The Value of Web-Based Press Shines As Newspaper Readership Declines
If you’re an old newspaper hound, it’s not a pretty sight.
The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), the standard-bearer of newspaper and print publication circulation reporting, just reported a couple of weeks ago that newspaper circulation for the six months ending Sept. 30 dropped 10.6 percent from the same period in 2008, with a 7.5 percent dip on Sundays.
Other snapshots of the trend don’t make the news look any rosier:
- Oct. 1, 2008-Mar. 31, 2009: down 7.1 percent on weekdays, down 5.3 percent on Sundays.
- Apr. 1, 2008-Sept. 30, 2008: down 4.6 percent on weekdays, down 4.9 percent on Sunday.
- Oct. 1, 2007-Mar. 31, 2008: down 3.5 percent on weekdays, down 4.5 percent on Sundays.
Conversely, as newspaper circulations take a nose dive, online readership of newspaper Web sites is on the rise. Newspaper Web sites attracted more than 74 million monthly unique visitors on average in the third quarter of 2009, more than one-third (38 percent) of all Internet users, according to a custom analysis provided by Nielsen Online for the Newspaper Association of America. The sites collectively tallied more than 3.5 billion page views during the quarter, with users spending 2.7 billion minutes browsing the sites over more than 596 million total sessions.
This is a 17 percent increase over the 62 million unique visitors the same sites drew in 2007. In fact, for the first time in history, the stats now show that more people are getting their daily news online, and not from their daily printed newspaper.
The irony is that while newspapers are bleeding money, they are actually building a healthier combined online and offline readership. More people overall are consuming the news than ever before. People keep hearing about the decline of newspaper readership, but that’s a deceptive statistic, because newspaper Web sites are picking up more readers online than they are losing offline. It also underscores the power of print-based PR, because every time a print article is written about a company, a Web-based article is also born.
Having worked in the business for nearly 20 years, it’s interesting how the attitudes about Web-based news coverage have changed over the course of time.
It used to be that if you got an online placement for a client, they would laugh it off as if the coverage was inconsequential. Today, it’s very different. Recently, we had a client covered on The Huffington Post, which made the client incredibly happy. Soon after, she nearly went into orbit when she was asked to become a regular blogger for the news site. So, it’s not just about the numbers. While 74 million is a good number of unique visitors, the news-based Web sites are growing in influence and prestige, as well. At the end of the day, print and Web combined means more eyeballs for your story.