The embattled newspaper business is betting heavily on Web advertising revenue to secure its survival, the American Journalism Review reports: “But that wager is hardly a sure thing.”
Among the issues:
-After years of robust increases, the online newspaper audience seems to have all but stopped growing. The number of unique visitors to newspaper Web sites was almost flat – up just 2.3 percent – between August 2006 and August 2007, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. The total number of pages viewed by this audience has plateaued, growing just 1.8 percent last year.
–Newspaper Web sites are attracting lots of visitors, but aren’t keeping them around for long. The typical visitor to nytimes.com, which attracts more than 10 percent of the entire newspaper industry’s traffic online, spent an average of just 34 minutes and 53 seconds browsing its richly detailed offerings in October. That’s 34 minutes and 53 seconds per month, or about 68 seconds per day online. Slim as that is, it’s actually about three times longer than the average of the next nine largest newspaper sites. And it’s less than half as long as visitors spent on the Web’s leading sites, such as those run by Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft.
Many news visitors – call them the “hard-core” – linger longer online, but they’re a minority. Greg Harmon, director of Belden Interactive, a San Francisco-based newspaper research firm, estimates that as many as 60 percent of online newspaper visitors are “fly-bys,” people who use the site briefly and irregularly.