Magazine article Editor & Publisher

A 'Sticky' Situation: Newspapers Can't Move Readers to Their Online Content

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

A 'Sticky' Situation: Newspapers Can't Move Readers to Their Online Content

Article excerpt

WHILE CONSUMERS SPEND AN EVER-INCREASING amount of time online (more than 200 million Americans currently are on the Web about 37 hours a month), newspapers have failed--after a decade and a half of trying--to figure out how to follow, or lead, their readership into the digital realm.

In an analysis first published at Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab, I found that nearly all consumption of newspaper content still happens in print. The fraction of the combined print and online newspaper audience that consumes newspaper content online remains in the low-to-mid single digits.


For the complete analysis, and a link to a spreadsheet with the underlying data, visit The key findings (reflecting 2009 data) were these:

Page views in print (not a standard metric, but easily calculated based on circulation, survey data on readers per copy, and an assumed average of 24 pages read per issue), amounted to 70.602 billion monthly.

Page views online, as measured by Nielsen Online for the Newspaper Association of America, averaged 3.383 billion per month.

Of the combined print and online page views (73.985 billion), just 4.57% were online, the other 95.43% were in print.

But the current wisdom is that page views are not nearly as important as "engagement," or time spent (and other interactivity) with content. Looking at the time metric for newspaper content:

Americans spent 78.471 billion minutes per month with printed newspapers (this assumes 25 minutes per reader per day with weekday editions, 35 minutes on Sundays).

At newspaper Web sites, they spent 2.535 billion minutes per month, according to the NAA/Nielsen data. That sounds like a lot, but it works out to just 69 seconds per visitor per day.

Of the 81.006 billion combined monthly minutes spent with newspaper content, 3.13% was on the Web, 96.87% was in print.

Compared with the same analysis a year ago, the online share of page views and time spent improved slightly--but only because the print metrics declined as a result of continuing circulation losses.

And the picture is not improving. During the June 2009-February 2010 period, the Nielsen data for total page views, total time spent, pages viewed per session and time per unique visitor have all fallen gradually. …

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