Newspapers: Will Online Revenue Make Up for the Decline in Print?

The American Journalism Review takes a sober look at the future for newspapers as they look to the web to make up for the decline in print. Some great quotes from teh article:

  • “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.”
  • “60 percent of online newspaper visitors are “fly-bys,” people who use the site briefly and irregularly. “Everyone has the same problem,” says Jim Brady, editor of washingtonpost.com. The news industry’s continuing challenge, Brady says, is to turn “visitors into residents.”
  • “Traffic is still increasing at sites of well-known national brands (the New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post, etc.), but it is falling, sometimes sharply, at mid-size and smaller newspaper sites.”
  • “Most ominous of all is that online ad growth is beginning to slow. Remember those confidence-building double-digit increases in online advertising revenue? They’re fading, fast… Can online ad revenue grow fast enough to replace the dollars that are now being lost by the “old” media? And what happens if they don’t?”
  • “Unlike the print business, in which newspaper publishers generally enjoy near-monopoly status, the online news world is littered with entrants… This makes it tough for any online ad seller to do what newspaper publishers have done for years – keep raising their ad rates. “Ultimately, it comes down to supply and demand,” observes Leon Levitt, vice president of digital media for Cox Newspapers. “And there’s an awful lot of supply out there.”
  • “Web ads may not be as effective as the traditional kind. “I’m not sure [advertisers] are convinced yet about how terrific a sales tool [a Web display ad] is. The evidence isn’t strong yet that it can drive people into a store the way a full-page newspaper ad can.”
  • “Even a 5 percent decline in print revenue year after year might look something like Armageddon. Newspapers were already cutting their staffs before this year’s advertising downturns. A sustained frost of similar intensity would likely lead to even more devastating slashing.”