Web Publishing Roll-Up: The Life and Death of Newspapers

3 minute read
Marisa Peacock avatar

This week proves to be a tumultuous time for the newspaper industry --Twitter doesn't work, most people think that newspapers' days are numbered. But just when you don't think it can get better, a beacon of hope arrives -- iPad.

RT This: Newspapers Can’t Rely on Twitter for Referrals

Both British blogger Malcolm Coles and American PR strategist Adam Sherk have found that social media does not attract as many readers to newspapers as we may have thought.Twitter brings in less than 1% of traffic to major UK newspapers websites like the Mail, Telegraph and Guardian.

In America Twitter also drives less than 1% of traffic to U.S. newspaper and magazine sites. Sherk’s surveyed group included a mix of sites covering general and breaking news as well as specific topics such as lifestyle, sports or entertainment. He also looked at referral data for 2008, 2009 and 2010 to-date and for comparison also included Facebook and Digg.

Sherk acknowledges that

10 newspaper and magazines sites is not a sufficient sample so take this survey for what it is, but the data does provide a rough idea of what major publishers are experiencing.

Coles simply asked the three largest UK newspaper sites (Telegraph, Daily Mail and Guardian) for their figures and discovered:

  • For the Mail, under 0.5% of their referrer traffic is from Twitter.
  • For the Telegraph, 0.5% of global traffic and 0.25% of UK traffic currently comes from Twitter.
  • For the Guardian, 0.4% of their page impressions in February came from Twitter.

Both admit that tracking Twitter referrals is hard and this data only reflects a small sampling of newspapers, but if more research shows that Twitter isn’t the driver we think it is, some rethinking is in order.

What’s a Newspaper?

Nearly half of Americans polled believe newspapers eventually will disappear, ultimately killed by the ubiquity of online news, according to a survey by media research company Arbitron.

Learning Opportunities

The online survey that polled 1,753 people ages 12 and over found that 49% agree with the statement, “In the future, there will be no more newspapers because everyone will be getting their news over the Internet.” In a similar poll in 2007, only 27% agreed with that statement.

Can the iPad Save Web Publishing?

Alan Mutter recently blogged about “How print publishers can win with iPad” and says that:

Magazine and newspaper publishers can win with the iPad, because it is the first digital platform that turns print-style substance into a strength, instead of the weakness that it has been since the inception of the web.

The theory is that since the tablet platform is so new the playing field is leveled and everything is fair game. Yet, publishers who come in early will have to “do better by creating content that is media-rich, interactive, viral, transactional and mobile. In other words, this is no time to cut corners.”

As we enter the first full week of iPad-mania, we look forward to gauging the progress of its publishing capabilities.