Newspapers Look Online for Revenue

Online newspapers are battling back for some of the recruitment advertising revenue that was diverted to Internet job listing sites as The Media Audit reports great strides by newspaper Web sites to increase traffic and recapture some of the lost ad dollars.

Third quarter 2001 recruitment expenditures reported by the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) were at $1.3 billion, a decline of 39.1 percent over the same quarter in 2000 and the lowest level since 1996, but the tumble was not exclusive to newspapers. Many employment-related businesses took a hit during the second and third quarter of 2001. The NAA’s research indicates that recruitment advertising agencies are suffering; staffing firms experienced an 11 percent drop; and executive search consultants saw a 20 percent decline.

Not all of the recruitment troubles can be traced directly to Internet job listing sites as also experienced problems – the company had to reduce its workforce by about 10 percent. The NAA cites a weakened economy, drops in consumer confidence, increased competition, corporate Web site recruiting, and higher unemployment rates as factors in the reduction of recruitment advertising.

But dwindling advertising revenue and their readership’s response to newsworthy events has motivated online newspapers to finally embrace the power and immediacy of the Internet. According to findings by The Media Audit, efforts to attract online readers have resulted in some success.

The data comes from a syndicated survey of 85 metro markets with a collective population of approximately 128 million. The survey results are based on 700 to 1800 interviews per market or more than 122,000 interviews throughout the 85 markets.

In the 85 metro markets surveyed in 2001, 28 daily newspaper Web sites attracted more than 20 percent of the adults in their immediate market “during the past month” – a substantial increase over the previous year when only seven newspaper Web sites attracted 20 percent or more.

In 2001, 100 daily newspaper Web sites attracted more than ten percent of adults in their market, as opposed to the 48 newspaper Web sites that attracted ten percent in 2000.

“Attracting 10 or even 20 percent of a market doesn’t sound like a significant achievement until you compare those numbers to the daily newspaper print product readership numbers,” says Bob Jordan, co-chairman of International Demographics, Inc., a 31-year-old research firm that produces The Media Audit. “In more than a few major markets the local daily newspaper is struggling to keep 45 to 50 percent of the adults as readers. And they’ve had the print product on the streets for generations.”

Web Site Traffic
Newspaper Site Percent of Adults in
Immediate Market
Washington Post 40.2
Omaha World-Herald 27.4
San Antonio Express-News 27
Charlotte Observer 26.6
Hartford Courant 26.1
Minneapolis Star-Tribune 25.5
Orlando Sentinel 25.2
Sacramento Bee 24.8
Daily Oklahoman 24
Kansas City Star 23.5
New Orleans Times Picayune 23.4
Raleigh News & Observer 23
Ann Arbor News 23.4
Lexington Herald Leader 23
Atlanta Journal-Constitution 22.4
Virginian Pilot (Norfolk) 22.3
Houston Chronicle 21.9
Seattle Times 21.8
San Diego Union-Tribune 21.4
St. Louis Post-Dispatch 20.8
Jackson Clarion Ledger 20.8
Charlotte Observer 20.7
Des Moines Register 20.7
Arizona (Phoenix) Republic 20.6
Buffalo News 20.4
Albany Times-Union 20.1
Florida Times-Union 20
Wisconsin State Journal 20
Source: The Media Audit

The audiences for newspaper Web sites “are in many cases even larger than our numbers indicate,” says Jordan, “because many newspapers have more than one site or more than one Web address for the same site.”

Jordan cites the Washington Post as an example with the primary Web site ( attracting 40.2 percent of the adults in its market, and a secondary site ( attracting 21.1 percent.

“In combination the Washington Post numbers total 61.3 percent but, the true net reach of both sites – after eliminating the duplication of those people who are logging on to both sites – is only 41.5. Almost 94 percent of those who logged on to MyWashngtonPost.Com also logged on to As a result, the net gain is 1.3 percentage points. The gain of 1.3 percentage points is not insignificant. It represents 44,000 adults in the DC market that would not have been reached otherwise.” said Jordan.

“And there is a bonus in the newspaper Web site numbers,” says Jordan. “As the Web audience continues to grow it becomes more and more democratic in its composition,” he says, “but, access rates remain higher among the young and affluent. That’s exactly the demographic group newspapers have struggled – with little success – to attract to their print products. The Web may be the vehicle that extends and broadens their reach in the communities they serve.”

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