According to latest industry research, half of all U.S internet users visited news websites in June 2006, demonstrating consumers’ reliance on the Web as a source for news information.

The top 10 General News sites reflect consumers’ preferred sources for news online, with most sites having ties to traditional media outlets, according to internet analysis firm comScore Media Metrix. Yahoo! News was the only site having no ties to traditional media, and also topped the list with 33 percent of all views.

In June, Yahoo! News reached 31.2 million unique visitors, followed by MSNBC, which captured 23.4 million of those who visited General News sites in June 2006. AOL News rounded out the top three with 20.4 million unique visitors in June, reaching 22 percent of category visitors.

Interestingly, five of the top 10 General News sites worldwide are operated by U.S.-based companies, said Jack Flanagan, executive vice president, comScore Media Metrix. Yahoo! News is the category leader, both domestically and worldwide, while MSNBC and CNN rank among the top 5 news sites in the U.S. and among the worldwide Internet population.

Analysis also revealed that the General News category audience includes sought-after demographic segments, including men and women across age segments.

The visitors also tend to have higher incomes, with 58 percent living in households with income above $60,000. They are 11 percent more likely than the norm to have a household income of $75,000 and 16 percent more likely than average to earn more than $100,000, the company said.

With nearly 95 million Americans turning to the Web each month for news, it’s clear that this category represents a strong opportunity for advertisers seeking to reach an important audience segment, commented Flanagan. Moreover, their high household incomes make News visitors a desirable target for marketers across a variety of categories of goods and services.