GANNETT’S ‘NEWFOUND’ WEB POWER

By: Karim Mostafa

Company Cracks Top 50, But Sites Remain Separate


Gannett has never been known as an Internet powerhouse, but the
nation’s largest newspaper company nonetheless is now the only
newspaper group in Media Metrix’s Top 50 Web Properties list.
After first appearing in the list at No. 43 in February,
Gannett’s combined sites crept up to No. 37 in March.

According to Tara Connell, director of public affairs at Gannett
Co., the newspaper company this year convinced the audience
measurement firms Jupiter Media Metrix and Nielsen/NetRatings
Inc. to consolidate measurements for all of Gannett’s online
properties. That means USAToday.com’s measurements were for the
first time combined with Gannett’s numerous online newspaper and
TV station sites.

“Gannett sites increased 28% from January to February 2001,” said
Max Kalehoff, senior manager at Jupiter Media Metrix. “This
increase can be attributed to the addition of 752 new entities to
their consolidation.”

“That really did change the numbers dramatically,” Connell said.
In December, Jupiter Media Metrix measured Gannett’s combined Web
site traffic at 5.157 million unique users. By March, Gannett
attracted 7.07 million unique visitors.

Nielsen/NetRatings reports a consolidated domestic Internet
audience share of 8.6 million unique visitors for Gannett’s
combined sites. That includes at-work and at-home users.

The company’s acquisitions of Central Newspapers and 21 Thomson
newspapers last year helps explain the jump. Gannett’s purchases
of British newspapers did not affect the company’s top 50
rankings since the list only covers U.S.-based site traffic. Note
that Gannett’s U.S.-based online holdings include everything from
Centurywine.com and Gizmopage.com to GoCincinnati.com and
AZStarnet.com.

Media Metrix’s Kalehoff said the “rollup definition” for
corporate online holdings is constantly fluctuating due to
acquisitions and sales. To keep up with it all, Jupiter Media
Metrix has a dedicated team that stays in close touch with
companies to make sure that audience measurements take into
account new online properties, said Kalehoff.

Jupiter Media Metrix continues to measure individual Web sites
separately and USAToday.com has seen growth over the past few
months. In March, USAToday.com was up to 3.763 million unique
visitors both at home and at work in the United States. That
compares with 3.16 million visitors in February and 2.94 million
in December.

Unfortunately, all these great traffic figures still can’t boost
ad sales in this environment. “On [Gannett’s 1st quarter]
conference call [Tuesday], they indicated that USAToday.com’s ad
revs were down substantially in the quarter along with their peer
group,” said Lauren Rich Fine, publishing analyst at Merrill
Lynch in New York. “However, one third of their domestic
newspaper Web sites, three of their TV station sites, and all of
their U.K. Newsquest newspaper sites were profitable in Q1. Wow,”
she said.

Connell would not say whether or not the new audience measurement
ranking from Media Metrix has changed advertising performance on
Gannett’s sites. But she did say that Gannett is making more of
an effort to sell print and online advertising combined.

Gannett’s online properties have not introduced any type of
online network, along the lines of Knightridder.com’s Real
Cities, instead opting for individual online properties that
function as part of their local independent newspapers.



Karim Mostafa (kmostafa@editorandpublisher.com) is associate editor for E&P Online.



Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher.

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