Scarborough Bows New Quarterly Report for Newspapers

Scarborough Research is giving a boost to the beleaguered newspaper industry with a new quarterly "Newspaper Audience Ratings Report" that gives the advertising and marketing community "more information about newspaper audiences," says Gary Meo, Scarborough's newspaper-services analyst and division leader. The new report--featuring separate numbers for print and online readership, as well as an "integrated audience" figure combining those two in an unduplicated measurement--highlights newspapers' growing online audiences in the midst of a general print decline.

The new report is part of a general push orchestrated by the Newspaper Association of America to raise the profile of newspapers, particularly their growing online reach. It includes NAA's NADBase and the inclusion of Scarborough's unduplicated total audience numbers on the Audit Bureau of Circulations' newspaper reports.

For media buyers, the report helps synthesize reach.

It lists newspapers geographically by DMA, detailing actual audience sizes for print and online for each publication, then translates these into a percent "coverage" figure, based on the DMA's total size. For example, in the first DMA described, the New York metro area, the New York Daily News had an average weekly print audience of roughly 4.5 million, giving it 29% coverage; its Web site attracted a weekly audience of 421,000, for 3% coverage. The New York Times had a smaller weekly print audience, with over 3.7 million and coverage of 24%. But the Grey Lady had a larger online share, with 1,390,000 unique visitors equaling 9% coverage.



"The newspaper companies have made a tremendous investment in their Web products, and those investments are beginning to pay off in terms of increasing Web audiences," said Meo. "It's a growth story for them, and they want to tell it as loudly as they can."

Newspapers are enjoying big jumps in online audience figures, according to the NAA, which released first-quarter numbers from Nielsen//NetRatings on Monday. The online measurement firm says more than 59 million people, representing 37.6% of active U.S. Internet users, visited newspaper Web sites during the first three months of 2007. That's a 5.3% jump over the first quarter of last year. March saw the largest number of unique visitors in history, at 59.5 million.

Newspapers' online revenue continued to grow as well in the first quarter of 2007, but the percentage rate of growth is slowing on a year-over-year basis. The total online revenue base remains small, while declines in print revenue appear to be accelerating, according to newspaper industry observer Ken Doctor, an analyst with Outsell, Inc.

"Online growth is slowing at the time the print revenue decline is deepening," Doctor notes. "Those revenues are declining fairly rapidly, and newspaper executives have been hoping the pace of online growth would pick up, rather than slow down." What does the future hold in this gloomy scenario? "As newspaper companies revamp their operations, they will emerge as significantly smaller companies," Doctor predicts.

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