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Are Newspaper Blogs Really ‘Booming’?

I’ve seen a lot of people quoting the recent Nielsen//NetRatings study which shows how newspaper blogs have seen 210% increases in traffic in the last year.

While I think it’s an interesting thing I also do wonder whether it’s as big a deal as some are reporting it to be (ie I’ve seen a few ‘newspaper blogs are booming’ headlines going around. Perhaps I’m a little cynical but I think this has been a little blown out of proportion for two reasons:

Normal Blogs Grow at Similar Rates

From memory, most newspapers that started experimenting with blogs did it within the last 18 or so months (quite a few even more recently).

From my experience of blogs – it generally takes them 12 months to really hit their straps in terms of traffic. They need that long to establish a profile, get search engine ranking, build incoming links to them etc.

It’s little surprise then that they’ve seen growth in the last 12 months – I’m only surprised that it’s not been bigger as many blogs of a similar age that I’ve been involved in consulting with would expect 210% growth at a minimum.

The Raw Figures – Impressive?

My reading of the stats is that in December the top 10 newspapers blogs had 3.7 million visitors. That means on average these blogs had 370,000 visitors each – or 11935 visitors per day.

Now I know many ProBlogger readers would like 11935 visitors coming to their blogs each day – but keep in mind that these are the biggest newspapers in the US and that they’ve been blogging for over a year. Compare them to the biggest blogs going around and the figures are smaller than the 210% headline might indicate.

I’m also surprised that the numbers not bigger because the domains that many of these blogs are hosted on should generate some serious Google Juice for the blogs concerned. I know if I were to start up a blog on some of my established domains that they’d do pretty well in search engines fairly quickly.

Perhaps I’ve misread the study or am being overly cynical – but I’m a little less than impressed than some seem to be.

Don’t get me wrong - I think it’s great that such studies are done and I’m all in favor of mainstream media experimenting with blogging – I also think it’s great that they are seeing some success – but perhaps it’s not the headline news that some are reporting it as.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Trent says:

    I think the reason their traffic is booming is that some of the MSM blogs are quite good. For example, the “Red Tape” blog at MSNBC is one of my favorite reads.

    I don’t care if it’s from the MSM or not, I’ll read a good blog. I think that, for the most part, audiences agree with this philosophy.

  2. I’m sure it’s hype created by the newpapers themselves. Their print sales are in decline and they are panicked. I think it’s interesting that the same publications that used to ridicule bloggers are now bragging about becoming bloggers!

  3. Interesting study, I would agree that with the potential power they have behind those blogs I’m surprised they aren’t generating more traffic. On the other hand, it’s not like I get that traffic so I don’t have much cliff to stand on =).

  4. Personally it reminds me a lot of the media companies and online media:

    First they said no.
    Then they said OK, but did it wrong.
    Now they say OK, and are doing it almost correct.
    Will they ever get it correct?

  5. brem says:

    These bloggers get a huge starting boost by using the newspaper’s website’s traffic.

    I’m not sure their readership growth rate is higher than that of the newspaper’s website, though. What do you think?

  6. Stuart says:

    The Courier Mail here in Australia seems ot have a blog of sorts – the number of people who bother to comment on most issues seems to be very small and when anyone does comment it can take hours for the comment to appear.

  7. M Freitas says:

    Er, “newspaper blogs”?

    What I see is just the same old columnists, writing the same old stuff, but since they now add a comments section and a RSS feed they call it “blogs”.

    I think it’s just the MSM trying to use the blog name, when in fact blogs are more likely to migrate to MSM status when the author reaches a certain level of celebrity – and writes about specific subjects without adding too much personal stuff…

  8. brem says:

    M. Freitas: I don’t know about your specifics, but while some blogs look like columns, others are more personal. Some media give more freedom to their journalists to talk about other things than their own specialty.

    Stuck up newspapers or media will stay stuck up, even if they blog ;)

  9. Dustin says:

    Isn’t an online newspaper a blog anyway? Same content different popularity definition.

  10. jhay says:

    I agree with Trent, they have the resources, the skills and the established name of the newspaper as a foundation for their new blogs or online versions of their paper. Some even complement it with SEO so that the search engines really deliver relevant and organic traffic.

    Non-rss readers who are heavy search engine users are sometimes surprised and delighted once they find out that their favorite newspaper is available online and practically for free.

  11. I agree that these newspaper blogs do get a monumental kick start on launch due to the readership of the online papers themselves obviously, but I also believe that a lot of the hype about blogging entering mainstream media channels is to do with just that – hype. Some of the papers themselves love to jump on the hot “blogosphere” topics, like its all just emerging and they’re at the fore front. A lot clearly have no clue however, though this is certainly changing.

    I’ve noticed even these new tech changes in the online versions of New Zealand newspapers, which till now have been shockingly bad at denying all interaction, plain *removing* content after a set date, and ignoring all social media sources. This is certainly undergoing change now however, as they begin rolling out fresh new sites with social media buttons, comments, etc.

    Matt

  12. Robert says:

    Good timing, as I am in the middle of launching a local newspaper site and blogging is one of the requested features. Having a couple blogs myself and being a reader of many, I have a pretty strong opinion on what is and what isn’t a blog and I agree with M Freitas in that some newspaper sites list blogs but they are nothing more than a retitled column.

    We are looking to avoid that trap and thankfully most people are on board with it and understand what a blog really is. Some are a little concerned because blogs tend to be opinionated as opposed to the idea of reporting facts in an article, but hey the best blogs drive a lot of traffic and the powers that be understand that.

  13. Doug Karr says:

    I worked in the newspaper industry for over a decade and would warn anyone to beware of the statistics they see or hear from the industry. One simple example is that newspapers love to tout ‘readership’.

    Readership is not circulation or paid subscriptions… it’s a complex inflated count of the number of newspapers that went out the door + the number of employees (counted as readers) + single copy theft + school copies dumped at the door + a host of other invisible recipients multiplied by 2.2… the average number of adults in a household, aka ‘pass along readership’. Take a look at ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulation) and you’ll find quite a few newspapers with growing readership but significant lost circulation. We used to call it Circulation math.

    The fact is that newspapers have always sold advertising based on the number of eyeballs they could calculate, so I’m confident they’re taking the same approach at their web traffic.

  14. Jonno says:

    Actually considering the resources that are behind these Newspaper “blogs” the numbers Darren quotes (I read them the same as Darren although they were not very clear in my opinion – deliberately so?) are pretty terrible. 3.7 million visits in a month divided between the ten biggest online newspapers in the US is miniscule. Let me give you some comparison’s. Deadspin, my favourite sports blog, has had 1.26million visitors this week (1.26 * 4 = about 5 million/month). So one sports blog gets 1.3 million/month more visits than all the top 10 on-line newspapers blogs combined. The Daily Kos which is a kind of news/political commentary blog attracted a jaw dropping 3.38 million visits this week (13.5 million per month) so nearly 10 million more visits than all the Top 10 newspapers combined. However the really cool one is that my humble little sports blog Gods Of Sport (http://www.godsofsport.com) will attract about 12,000 visits this month which is about 3.2 % of the monthly visitation of the blogs of one of the top ten newspapers in the USA. My hobby now seems really important, I will go home this evening and inform the family what a major player in the global media market they have sitting in the lounge room with them. I bet I still have to do the washing up though.

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