Online Newspaper Growth

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By Jason Kelley
April 1, 2009

Category:
Media Consuption
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With so much in the press lately about the downturn of the traditional newspaper, I wanted to give some uplifting information about how local news is not dead…and actually far from it. Over the years, even during the downturn of the dot bomb, consumers year over year turn to their local paper online in increasing numbers. So why have most of the digital local news sites failed in reclaiming the dollars lost from traditional advertisers leaving the print publication? Well this is somewhat easy to explain…

  • When local newspapers launched their online property the vast majority of sales on the .com version were given to an advertiser for free…value add for signing the print contract
    • Of course when you give something away for free you are often allowing your client not to understand the true value of the product…just a little of brand marketing 101
  • Then when some of the larger newspapers hired direct online sales people a perfect storm emerged
    • First there were territorial issues between the online and traditional sales teams
      • So suddenly the online folks were told who they could/could not contact
      • As any sales person will tell you, if you limited their call list to the least valuable, you do not have a well motivated sales team
  • Next, often times the digital sales team comprised of young, inexperienced sales professionals
    • No fault of their own, the sales teams were comprised of young, usually fresh out of college to 2 years of experience
    • They did not have general sales training, let alone, specific training for selling digital
    • What training they did receive, was often from first time sales managers who receive little support and even less viability within their sales organization
  • Too slow to accept .com
    • As the print sales arm steadily failed to make their financial goals, management was slow to accept the .com version of their paper as a viable financial entity
    • Therefore, as young digital sales people grew in their understanding of the selling process, they left for more traditional .com sites where they were both respected and compensated at a greater level
    • This in turn left local news sites with consistently hiring digital sales professionals not equip to understand how to succeed in this unique environment

But not all is lost for the local newspaper trying to make money on the web

  • The top 10 newspapers in the US collectively saw a 16% year-over-year increase in unique visitors to their websites in 2008, as well as a 27% increase in the total number of overall visits, according to data from Nielsen Online.
  • The number of unique visitors grew from 34.6 million unique visitors in December 2007 to 40.1 million in December 2008.
  • This in turn generated a 27% lift in total site frequency from the previous year
  • These metrics are proving that consumers are turning to the their local newspaper not as an alternative but the prime source for their local news
  • They are connect, increasingly loyal, consumer more, stay longer on the site and interact deeply with their local digital news source
  • These are all music to the ears of any advertisers who wants to influence a local market
  • It is not up to the management of these papers to explain and understand this information internally and externally to their customers