Which News Sites Have the Highest Reading Level According to Google?

I saw Malcolm Coles’ post on Google’s reading level scores for UK newspapers and thought it would be fun to do the same thing for US news sites. Last week Google released a new search filter that allows users to refine search results by reading level. So what reading level does Google assign to major news sites in the US?

I was going to look at top 25 US newspapers online according to Journalistics but I decided to include a wider variety of news sites. So instead I pulled out the US news sites from my comparison post on news site social media engagement to come up with a sampling of newspapers, magazines, TV, wire services and Web-only news organizations.

How do the US news sites stack up? Google assigns the majority of content on all of them an intermediate reading level which makes sense since that level appeals to the widest audience. But which sites are aiming high or low?

Among the news organizations I checked, here are the sites with the greatest percentage of content at a basic or advanced reading level:

Most Basic Content

  1. ABC News 41%
  2. Boston.com 29%
  3. CBS News 28%

A commentary on mainstream TV news? There’s probably a joke about Boston residents here too but I’m not touching that.

Most Advanced Content

  1. Bloomberg Businessweek 11%
  2. The New York Times 7%
  3. Reuters 7%

Bloomberg Businessweek has a much higher percentage of content at an advanced reading level than any of the other sites. Must be some smart folks over there.

Here are all the scores. The sites are arranged alphabetically:

ABC News
Google Reading Level

AOL News
AOL News Google Reading Level

AP Google Reading Level

Boston.com Google Reading Level

Bloomberg Businessweek
BusinessWeek Google Reading Level

CBS News
CBS News Google Reading Level

CNN News Google Reading Level

The Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor Google Reading Level

Forbes Google Reading Level

Fox News
Fox News Google Reading Level

The Huffington Post
Huffington Post Google Reading Level

Los Angeles Times
LA Times Google Reading Level

MSNBC Google Reading Level

Newsweek Google Reading Level

NPR Google Reading Level

The New York Times
The New York Times Google Reading Level

Reuters Google Reading Level

Slates Google Reading Level

Time Google Reading Level

UPI Google Reading Level

USA Today
USA Today Google Reading Level

The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal Google Reading Level

The Washington Post
The Washington Post Google Reading Level

Yahoo! News
Yahoo News Google Reading Level


  1. James says

    Very interesting piece. Have you come across any definitions of the three categories (“Basic,” “Intermediate” and “Advanced”)? I read Google’s explanation of how reading levels are determined; however, they do not put the terms into any perspective. For example, does “Advanced” mean 12th grade reading level, collegiate reading level, post-graduate? Any clarity would be greatly appreciated.

  2. says

    James – I’m afraid I don’t know any details other than what’s in the “how reading levels are determined” section of the help page, which I agree is vague. The video on that page uses elementary school students as the example for “basic” and scientists as the example for “advanced” but that is intentionally over-simplified.

  3. Sam says

    This would be a very useful educational tool if you specified what qualifies as “basic”, “intermediate”, and “advanced, either by standard grade or lexile level.

  4. says

    Hi Sam – I’d point you to Google’s help information on how it defines the reading level, but unfortunately they discontinued the reading level filter earlier this month.

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