Friday, January 19, 2007

Newspaper Blog Readership Triples in Past Year

The mainstream media have traditionally looked somewhat askance at bloggers.

The most famous put-down was from CBS’ Jonathan Klein when faced with the meltdown of that network’s bogus story about Bush’s National Guard duty.
It’s an important moment, because you couldn’t have a starker contrast between the multiple layers of checks and balances, and a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing what he thinks.
And indeed, during the “Wisconsin Blog Summit” last March, a representative from a state newspaper got up to berate bloggers for being mere parasites feeding off news reported by traditional outlets.

But where blogs are concerned, it seems that established news outlets are deciding to switch rather than fight.

The Public Relations Society of America notes:
The number of people reading Internet blogs on the top-10 U.S. newspaper sites more than tripled in December from a year ago and accounted for a larger percentage of overall traffic to those sites, according to research released yesterday by Nielsen//NetRatings.

Unique visitors to blog sites affiliated with the largest Internet newspapers rose to 3.8 million in December 2006 from 1.2 million viewers a year earlier, the data showed.

“As Web 2.0 becomes a predominant online consumer model, traditional publishers are adopting interactive forums like blogs,” Carolyn Creekmore, senior director of media analytics, Nielsen//NetRatings, said in a press release. “It makes perfect sense for online newspapers, where responding to a blog posting is like writing an instant letter to the editor.” she continued.

Blog pages accounted for 13 percent of overall visits to newspaper sites in that month, up from 4 percent a year earlier. Total visitors to the top newspaper sites rose 9 percent to 29.9 million.

About 60 percent of online newspaper readers were men, with the percentage rising to 66 percent of blog readers, Nielsen//NetRatings said.

The top U.S. newspaper site in December belonged to, with 13.2 million unique viewers, followed by, with 9.1 million viewers, and, with 7.6 million viewers.
Thus while the circulation of print editions of newspapers is down across the board, and the readership of online newspapers has risen significantly, blogs associated with these same newspapers took off like the Space Shuttle.

The Nielsen document is here.

Quite clearly, blogging is the form of journalism suited to the age of the Internet.

Traditional print journalists, remember, banged out stories and columns on a manual typewriter, and submitted them to editors on a fixed schedule. The editors, when done editing them, shipped them off to be typeset, printed and distributed.

When newspapers first went on the Internet, they simply continued the process, but in addition to a printed edition, the same text would appear online -- still on a fixed schedule, with the number, length and formatting of articles identical to the print version.

Over time, newspapers have moved to exploit the capabilities of the Internet, and that involves going to blogs, which allow columnists, reporters and editors who write as many articles as they want, write the length the want and post when they want. And if they want, get instant feedback from readers in the form of comments.

The basics of good journalism haven’t changed. A good blogger is a good reporter, and a good reporter can easily be (with just a little training in simple technology) a good blogger.

Thus mainstream outlets are finally using the technology to its full potential. But they should have the grace to admit that the guys (and some gals) in pajamas were there first.


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