Messenger web growth

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 21, 2001

on par with national numbers

From Staff Reports

Jan. 20, 2001 10 PM

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In the wake of reaching an all-time high in the amount of Internet traffic driven to The Messenger’s website,, research indicates that newspaper websites are attracting a substantial web audience.

According to The Media Audit, a syndicated survey of both online and traditional media in more than 80 US markets, the web sites of America’s daily newspapers are building a commanding lead over other local media web sites. Television – even network affiliates – and radio seem incapable, with few exceptions, of attracting the web audience numbers of daily newspaper web sites, the reports indicate. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, newspapers are attracting to their web sites an audience which complements their traditional-print subscriber base.

Each month since its inception has shown gains over prior months according to tracking software. This month, traffic for one day has hit a new all-time high. On Jan. 15, 2001, The Messenger tracked 19,000 hits, a number that is roughly twice the average number of daily web hits.

The following day, a new record was set when the site logged more than 31,000 hits, tripling the highest number of hits in a single day above the highest number of daily hits in December.

Messenger Publisher Rick Reynolds believes the reasons for recent record-setting days are simple.

"First and foremost, there was an aircraft that crashed here in Pike County on Sunday, Jan. 14," he said. "With two days to go to the next publication date for our daily newspaper, we posted updates on the crash four times in the 48-hours following the accident, which drove traffic to our site on Jan. 15, despite the fact that we had no printed publication released that day."

But Reynolds said the Media Audit reports indicate other factors are involved in the success of the site.

"Newspapers have been known as a credible source of community news since the press was invented," he said. "Just as it is possible for anyone to produce a newsletter, it’s possible for almost anyone to produce a website. But The Messenger’s site and the sites of other newspapers throughout the country bring, in some cases, more than 100 years of credibility with them when it comes to communicating information to the public. We try to uphold high standards so our sites remain as credible as our printed products."

The Media Audit surveys are based on telephone interviews and measure the impact of daily newspaper web sites in the newspaper’s immediate market or Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area.

"In our most recent survey daily newspaper web sites are out performing all other local media in 51 of 81 markets we covered," said Bob Jordan, co-chairman of the 30-year-old media rating service that produces The Media Audit. In 67 of those markets, newspaper web sites are attracting more than 10 percent of their immediate market’s adult population. Almost all other local media are struggling to attract low, single-digit percentages. "There are some exceptions, some of them rather spectacular exceptions," Jordan said, "but they are very few."

More than 90 percent of the country’s 1,400-plus daily newspapers have web sites; some have more than one.

"Almost all of the daily newspapers are decades old and their identities are indelibly established in the communities they serve," Jordan said. "Add that to their market dominance in content development and you have a combination that will be difficult for other media to overcome."

The audience attracted to the newspaper web sites is demographically different from the subscribers to the traditional newspapers. "The web audience," Jordan said, "is predominantly 18- to 44-year-olds in comparison to the traditional newspaper subscriber base which is heaviest among those over 45. On the web, newspapers are attracting the audience segment they have found so difficult to attract to their print products."

And that younger web audience contains substantial numbers of college educated 21- to 34-year-olds with significant discretionary income and bright financial futures.

"On their web sites," Jordan said, "the newspapers are attracting a very valuable audience that complements the readership of their print product." The only problem Jordan sees with the newspaper web audience numbers is in the future. "When people get past 40 years old they become heavy readers of newspapers," he said.

Reynolds said continued focus on building a strong community newspaper is the primary goal of The Messenger, but, he added, building a strong website will complement the printed product.

"We want to be our community’s number one provider of local information, and the numbers indicate that’s the case," he said. "We want to reach people through our newspaper, but we also want to provide our tech-savvy readers the opportunity to get much of their content online. Though our website is less than two years old, we will continue to work to develop it as we work to develop and improve our printed newspaper."