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Martin Langeveld may be crowning print king too soon

Martin Langeveld may be crowning print king too soon

As news media straddles the precipice between printed and online distribution, news executives scramble to decide which medium offers stronger ground upon which to build the futures of their publications. But in an update on a year-old, highly controversial post, Nieman Journalism Lab's Martin Langeveld dashes hopes that either outlet offers a solution to the media crisis.

After crunching a wide range of disheartening data, Langeveld offers this sordid conclusion:

"While newspapers are losing readership on the print side, that disappearing audience is not following them online."

"At best, the online audience for newspaper content is static."

Langeveld's analysis comes as a blow to media executives worldwide working extensively on everything from paywalls to iPads to rake in revenue. But if the audience truly isn't there, as Langeveld claims, then their work may be in vain. His analysis offers two points of comparison for print and online readership, but the trend remains the same throughout: compared to his analysis from a year ago, readership is down across the board.

The first point of comparison offered by Langeveld is pageviews for both the print and online offerings. Taking into account 2008 data from the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) and the Audit Bureau of Circulations, assuming that each newspaper gets a bit more than 2 readers per copy and each reader views an average of 24 pages, Langeveld calculates that printed papers received 70.602 billion pageviews per month, down 19 percent from his previous calculation. From data calculated by the NAA, newspaper websites received only 3.382 billion pageviews per month from June 2009 to February 2010. This online readership amounts to only 4.5 percent of overall news pageviews coming from newspaper websites, a figure that must stun some news executives.

Considering time spent on news, printed news still reigns over online news, with
Langeveld calculating 78.471 billion minutes per month spent on printed papers, if each reader spends approximately 25 minutes on weekdays and 35 minutes on weekends on print newspapers. Conversely, newspaper websites only receive 2.535 billion minutes per month--only 3.13 percent of the overall time spent on news per month.

But Langeveld also cites NAA data that states that time spent on newspaper websites declined over five minutes from June 2009 to January 2010, with pageviews remaining mostly static during that time. It seems that internet readership of online news websites may be slowly disappearing.

This analysis flies in the face of a recent Zogby poll, posted just a year ago, stating that 56 percent of American adults favored the internet as their main source of news, with only 10 percent of respondents favoring newspapers. And although Langeveld's analysis focuses on the US, a UK McKinsey study showed that respondents spent 12 minutes more on news consumption this year than in 2006, and that websites were favored over newspapers by most age groups, although all age groups reported an increased use of printed papers from 2006.

Why don't the numbers add up? It seems the lack of a static definition of "newspaper website" may be to blame. Are news aggregators, or reporters' blogs, or web-only news sites to be considered "newspaper websites"? And is it really possible to average the amount of time each person spends on a site or print paper, considering consumption methods vary so widely over demographics?

Ostensibly, Langeveld's analysis paints a devastating landscape for all news media, both online and in print. But, as is often the case with numbers, the truth lies deeper than mere minutes spent on and pages viewed of a newspaper or newspaper website.

Source: Nieman Journalism Lab



Alexandra Jaffe


2010-04-07 13:45

The World Editors Forum is the organization within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (www.editorsweblog.org), launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

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