Newspapers used to be the way that the majority of Americans got their news. Along with radio and TV they were unchallenged for about 50 years. Everything changed when the Internet gained momentum and people started just reading news and updates online rather than subscribing to a newspaper. Newspapers thought that just reproducing the same newspaper online would give people what they wanted and help them retain consumers, but it didn’t work that way. Online information is published differently and it is functionally different than in print. It is an active interface rather than a static one and people didn’t gravitate to newspaper sites automatically. Plus newspapers being older than dirt, had antiquated internal bureaucracies that stiffled growth and were seriously risk averse. So when I see the newspaper association of America stating that 59 Million US visitors (only 37% of the estimated internet audience) went to Newspaper Sites in Q2 2007, I am wholly unimpressed. That’s only 19 Million per month for all newspapers they added together, and you can see what the top properties get in monthly traffic below linked from the ComScore MMX top 50 web properties chart.
Like in my review of the Chicago Tribune Website Redesign, I feel like they only partially “get it”. What they don’t know is that there is a lot of “news” type information out there that people consume every day that is not a part of newspaper sites. They have a narrow view of what’s news, and on the web they should consider any content site as a possible media property to own and generate advertising revenue. They also still don’t optimize well for search engines, and that itself could raise traffic numbers 10%-15%. So when I hear about newspaper billionaires and conglomerates whining about their profit margins sinking, I don’t really have a lot of sympathy. They were risk averse and bureaucratic because they didn’t want to go online or accept a wider view of what’s news or how to organize and publish it. So, it’s no suprise that people go where they find what they want, and it hasn’t been at newspaper sites.