Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Internet traffic to blogs on the top 10 newspaper Web sites more than tripled in the past year, according to a survey released yesterday by market research firm Nielsen/NetRatings.

The number of unique visitors to the most popular newspaper blogs climbed to 3.8 million last month, compared with 1.2 million in December 2005. Readers of newspaper blogs also took up a larger slice of total visitors to those sites, up to 13 percent of total traffic from 4 percent a year ago.

Overall unique visitors to newspaper sites climbed 9 percent to 29.9 million.

A unique visitor is anyone who visited a site at least once during the month of December. Multiple visits by the same person don’t count.

Some of the surge in readers of newspaper blogs is because of the addition of blogs to newspaper sites since December 2005, a sign that traditional print media is adapting its content to appeal to online consumers, analysts say.

“Newspapers have no choice — they’ve got to make their presence felt in ways besides dead tree,” said John Morton, a newspaper analyst and president of Morton Research Inc. in Silver Spring. “The question is the balance that newspapers are going to have to maintain between their print model and their Internet model.”

As print circulation continues to plummet at dailies across the country, newspapers have been racing to boost their online presence to attract readers who might go elsewhere for their news. Blogs are one way for reporters to interact with readers and make informal observations throughout the news cycle.

The top newspaper sites varied slightly from the top newspaper blog sites, according to the Nielsen data.

The top five newspaper Web sites in terms of total unique visitors were: the New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. The top five newspaper blog pages were the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News, the Boston Globe and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Men accounted for 60 percent of visitors to newspaper sites, a difference that became even greater when measuring readers of newspaper blogs, 66 percent of whom are men.

“Men tend to be both early adopters of new technologies and avid consumers of news,” said Carolyn Creekmore, senior director of media analytics for Nielsen/NetRatings.

While the shift to the Web is “going to cause a few bumps in the road” and put temporary pressure on profit margins, it’s more than necessary as online advertising continues to grow as a portion of total advertising revenue, Mr. Morton said.

“There’s always going to be newspapers. It’s just a question of how they’re going to be delivered,” he said.

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