The newspaper industry is stronger online than you think
By Jim Conaghan, NAA vice president of research & industry analysis
Some observers looking to analyze data on engagement have concluded that newspaper digital content is less engaging than content offered up by other news sources.
A closer look at the data, in terms of the average time spent per visit, suggests these observers are wrong.
The digital world, with its distinctive capacity for tracking activity, delivers up a variety of indicators for online publishers to measure progress. Unique visitors, visits, page views, time, reach, composition and clicks are a few of the usual topline metrics. The mobile component adds others, such as taps and swipes.
Publishers can also examine elements such as video completion rates and also ponder the meaning of follows and likes in social media. You can learn more about this in Sliding Down the Rabbit Hole: Advertising, Engagement and Digital Platforms.
At times, it seems there is no end to the overabundance of numbers, too many gauges track, to make sense of what is important. While data geeks and digerati thrive in this atmosphere, others are left to their own devices to wrestle statistics to the floor.
Of particular interest to online publishers is how to assess engagement with digital content. One measure—but by no means the best or even the only measure—is time spent with the content. Since not all content is alike, the time spent with different types of content will vary as will the frequency with which the audience engages with the content. Watching videos on YouTube can chew up much time, as will listening to favorite channels on Pandora or Spotify. And digital consumers may or may not engage with the same content every day. For example, you might ignore checking the weather online each day when the forecast for the week is sunny and hot.
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that digital channels primarily devoted to news occupies less audience time than other types of channels. Following the exploits of fictional Jack Bauer online after the premiere of a new season of 24 is oddly more compelling for many people than reading about the real-life turmoil induced by spetsnaz in eastern Ukraine and reported by news organizations.
While Yahoo News leads with 4.6 minutes per visit, and 2.5 minutes with a mobile device, time spent with newspaper digital content is very competitive with other news sources. It ranks very slightly behind CBS Local and ahead of CNN, NBC television stations, Huffington Post Global, the Weather Channel and Buzzfeed.com.
One can hardly conclude a weaker engagement with newspaper digital content on this basis.
Certainly, there are other aspects of engagement are masked by the lack of precision with current digital toolsets, however granular they may be. Consumers exposed to newspaper digital content through social media venues and through aggregators—like Yahoo—are underrepresented in the audience counts.
All of which means the newspaper sector online is stronger than credited by some observers.
*NAA Newspaper Aggregate is a tracking by comScore of the domestic U.S. audience engaging with U.S. newspaper digital content, excluding online-only publishers. It is an unduplicated (net) audience.
First Published: May 05, 2014