August Data from comScore Shows Slowdown in Online Newspaper Traffic

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By: Jennifer Saba

Traffic and page views for newspaper Web sites are slowing, according to a report from Wachovia Equity Research.

August comScore data reveals that most of the companies in Wachovia’s coverage universe experienced declines in year-over-year comparisons.

There could be many reasons for the purported general decline.

Online traffic and page views vary among measurement services like comScore, Nielsen//NetRatings (owned by E&P?s parent company) and internal tracking used by publishers. News Web sites tend to be cyclical ? i.e. August 2006 could have been a busier news month than August 2007. comScore also notes that if a company sells a newspaper (or newspapers) it could factor in a drop in traffic.

The New York Times Co. bucked those trends, thanks mostly to About.com. Overall, uniques at the company rose 15.3% in August compared to August 2006. Page views fell 3.1%. Uniques at About.com grew 16.1% in August compared to August 2006. Page views were up 9.1% year-over-year.

By this count, traffic at the company’s flagship Web site, NYTimes.com fell 11.5% in August compared to the same period a year ago. Page views sank 36.8%.

Gannett’s USA Today didn’t have it much better in August. Uniques at the Web properties of USAtoday.com declined 13.6% in August year-over-year, and page views plummeted 46.3% — in this accounting. Overall, Gannett sites recorded a 2.6% loss in uniques but a 25.1% growth in page views.

Uniques and page views at The Wall Street Journal online were up in August, 15.9% and 33.5% respectively. Wachovia notes that overall trends at Dow Jones remain weak, with the company down 12.4% in uniques and 33% in page views. But Wachovia acknowledged that Dow Jones cites data based on internal counts that vary from comScore data.

At McClatchy, uniques tumbled 25.5%, with all major papers tracked experiencing declines. Page views at the company decreased 29.2%. However they were up 38.3% at the Miami Herald’s Web sites.

Lee Enterprises recorded strong August growth with uniques at the company advancing 18.7% and page views rising 3.2%.

Uniques at Tribune’s newspaper Web sites also rose, up 4.5% with strong gains at the Chicago Tribune online, up 15.2%, and Newsday, up 21.1%. Page views at Tribune’s newspapers were virtually flat in August, up 0.6%.

Shopzilla was responsible for growth at E.W. Scripps. Uniques grew at the comparison-shopping site 9.8% but page views dropped 14%.

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