No More 'Hit' and Miss?

By Moses, Lucia | Editor & Publisher, November 24, 2003 | Go to article overview

No More 'Hit' and Miss?


Moses, Lucia, Editor & Publisher


Getting Web traffic on track

As a newspaper company trying to sell its Web audience, Lee Enterprises Inc.'s experience was pretty typical. Salespeople touted the sites' page views and visitor sessions, but "it was not terribly successful," conceded Greg Swanson, corporate director of interactive media sales. "The only measurement we had of our audience was log file data, and the log file data was flawed."

Many advertisers agreed; retail advertising represented close to 30% of the companies' online revenue, the rest coming from classifieds.

This year, though, the online editions of Lee's 44 dailies will get about half of their online dollars from retail advertisers, as retail online revenue has roughly doubled over the past year.

How? Using a new measurement method from Belden Associates. Analyzing single-day and monthly visitor totals and visitors' self- reported Web behavior, Belden believes it has come as close as anyone has to estimating the actual local online newspaper audience size, said Greg Harmon, director of interactive services at the Dallas-based research and consulting firm.

Belden, based on tests at nine Lee sites and ongoing tests at two other newspaper chains, estimates online papers reach a small but loyal core of users -- between 5% to 20% of the papers' entire adult market. Those findings are similar to recent data from Reston, Va.-based online audience measurement company comScore Media Metrix.

Harmon admits Belden's numbers are likely to disappoint some online managers who are used to seeing visitor numbers, although suspect, in the hundreds of thousands. But the smaller audiences have quality, he said. "These Web sites have fabulous local audiences and [newspapers] are not selling them," he said. …

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