According to a new Hitwise report, 25% of the traffic coming to newspapers Web sites arrives from search engines. This comes on the heels of a custom Nielsen//NetRatings study for the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) showing record traffic numbers of 59.5M unique visitors to these web sites in March.
1) Monetization is not happening as fast as that traffic growth. “While online ad revenue has been growing, our share of that revenue is not in synch with our reach into the audience,” said Randy Bennett, vice president of audience and new business development for the NAA.”
2) User fragmentation. “Info from the Hitwise report revealed that news consumption is beginning to fragment, with the share of visits to the top 10 News and Media Web sites (which include newspapers like The New York Times) declining by almost 4%.”
“According to Bennett, building awareness of that reach and making it easier for advertisers to buy bundles of local and national ads are key steps toward securing more ad revenue.”
What it means: as Martin Nisenholtz of New York Times Digital said this week at the YPA Conference, the “walled garden” era is dead. Search engine optimization is a key strategic element if you run a media operation. Search engines are entry doors to web content and because of their extensive reach, you want to be found in them. But SEO is not enough. You need to have a specific syndication strategy to disseminate your content, your brand and, hopefully, your business model throughout the web.
Journalism Fan just sent me a note to le me know Arthur Sulzberger is going to address his staff today to discuss the comments he made to Ha’aretz last week. I found more details on the New York Observer’s web site.
Here is in essence what Sulzberger is going to be talking about:
“We are continuing to invest in our newspapers, for we believe that they will be around for a very long time. This point of view is not about nostalgia or a love of newsprint. Instead, it is rooted in fundamental business realities: Our powerful and trusted print brands continue to draw educated and affluent audiences.
“Traditional print newspaper audiences are still significantly larger than their Web counterparts. Print continues to command high levels of reader engagement. And, of course, we still make most of our money from print advertising and circulation revenue. And yes, I remember what I said here last year and what I was supposed to have said last month at Davos about not having a printed product in five years time.
“So let me clear the air on this issue. It is my heartfelt view that newspapers will be around–in print–for a long time. But I also believe that we must be prepared for that judgment to be wrong. My five-year timeframe is about being ready to support our news, advertising and other critical operations on digital revenue alone …whenever that time comes.”
The Observer concludes:
It was a gaffe, but also an epiphany. The New York Times is the newspaper of today. As it happens, today is when people read the newspaper. (…) And even as the American newspaper industry is preparing for the day the Internet kills it off, The Times has made itself into the dominant newspaper on the Web. It has gotten there by trial and error—and the trials and the errors are both ongoing—but the basic premise has held: It is the paper, only without paper. (…)
It’s easy, except it’s not. The Washington Post is a soup of cryptic links, bobbing in and out of view. Dailies in cities like Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco are still hidden behind “portals” (please resize your newspaper to fit this window). It’s not that nytimes.com is immune to fads or bad ideas. There are tepid blogs and cornball videos and if-you-insist podcasts strewn around the site. They will likely go away, piece by piece, as the real experts in those media—following The Times’ example—claim their own share of the Web audience. In the meantime, you can ignore them, and read the paper.
What it means:
Sulzberger is back-tracking for good reasons. Newspapers (especially the New York Times) are still going to be published in 5 years, the business is still viable (and profitable) and many people still care a lot about the print medium (myself included). But this clearly shows Sulzberger and his exec team are thinking about a digital future where the content is more important than the medium (which is a smart way to think). For more information on the New York Times’ digital strategy, I invite you to read this excellent Business 2.0 interview with Martin Nisenholtz
, SVP Digital Operations.