Newspaper Web sites still dominant, but ...
The latest report from The Media Audit says local papers have the leading Web sites in 74 of 81 metro markets this company regularly surveys. And while the company makes much of saying "the picture has changed substantially," the numbers provided are a bit squishy.
The only ones the release provides say that in 2001, 30 dail papers and four TV stations attracted to their sites more than 20 percent of the adults in their immediate market. Today, that's 55 newspapers and seven TV stations, according to Bob Jordan, president of International Demographics Inc., the market research company behind The Media Audit. Do the math, though, and that's 88 percent in both cases for newspapers.
But what has changed, says Jack Sheridan, a spokesman for International Demographics, is "the audience size that television has attracted in addition to the newspapers."
"Television is just not the laggard it was," he said. The good news: So far it's not a zero-sum game. "Nobody has even exhausted potential growth," Sheridan said. "It's still a wide-open game."
The message for journalists to take away, I hope, is that when things are competitive and wide-open, there is a tremendous chance for good journalism to step up and show what is possible and to attract site traffic. This means going beyond shovelware.
To show just how tight it can get, look at my own market, Columbia. According to a report from last June/July, 28.6 of those who logged on visited the Web site of The State, the local paper. Close behind was WIS-TV at 24.6 percent. The latest report says that among adults, The State attracts 22 percent and WIS 21.2 percent.
This isn't surprising. Both sites are good, but neither is overly distinguished. Both are getting better, with more video and more interactive features (though the video quality on WIS, which is a World Now site, continually fails to impress).
Journalist need to take note. What have you done today to make your paper's Web site better and more competitive?
Later in the day, Borrell Associates released its latest Web revenue report.