Glimmer of hope for newspapers

High Contrast Newspaper Just as things are looking grim for employers, workers, and the retail sector, new data reveals that newspaper websites are experiencing a 16% growth from a year ago in unique visitors.

Nielsen Online also shows that repeat visits are on the rise: Overall traffic to news websites is up 27% growing 199.6 million in December 2007 to 252.7 million in December 2008. What do the numbers reveal?

Aside from an obvious, if slight, comfort to the online news media, it illustrates that increasing numbers of people are turning to the Web for their news sources, and they’re not just visiting once or twice a day, but several times a day, and dozens of times a week.

AP quotes Jon Gibs, VP for Media Analytics at Nielsen Online who says of the trend, “People who have become news consumers have become much more aggressive news consumers.”

For now, AP points out that the average duration of users’ visits to online news sites is still relatively low–32.5 minutes per month, compared to 2 hours or more for the major sites like Google, AOL, CNN and Yahoo. But this makes sense–users can check their mail, search online, watch videos, etc. at these sites. It also bolsters Rupert Murdoch’s recent comment that news sites must become news brands, or hybridize to survive.  Nonetheless, 16% increase in unique users, and 32.5 minutes a month seems not too shabby considering all the doom and gloom we’ve heard from the news industry. And, if it’s true that news consumers are becoming more aggressive about their online reading, that time spent will likely increase over time.

Now, if we could just inaugurate a President every two months, we could keep this traffic up. 😉

Check out the complete Nielsen Online report for more on news site stats, and check out their other report for a run down of the top sites on Inauguration Day.

*Update to this, imediaconnection published an excellent piece on three reasons why the LA Times is the fastest growing newspaper site online, which further bolsters my continued up-drum beat about the state of the news industry and the possiblities for them to attract greater readership.