RealTime IT News

Newspapers Will Not Die

As industry narratives go, the imminent demise of old media brands is a popular one, nearly canonical.

But today there is another new data set, this one from National Newspaper Associate (NAA), citing Nielsen//NetRatings.

It suggests that traditional media brands from the New York Times to the Toledo Blade might not be on their last legs just yet. Turns out that the whole death of newspapers thing is just so 2005.

The unique audience for the top 100 newspaper sites from January to July 2006 is up 23 percent over thee same months in 2005. And the unique audience is up 26 percent over those months in 2004.

The most popular newspaper Web site remains the New York Times, with 12,048,924 unique visitors in July 2006. The Washington Post, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal follow.

Among the top 10 newspaper sites, all but the San Francisco Chronicle keeps its visitors reading for at least 10 minutes per visit, which is a good sign of user engagement, the metric used to sell lucrative brand advertising.

And not only are more people visiting the top 100 newspaper sites, they are also tending to come back more often. In July 2006, the average reader comes back at least one extra visit over July 2004.

So if the data so suggests that newspaper brands are smoothly transferring online, why does the morbid tale of their demise persist?

Probably because newspapers face new disruptive technologies constantly.

The latest, for example, might be syndication technologies that separate a publisher's content from its user interface, where ads are traditionally displayed.

An entire industry has emerged to offer solutions to that problem.

But the doom narrative also persists because it is partly true.

Readers may still come to newspapers -- or a newspaper Web site -- for news, but they go elsewhere for classified advertising.

First they search. But even after that, users aren't looking to newspapers.

According to Hitwise market research, the top search terms for shopping and classifieds are "eBay," "Craigslist," and "Wal-Mart."

There's not a newspaper site among them.