Newspapers Online: The Latest Statistics

By: Steve Outing

It’s been a while since I offered up some definitive statistics on the growth of newspaper online services. Editor & Publisher Research recently has been updating the Online Newspaper Directory, the most comprehensive database of newspaper-sponsored online services worldwide, and its findings confirm that we’re still in a period of rapid growth for newspapers establishing presences on the Internet.

E&P’s latest count finds 1,115 commercial newspaper online services operating worldwide, which is up from about 750 at the beginning of this year, and about 100 at the beginning of 1995. E&P Vice President of New Media, Martin Radelfinger, says his staff is receiving notice of 5-10 new online ventures involving newspaper companies each day.

Add to those figures about 200 college newspapers operating online services, as counted by Newslink. (E&P currently does not catalog campus newspaper services, but plans to do so in the future.)

About 94% of all online newspaper services are on the World Wide Web — a figure that continues to increase as those running on BBSs make the transition to Web-based platforms, and as some publishers abandon deals with the commercial online services. (Recent examples include the Los Angeles Times and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which no longer operate on the Prodigy network, and the Washington Post and (Minneapolis) Star Tribune, which lost the Interchange network when AT&T dumped that proprietary online network.)

Given these most recent counts, I’m sticking by my previous projections of 2,000 newspaper online services operating by the end of this year.

Let’s break down some of the latest statistics:

Geography

As you might expect, the bulk of activity in the field is taking place in the U.S., but with considerable activity in Europe, followed by Canada and Latin/South America. These figures are for all newspaper online services, including campus papers.

 Online newspaper services, by location: U.S. 65.8% Europe 15.8 Canada 7.8 Latin/South America 5.2 Asia 3.0 Oceanea 1.4 Africa 0.6 Mideast 0.5 

Types of newspapers operating online services

Dailies are taking the lead in Internet/online publishing, clearly. But when we combine all other newspapers operating online, they outnumber dailies.

 Dailies 48.0% Weeklies 22.2 College/campus 16.4 Speciality 7.3 Business 3.1 Alternative 3.0 

When we break down the U.S. numbers, it looks like this:

 Dailies 41.9% Weeklies 24.4 College/campus 19.0 Specialty 8.2 Alternative 4.3 Business 2.2 

In actual numbers, this represents 368 U.S. daily newspapers operating online services and 214 weeklies. This is considerably higher than the numbers of dailies estimated to be publishing online by other organizations that track newspaper online activity in the U.S.

While E&P’s numbers are the most current available in tracking this emerging business segment of the newspaper industry, most likely they still underestimate the scope of online newspaper services worldwide. With several new services launching each day, it’s impossible to get an accurate count.

Publishers operating online services can help by alerting Editor & Publisher’s Research department about their operations. E&P is collecting extensive information about newspaper online services, including contact names and information about advertising and sponsorships. As more publishers contribute this detailed information about their services, I will be able to analyze this information to present a better picture of this emerging business. So, please fill out the information form on the E&P Web site.

Yahoo! does maps … Do you?

Have you seen Yahoo!’s nifty new map feature? It’s a free service that lets you type in the street name of any U.S. address and view a detailed map of how to get there. Resulting maps, which offer amazing detail, can be zoomed in or out. It couldn’t find my house (but neither can some UPS drivers!), but it did find every other address I submitted to the search field.

This is another example of how the search engine companies are a major threat to newspapers trying to establish strong online services. There’s no reason a newspaper service shouldn’t be offering the same feature for its locality. Why give your online readers a reason to go to Yahoo! when they want to find out how to get to a store in your home city?

Speaking of search engines …

While using the Infoseek’s Personal Web service the other day I was surprised to see a banner ad come up for The Gate, the Web site of the San Francisco Chronicle-Examiner. It makes perfect sense, of course; search engines like Infoseek are where the big numbers of Web users are going, not online newspaper services. I suppose it’s a sort of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” reality of the Web that for publishers to get noticed, they have to buy space from the companies that are attracting the vast majority of online advertising — the Infoseeks and Yahoo!s of the online world.

Brazil Financial Wire is online

Brazilian news agency Agencia Estado recently launched a financial online news service called Brazil Financial Wire. It is aimed at international financial communities, providing them with updated Brazilian news in English. Included are a service that shows the daily currency rates as provided by Brazil’s Central Bank; Brazilian financial market data from the Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo stock exchanges, updated every 60 minutes; headlines from major Brazilian newspapers; economic indicators; and analysis pieces written by consultants, lawyers, research firms, exchange stock analysts and brokers.

Contact: Sergio Kulpas, [email protected]

FACS online

Here’s another useful resource: FACSNET is the Web service of the Foundation for American Communications, a U.S. non-profit organization dedicated to helping journalists make sense of public policy issues and helping them “tame the Internet,” according to Randy Reddick of the organization. Registration is required, but the site is free.

Contact: Randy Reddick, [email protected]

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This column is written by Steve Outing and underwritten by Editor & Publisher magazine. Tips, letters and feedback can be sent to Steve at [email protected]

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