The average time spent at the 10 most active newspaper websites between March and August was 12 minutes per month, according to the Newspaper Association of America.
By comparison, the average time spent in September on sites operated by the 10 largest online companies was 1 hour, 14 minutes and 40 seconds, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, the same agency providing online traffic data to the NAA.
In other words, the average visitor spent 24 seconds per day in a 30-day month on a newspaper web site, as compared with an average of nearly 2½ minutes per day on the 10 sites operated by the web leaders.
Thus, surfers spent 6.2x more time on sites operated by the likes of Google, Microsoft or Yahoo than they did on the sites of such papers as the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today. (The full comparison of the Top Ten sites in each category is shown below.)
The statistics for Google aggregate traffic for its eponymous search engine, YouTube, the Orkut social site, Google maps, Gmail and much more. Yahoo’s traffic includes the portal itself, as well as such kin as Flickr, Hot Jobs and the like. Ditto, for Microsoft and the others.
While it stands to reason that the multiple online venues operated by the web giants are bound to attract more traffic than the one-trick-pony sites operated by even our biggest and most prestigious newspapers, it is important for publishers to get real about the breadth and depth of the true competition for eyeballs and advertiser dollars
Newspapers are not gaining in absolute online traffic any more than they are not gaining in print circulation. In but one example, the New York Times website, which ranked among the 50 most popular sites as recently as 2003, today ranks No. 219 on Alexa.Com.
Happy-talk press releases, which won’t fool even the dullest media buyer, are dangerous in two ways. First, they detract from the already weakened credibility of the industry. Second, they convey a false sense of progress to publishers, editors and ad sales people who ought to be scared as hell about the future of their industry.
How can anyone take pride in the fact that the average visit at the San Francisco Chronicle website – which serves one of the most technologically sophisticated markets in the world – is a mere 10 seconds per day?