Newspapers must grow their online news market share. Can they?

news-laptopMy proclamation the other day that “print is still king” got considerable flack from folks who disagreed with assumptions I made in the analysis, as well as from those who apparently didn’t read the qualifier in the headline: “Only 3 percent of newspaper reading happens online.” That’s newspaper reading, not news reading.

In other words, that analysis, limited to the world of newspaper content in print and online, shows that as newspaper readers migrate from print to online sourcing of news, most of them are moving beyond the limited realm of newspaper web sites. This was duly pointed out by some of the commenters, and as a next step in considering the problems that newspapers face, it’s worth exploring what the scope of that problem is and what the newspaper industry must do about it.

First, the scope of the problem: To what extent have Americans shifted their news consumption to the Web, and what share of that attention is on newspaper web sites? Let me avoid the risk of stepping into another controversy over statistics and point to a couple of data sources. Here’s the data. Visit the links. I’ll draw my conclusions, and you can draw yours:

Print newspaper readership continues to decline, as indicated by the downward spiral in paid circulation. Year-over-year ABC-audited newspaper circulation fell 4.6 percent weekdays, 4.8 percent Sundays for the six-month audit period ending last September 30. The next batch of ABC data is due shortly for the period ending March 31, and will likely show a continuation of a 30-year downward trend. USA Today alone is expected to show a drop of 100,000 copies or more than 4 percent.

More and more Americans get their news online. In December the Pew Research Center for People and the Press reported that for the first time, more people “most of their news about national and international issues from the internet” than from printed newspapers, by a ratio of 40 percent to 35 percent. Here’s the graph from that report:

Continue reading this post at Nieman Journalism Lab.

One Comment

  1. willson said:

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    January 8, 2010

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