Newspaper Sites See Record Traffic in September

September was a banner month for online newspaper sites, which attracted more than 58 million readers that month, according to a Q3 Nielsen/NetRatings report conducted for the Newspaper Association of America (NAA).

This was the highest amount of unique visitors for paper sites ever, the industry group said. On average, over 56.9 million people visited newspaper sites each month in Q3 2006, up almost 24 percent since Q3 2005.

The NAA chalks up the continued rise in Web readership to new site features such as video, podcasts and CGM tools. The group earlier this month reported unique visitors to newspaper sites rose 31 percent during the first half of 2006 over the same period in ’05. Unique visitors to paper sites averaged more than 55.5 million per month during the first six months of ’06, up almost a third from the 42.4 million during the first half of last year.

Newspaper sites generated 2.7 billion pageviews in the third quarter, and visitors spent more than 41.5 minutes each month on the sites, according to the report. During that period last year, visitors viewed around 1.9 billion paper pages, spending 40.4 minutes on the sites on average monthly.

Back to school time made for the highest audience levels ever, drawing nearly 58.2 million site visitors and toppling September 2005 levels by more than 10 million. Approximately 54.7 million unique users viewed paper sites in July of this year, up from 43 million in July 2005. Nearly 58 million visited the sites in August, compared with almost 47.5 million in August of last year. The report findings represent at-home and at-work Web users.

Still, increased readership may not translate to a boost in overall income for newspaper publishers. A Merrill Lynch report released earlier this week predicted industry profit could remain flat for years because online newspaper ad revenues will not comprise half of all newspaper revenues for at least twenty years. The company also expected a 2 percent drop in newspaper ad revenue in the fourth quarter.

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