Mobile App News Consumption Explodes as U.S. Presidential Election Hangs in the Balance

By Estelle Laziuk, Flurry Analyst

2020 has featured some of the biggest events in modern history —a global pandemic, an impeached U.S. President, widespread protests over social injustice, and a wildly volatile economy. According to Pew Research, 83% of Americans believe that who wins the presidency during this unprecedented time matters more now than it has over the past two decades. As a result, the rate of voter turnout has broken levels not seen since 1900. In this report, we look at the remarkable spike in news consumption driven by this year’s U.S. Presidential election.

Flurry Analytics, owned by Verizon Media, is used in over 1 million mobile applications, providing aggregated insights across more than 2 billion mobile devices per month. For this analysis, Flurry measured news consumption using the number of sessions in mobile news apps covering political and current events. We ensured our sample of news apps represents a mix of left, centrist and right leaning news outlets. 

Let’s start by looking at news consumption levels during 2020 versus 2019, including news consumption this week.


In the chart above, we show daily news app sessions leading up to the day after the Presidential election, November 4, 2020. We compare consumption this year in dark blue versus last year in light blue.

The first thing you’ll notice is the considerable increase in news consumption around the Presidential Election day this year, dwarfing every news event before it, in both 2019 and 2020. Scanning from left to right, starting with the first presidential debate, the election period this year was marked by a number of news spikes that exceeded news app consumption during the same period in 2019 by nearly 50%. These spikes include typical election events such as debates and conventions as well as one-off news cycles including when President Trump contracted coronavirus or when his campaign website was hacked. And once again, news consumption surged on Election Day, soaring even higher the day after the election. On November 4, as the world eagerly awaited election results, news consumption more than doubled during this year’s election period (Sept 25 - Nov 2), and more than tripled compared to the same day last year. 

With political news reaching remarkable heights this year, we further compared news consumption during the 2020 election period to that of 2016.


In the chart above, we show the percent increase in news consumption during Republican and Democratic Conventions on the left-hand side, and Presidential Debates on the right. For each of the events, we measure the increase in news consumption compared to an average day in its respective month. We show a side-by-side comparison of this year in dark blue and the 2016 Presidential Election year in light blue.

While engagement with the Democratic and Republican Conventions this year did not change considerably compared to the previous elections, Americans this year engaged more with the Presidential Debates, especially the head-to-head debates. News app sessions during the first and third presidential debate increased by 13 and 10 percentage points respectively. With the second presidential debate canceled and replaced by Town Halls this year, news sessions decreased, but only by 1 point. This suggests that Americans engaged much more with the elections this year than in 2016. 

This year’s elections have driven significantly higher news engagement compared to both last year and the 2016 Presidential Election. Additionally, this year’s tight race between the two candidates along with delayed election results— have amplified and extended the surge in election news consumption. With President Trump’s baseless comments regarding election fraud, calls for the vote counting process to stop, and threats that he may not relinquish his office, we anticipate continued spikes in election news consumption post election results. Make sure you subscribe to the Flurry Analytics blog and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to get the latest industry analyses.