Thursday, August 6, 2009
Nieman Journalism Lab uses Web traffic data to give good advice to newspapers
Martin Langeveld, writing on the Nieman Journalism Lab web site, offers valuable perspective on newspaper Web traffic.
Using the latest Nielsen Online research, he shows that newspapers are getting less than 1% of page views and that less than 1% of total time spent on the Web is spent on newspaper Web sites.
That's all newspapers together. All newspapers.
The total audience in unique visitors for the top 8 online brands exceeded the audience for all newspapers combined, he reports.
So before the industry gets too excited about pay walls - the latest blast coming from Rupert Murdoch - it would do well to consider Langeveld's advice.
"The challenge to newspapers is not simply to improve their numbers over prior months, or to post numbers that look impressive at first blush — the challenge is to gain market share," Langeveld writes.
This is hard to do. It's the measure I used to judge our performance at the Rocky Mountain News, and that was just against other media companies. Adding market share without doing something new seems to be almost impossible.
Langeveld writes, "the dialogue in the industry should not be about building paywalls, punishing aggregators, tweaking copyright laws or anything else that would constrict, rather than build, the online audience for newspaper content. And it should not be about 'protecting print.'”
"The dialogue should be primarily about transforming newspapers into online-first digital enterprises."
I fundamentally agree. However I think some of those other issues are worth considering, as long as newspapers think online first. A pay wall for certain content, for example, might make some sense. But it has to have real value. (Basic news, in my view, doesn't qualify.) Taking a share of transactions could be a boon. But first newspapers have to enable transactions. Laws are worth examining. And not just copyright. How about limits on what a newspaper can own? But Langeveld uses the Newspaper Association of America's own numbers to make a sobering point. One worth listening to. When the industry thumps its chest, it might remember that the tale of the tape isn't very encouraging about its performance in the ring.