time online on those devices compared to desktop:

“In March 2015 users spent an average of 58 hours 39 minutes browsing or using apps on smartphones, compared to 31 hours 19 minutes browsing on laptops and desktop computers.”

The same period last year saw the time spent browsing on desktop to be 31 hours 24 minutes, suggesting that an increase in time spent browsing on mobile is supplementary to desktop rather than outright replacing it.

Unsurprisingly given what we know about Facebook’s priorities and focuses, it is a much stronger contender for Google in terms of unique visits on mobile than on desktop. In fact, in terms of unique visits on desktop it was trumped by Microsoft’s sites – though still ahead of its closest competitor overall, the BBC.


Image from comScore’s digital market overview June 2015 report.

While on mobile Facebook is a close second to Google – and gaining:


Image from comScore’s digital market overview June 2015 report.

Notably absent from the mobile top ten were sites from the Wikimedia Foundation, such as Wikipedia, suggesting that use of its resources is more heavily skewed towards desktop. That’s backed up by stats from Wikimedia itself, which show the breakdown of OS used to access its sites as the following:


However, as we noted in our breakdown of the Ofcom Communications Market report, while Google might have the edge when it comes to reach, Facebook is utterly eclipsing it when it comes to time spent on its sites on both mobile devices and desktop combined:


5. Traditional publishers have tiny presence when it comes to serving videos

Despite many high-profile publishers getting into the video game, they are still choosing to cede control over how those videos are delivered to the established platforms of YouTube (a Google property), Vimeo and increasingly Facebook.

As a result, not one of the UK’s top publishers has a presence on comScore’s top 10 online video destinations, with even the BBC only just making it in:


Image from comScore’s digital market overview June 2015 report.

As demonstrated by the number of unique videos served, Google still far and away dominates the online video landscape. It’s worth noting that comScore’s methodology is different to that employed by Facebook itself, which is now (dubiously) claiming to serve more video than YouTube.

The main takeaway from the comScore report is this: While scale isn’t everything for many UK publishers, those who are looking to enter the race for huge audiences must know that they’re competing for audiences’ time and attention with some huge players whose grip on the ecosystem currently looks unassailable.