Good news! More people are reading newspapers. Twelve percent more, to be exact.

According to a new report by Nielsen Online for the Newspaper Association of America, the average monthly unique audience figures for newspaper websites grew by nearly 7.3 million in 2008 to 67.3 million visitors, an increase of 12.1 percent over 2007.

Over the past three years, the newspapers' online audience has grown 60 percent, indicating that despite growing financial worries among web publishers, there is a place for online newspapers. Of course, the past three years have been chock-full of political, national and world events that have kept consumers fixated. But is all this increased readership increasing revenues?

Yahoo! for Revenue

Sort of. Newspapers are seeing significant impact from their relationship with Yahoo!, a partnership that includes access to Yahoo!’s ad management platform, Apt, and advertising inventory in local markets.

Several individual newspapers in the partnership have each sold more than US$ 1 million of Yahoo! inventory. For example, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution sold US$ 2 million in Yahoo! inventory during the test phase of the platform. E. W. Scripps Newspapers generated almost US$ 2 million in three markets over a four-day period in December 2008.  

Digital Vigilance

New digital initiatives are proving fruitful and online newspapers are working on driving revenue by focusing on their core competencies, like cultivating local relationships and leveraging assets of other companies in partnerships that can drive advertising dollars while meeting users' needs.

However, let's be realistic: online ad revenues are dropping. eMarketer estimates that online newspaper ad revenues declined by 0.4% in 2008 to US$ 3.15 billion and will continue to drop in 2009 by 4.7% to US$ 3.01 billion.

Online newspapers are heeding the need for innovation and as a result the tide is turning around. Slowly. They need to be vigilant and explore many different ways to engage readers and increase revenue.