The newspaper industry is desperately trying to migrate its business online before fleeing print advertisers consign it to history. Most newspapers, unfortunately, are doing a piss-poor job of this, and even the best ones, such as the New York Times (NYT), still generate only a fraction of their revenue online.
But still, you have to try. So how are the respective newspaper companies doing? 24/7 Wall Street has graded the sites of the country’s top 25 newspapers — and found most wanting. Highlights:
24/7 Wall St. looked at the websites of the top 25 newspapers in the US based on their circulations as of March 31, 2008 taken from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
The sites got ratings of “A” through “F” based on: 1) strength of content, 2) ease of use and navigation, 3) use of new web technology including comments sections, message boards, and multimedia, 4) lay-out 5) presence of a strong set of current advertisers, and 6) the size of their audiences based on measurements from the Compete website visitor database for April.
The most important conclusion from this review of online newspaper sites is how uneven the quality is from property to property. Some of the smaller papers which probably have modest resources have done an extremely good job of engaging readers, using the best tools of the internet, and putting up content which adds to the experience of the subscriber to the physical newspaper. Some of these sites are likely to draw multiple visits from the same person throughout the day, the Holy Grail of online content behaviour. Other sites seem to be designed to keep readers away. There is clearly not much benchmarking going on in the online part of the newspaper industry, and with the increasing risk that more newspapers will fail,not using a standardized measurement of excellence for improvement is a real shame…
The final judgment of a newspaper’s online edition is whether, using the advantages of the internet, is it better than the paper itself. As one industry expert told 24/7, “The strength of a newspaper web site is its ability to present almost endless information, far more than it could ever afford to print. The best newspapers take advantage of this by explaining in their print editions where additional information on a particular subject can be found — the full text of a speech or a court document, for instance.”
1. The New York Times (Average daily circulation 1,007,256) (Compete online audience: 12,188,886) NYTimes.com is the single best daily newspaper site in the country. Grade: A
2. The Los Angeles Times (Average daily circulation: 773,884) (Compete online audience: 3,917,054) The website is relatively primitive compared to many of the others run by large papers. Grade: B
3. The New York Daily News (Average daily circulation: 703,137) (Compete online audience: 1,729,407) The size of the NYDailynews.com web audience is only a little more than two times its paid print circulation. That is a smaller ratio than with other large papers. Grade: B-
4. The New York Post (Average daily circulation: 702,488) (Compete online audience: 1,899,003) NYPost.com is too close to simply being a copy of the daily paper scanned and put online. Grade: C
5. The Washinton Post (Average daily circulation: 673,180) (Compete online: 6,548,678) The figures from the WPO 10-Q indicate that revenue for the company’s online business is relatively small and represents only a modest part of the sales for the newspaper group. Grade: B-