By: Jennie L. Phipps

Local Papers Attract More Traffic, Money

by Jennie L. Phipps

Local newspaper and city guide Web sites are beating the stuffing
out of sites owned by local television stations, according to a
recent study from Frank N. Magid Associates Inc. of Cedar Rapids,

Magid found that local newspaper and city guide sites have
significantly more users, raise more money and devote more employees
to making their sites work than competing TV station sites.

Surveying 38 TV station sites, 19 newspaper sites and six city guides,
the study was commissioned by WorldNow, an application service
provider focused on the broadcast market. The key findings:

o Newspapers sites, compared to TV sites, receive six times the number
of monthly page views (3,960,000 to 606,000 on average) and earn
between four to eight times the revenue ($200,000-$400,000 to $50,000-$100,000).

o Newspaper sites on average have 5.68 full-time content employees;
TV stations only 1.32. Newspaper sites on average have 3.71 full-time
sales employees; TV stations 1.34.

o Surveyed city guides attracted 12 times more page views than TV
stations (6,870,000 to 606,000), and generate 10 times more average
revenue ($50,000 to $500,000).

David Card, an analyst at Jupiter Communications in New York, said
some of these findings can be linked to classified advertising,
which steadily attracts traffic and revenue. Newspapers and city
guides have online classifieds; TV Web sites generally don’t.

But Card also thinks newspaper sites get more traffic because they
have done a better job of promoting themselves as trustworthy,
reliable sources of information. ‘All things being equal, people
like the newspaper brand for their local online services because
people believe they’ll find the information that they want and they
trust what they find,’ he said.

But before newspaper sites break an arm patting themselves on the
back, Card warns that going forward, users and advertisers are going
to demand more than just words. As multimedia technology improves,
people will expect video, audio, lots of interactivity and
customization, and the ability to access information wherever and
whenever they want it. In this scenario, multimedia companies are
the most competitive and partnerships will be very important, Card

TV, newspapers work together

C. Kirk Read, general manager of Tampa Bay Online, a partnership
between WFLA-TV and the Tampa Tribune, which are both owned by Media
General Co., has a background in TV news. Read thinks both partners
bring strengths and different audiences to his site. ‘People know
that WFLA is the place for weather, breaking news and personalities,’
he said. ‘The Tribune is hardcore news and information. Together, we
produce a site that has a loyal following.’

In Cincinnati, James C. Jackson, director of new media for the
Cincinnati Enquirer, manages operations for, a site,
which is part of the joint operating agreement (JOA) between Gannett
Co. Inc. and the E.W. Scripps-owned Cincinnati Post. Jackson said
that in the first quarter of the year, his site had 16.3 million page
views per month, which is 650% more than the closest competing, local
TV site. He thinks that a report due out shortly will increase that
gap to 800%.

Jackson contends that the huge difference in usership is due to both
the depth of the content and reader expectations. He said people
of TV for certain things, including weather, but they think of
newspapers for entertainment and comprehensive local information.
‘If the newspapers have always excelled at providing these things,
it’s a more natural extension for people to go to the Web site for
more of the same,’ Jackson said.

Neal Fondren, vice president new media for Scripps, which owns both
TV and newspaper-driven sites, agrees. ‘My view of this is that TV
stations are further back in the revolutionary process,’ he said.
‘They are a little behind the curve.’

TV could catch up

But newspapers can’t take it for granted that TV will stay there.
When TV stations devote resources to their Web sites, they can give
newspapers a run for their money. A local station identified by
Magid as attracting more users than newspaper or city guide sites
is WRAL-TV, the CBS affiliate in Raleigh, N.C., owned by a local
company, Capitol Broadcasting.

John C. Conway, director of new media for WRAL, said his station
relies on heavy promotion and fresh content, particularly in the
areas of weather and traffic. ‘Our single most popular feature is
the Doppler radar,’ he said. ‘Amazing numbers of people rely on
that to figure out whether they are going to have to cancel their
golf game in the afternoon.’

The station also covers traffic backups and accidents aggressively.
It offers video feeds from the state Department of Transportation
and sends reporting teams when there is a serious problem. ‘We can
get 10,000 unique visitors in a few minutes when there is a serious
accident,’ said Conway, who added that immediacy is vital. ‘We’re
set up in the newsroom to get information out quickly.’

To compete, The News & Observer, the McClatchy-owned online pioneer
based in Raleigh, launched a new Web site over Labor Day weekend. will be a regional entertainment, e-commerce and
classified companion site to, which focuses on

Mark Choate, director of online services for The News & Observer,
said he’s also increased his staff from four to 19 over the last few
months so the site can do a better job of getting breaking news
online. ‘It’s always been part of our strategy to be an updated news
source around the clock but more competition in the marketplace
increases your commitment.’

The newspaper site’s numbers, Choate thinks, will soon equal those
of WRAL, if they don’t already. Like many Web site managers, Choate
quibbles with the way Media Metrix counts users. But he also gives
credit to the TV station for doing well. ‘They’ve done an excellent
job of marketing the site,’ Choate said. ‘They realized that there
was an opportunity there for them, and they took it.’


Jennie L. Phipps ( is an independent writer
and editor based in Farmington Hills, Mich. She writes frequently
for E&P Online.

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