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.

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