Newspapers Growing Audience: Proven Success

August 28, 2009 at 3:20 PM Leave a comment

Newspapers Growing Audience: Proven Success
By Dinah Eng/NAA

Dozens of newspapers reported a significant increase in total print / online readership and total audience on the Audit Bureau of Circulation’s March 2009 Audience-FAX, with most holding on to print readers while growing online readership.

The Audience-FAX data from 190 newspapers included past seven-day print readership, past 30-day online readership for the six-month period ending March, 30, 2009 compared with the same period a year earlier. The report also provides Web measurements such as unique users and page impressions.

Newspapers with combined audience growth cite multiple factors for the increase in print/online readership, including targeted print retention and outreach efforts, the addition of electronic editions, expanded features online, and cross-departmental teamwork.

“There’s a lot more audience growth going on than we’re capturing in our current measurements.” Gary Meo, senior vice president of print and digital media services for Scarborough Research in New York, says the new ABC Audience-FAX — a collaborative effort of NAA, Scarborough and ABC — is an important part of telling the story of a newspaper’s value to advertisers.

“We’ve been using circulation as a measurement since the beginning of the last century,” Meo says, “but now that newspapers have multiple products, it’s more important to look at audience reach. Some newspapers are gaining audience in print, online, and audience overall.

“What we’ve seen is that newspaper print audiences are generally declining, but over the years, their online audience has been growing. In recent history, though, that online growth is not as fast, and in some places is flat or declining.”

Meo says online readership is replacing some of the decline in print readership, but in most places, it’s not replacing the loss fast enough to mitigate the decline. In 2006, Scarborough did an analysis of online audience growth in newspapers and found that the most successful newspaper Web sites were more lively, engaging, and made the community a channel for distributing their content.

“Today, you have to have unique content online that’s not available elsewhere,” Meo says. “The Washington Post always shows up near the top in terms of market penetration with their Web site, along with The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

“Part of the reason is because of offering unique content that’s not generally available — namely, coverage of politics and government, in the case of The Post, or business and finance in the case of The Journal. Gannett and others have developed Web sites geared toward high school sports, which have been successful because they’re unique to those communities.”

Another necessity for growing audience share online, Meo says, is relentless promotion. He cites marketing efforts by The Arizona Republic and KPNX-TV in Phoenix, both owned by Gannett, that continually do cross-promotion.

While newspaper media have branched into multiple products and platforms, the industry’s willingness to invest in audience measurement has not kept pace, Meo adds.

“Most newspapers have multiple channels — like niche products, a commuter free daily, specific audiences online in different places that we’re not capturing in Audience-FAX,” Meo says. “We’ve just started to talk about mobile or e-readers. As we splinter into more targeted media, the audiences are harder to measure. Had we the industry support to measure all these things, we’d find there’s a lot more audience growth going on than we’re capturing in our current measurements.”

Note that according to Scarborough Research the combined net audience for The Tampa Tribune and TBO.com is the largest in the Tampa Bay area.

Top 25 Audience Gainers

Below is a list of the top 25 newspapers with their total net print and online audience. The percents represents the March 2009 audience gain over the same period of 2008.

Newspaper: Audience: Percent gain over 2008:
Greenwich Time, Conn. 111,824 30.7%
The Birmingham News, Ala. 781,047 11.9%
The Times-Picayune, New Orleans 820,374 11.7%
Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pa. 196,229 10.5%
Staten Island Advance 397,412 9.9%
The Morning Call, Allentown, Pa. 511,463 9.2%
Times Union, Albany, NY 506, 929 8.7%
Charlotte Observer 1,074,856 8.4%
Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa. 741,953 7.3%
Star-Telegram, Forth Worth 1,236,205 7.1%
The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa. 496,700 6.5%
Houston Chronicle 2,507,835 6.1%
St. Petersburg Times 1,297,866 6.1%
Austin American-Statesman 861,105 6.0%
Naples Daily News 265,181 6.0%
News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash. 583,755 5.9%
Tampa Tribune 1,346,182 5.8%
Daily News, New York 4,985,862 5.5%
Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky. 837,719 5.2%
Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif. 929,819 5.0%
Star-Ledger, Newark, NJ 2,308, 691 5.0%
Times Free Press, Chattanooga 367,276 4.4%
West Palm Beach Post 792,392 4.4%
News & Observer, Raleigh, NC 854,213 4.2%
Sacramento Bee 1,256,551 3.7%

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Entry filed under: Online, Print.

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