Daily Newspapers Are Winning Battle For Local Web Audiences

  • by January 18, 2001
The Internet, say the seers of Cyberspace, will make newspapers obsolete. Maybe. But not right now. According to The Media Audit, a syndicated survey of both online and traditional media in more than 80 US markets, the websites of America's daily newspapers are building a commanding lead over other local media websites.

Television - even network affiliates - and radio seem incapable, with few exceptions, of attracting the web audience numbers of daily newspaper websites. In addition, - and perhaps more importantly - newspapers are attracting to their websites an audience which complements their traditional/print subscriber base. The newspaper web audience is predominantly 18 to 44-year-olds in contrast to the traditional newspaper subscriber base, which is heaviest among those over 45.

"In our most recent survey daily newspaper websites are out performing all other local media in 51 of 81 markets we covered," says Bob Jordan, co-chairman of the 30-year-old media rating service that produces The Media Audit. In 67 of those markets newspaper websites are attracting more than 10% of their immediate market's adult population. Almost all other local media are struggling to attract low, single-digit percentages. "There are some exceptions, some of them rather spectacular exceptions," says Jordan, "but they are very few."

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The Washington Post website leads the way in attracting an Internet audience with 32.8% of DC area adults visiting the site in a 30-day period. That figure (32.8%) is a percent of the total market population, not just a percent of adults on the web. Other daily newspapers following closely include websites of Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, 25.5%; Raleigh (North Carolina) News & Observer, 20.7%; Charlotte (North Carolina) Observer, 21.0% and Sacramento (California) Bee, 15.3%. Many newspapers have more than one local website but the data included here relates only to a newspaper's primary website.

The 25 largest newspapers in the country, by circulation, are not necessarily among the top 25 websites when measured by penetration of their local market or SMSA. Only five newspapers would appear on both lists. The five and the percent of market adults visiting their sites are: Washington Post, 32.8%; Minneapolis Star Tribune, 20.0; Boston Globe, 17.2; Houston Chronicle, 15.4; and, San Diego Union-Tribune, 14.6. "These figures relate only to a newspaper's immediate market," says Jordan, "and do not reflect the regional, statewide or national audience that some newspaper web sites may attract. As an example, the New York Times website attracts significantly more viewers than does the Houston Chronicle but it only attracts 10.7% of the adults in its immediate market (20 counties in NY, NJ and CT). The Chronicle attracts 15.4 %."

More than 90% of the country's 1400+ dailies have websites, some have more than one.

"Almost all of the daily newspapers are decades old and their identities are indelibly established in the commun

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