Fewer and fewer readers are looking at the homepage of The New York Times online, and the news organisation that for decades stood as America’s leading news source was overtaken years ago by upstarts such as The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed on the web.
Those are just some of the conclusions of a brutally honest 91-page internal report obtained by BuzzFeed. The report is fascinating for anyone in the digital-media business. And The Times ought to receive credit for researching and writing it. Virtually all of the Grey Lady’s sacred cows get slaughtered within it.
We’ll spare you the work of reading it and instead pull out several charts that show how The Times has essentially lost the race online. (Unfortunately, the copy obtained by BuzzFeed appears to have been made on the worst photocopier in the world, so apologies in advance for the quality of the imagery.)
‘The Huffington Post Surpassed Us Years Ago’
Many just assume that The Times has more readers than everyone else. Not true. This is the most dismal chart, for The Times at least. The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed are both now bigger than The Times in terms of online readers. “Huffington Post surpassed us years ago in reader traffic and BuzzFeed pulled ahead in 2013,” the caption says:
Fox News Has Better Fans Than The Times
This chart shows a ranking of The Times’ Facebook fans versus its rivals. CNN leads the pack. The Times is roughly level with the Fox News Channel. But note the secondary bars on the chart — those show engaged fans, which are much more important. The Times’ engaged fans are both smaller than some of its rivals and also form a smaller portion of total fans compared to come brands. Fox has more engaged fans:
‘Readers Don’t Come Back Often’ To Paul Krugman
The text accompanying this chart — which measures return readers for The Times’ star columnists Paul Krugman, Gail Collins, Maureen Dowd, David Brooks, Joe Nocera, and Bill Keller — says it all:
We’ve always had a sense that readers were loyal followers of their favourite columnists. And the paper makes it easy to catch certain bylines Monday morning? … On the internet however readers are much more fickle: The accompanying chart shows readers don’t come back often to the same columnist. The quality of their work isn’t the issue. Making it easier for readers to discover what they already like [is].”
Readers Are Not As Interested In The Times’ Homepage
The front page of a newspaper or a news organisation’s website is its most precious asset and most valuable real estate. Yet visitors to The Times’ homepage are in decline, an “inescapable truth,” as the report puts it:
Readers Prefer ‘Social’ Over ‘Media’
This is the explanation for the above phenomenon: Readers are using their social-media feeds — Facebook, Twitter — as their personal front pages for news. They’re no longer bothering to go to individual news brands as a result.
The Times Is Trapped In The Wrong Business
Most of The Times’ readers are online. Unfortunately, most of The Times’ revenue comes from its paper:
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