This week in web publishing the focus has been on newspapers, layoffs and paid content. But let's start with the good news.
More Online Visitors, Subscription Churn
According to the Nielsen Online for the Newspaper Association of America, newspaper web sites attracted more than 74 million monthly unique visitors on average in the third quarter of 2009, more than one-third (38 percent) of all Internet users. Newspaper Web site visitors generated more than 3.5 billion page views during the quarter, spending 2.7 billion minutes browsing the sites over more than 596 million total sessions. In addition, the recently released 2009 Circulation, Facts, Figures and Logic report showed higher levels of subscribers retaining subscriptions.
But with the highs come the lows. We’re now paying more for our print news than we were just a year ago - the average seven-day, home-delivery weekday price rose 8.6 percent. Readers continue to browse the news online, but are finding it harder to stay committed to print.
Newspapers Lose Daily Ads
From an advertising perspective, online newspaper sites may find themselves getting slighted. A recent New York Times article focused on the challenges facing online news sites as they try to retain day to day advertising. Citing Mercedes and other large advertisers, the Times claims that “Newspaper sites are the patent-leather stilettos of the online world: they get used for special occasions, but other shoes get much more daily wear.” Instead, companies are taking their ads to networks like Advertising.com from AOL and DoubleClick Ad Exchange from Google.
Experimenting with Paid Content
If not from advertising, how else might online newspapers generate revenue. Once viewed as their safe haven, paid content is struggling to find its legs again. AdAge synthesized the recent trends among newspapers as they try to solve the paid content puzzle.
Last week, Newsday.com announced a pay wall, and many New York Times readers voiced their approval of a paid site. Publishers are also looking into alternate ways to implement paid content. Journalism Online, a company that helps newspapers experiment with pay models, is planning to send software into beta testing by early December.
Some newspapers are trying out new methods of charging for content by building new sites with additional offerings. At the end of August, The Pittsburgh Post Gazette and The Tuscaloosa News each introduced new sites for paying members only.
Magazine Layoffs Persist
Fortunately, newspapers have magazines to make them look good -- it seems that each day brings the demise of another magazine. If it’s any consolation at all, which we suspect it isn’t, nearly seven sales staffers were let go from Condé Nast’s W magazine last week, joining the nearly 180 cuts that resulted from the closure of Gourmet, Modern Bride, Elegant Bride, and the parenting lifestyle magazine Cookie.
While it’s not clear who will be next, Condé Nast CEO Chuck Townsend has said that there will be no more magazine closings this year, though we've got less than 3 months left in the year, so that ain't saying much.