Newspapers have got to stop ‘confusing advertisers’with ‘meaningless vain-glorious’web traffic figures, according to publisher of Mail Online Martin Clarke.
He told the Society of Editors conference that the global monthly unique users figure, which most of the national newspaper now report via ABCe, is an ‘utter waste of time”.
These are the figures that currently show The Guardian in the lead with 24.19 million global uniques followed by the Telegraph on 22.95 million, Times Online with 20.32 million and Mail Online in fourth place with 17.91 million.
Clarke said: ‘Which newspaper in the world would judge itself by looking at the people who read it at least once and then counting them all equally .Why should somebody who visits you once a month the same as someone who visits you every day?”
He warned that the pursuit of an ever higher global unique user figure leads to ‘editors chasing after meaningless aggregator traffic by putting outrageous stories online purely because they will drive traffic from aggregators around the world”.
Clarke urged newspapers instead to publish different figures which emphasise the loyalty of their online readership.
He said: ‘We have got to project ourselves as premium sites by emphasising the loyalty of our readers. We should advertise ourselves as premium sites rather than just more junk on the internet.”
Clarke said that no UK newspaper website makes a profit and that they are all dependent on their print circulations both for content and their newsgathering infrastructure.
While British national newspaper websites are currently leading the world in terms of readership ‘none of us have worked out how to make anything like enough money out of the internet”, he said.
Guardian Media Group chief executive Carolyn McCall pointed out that all of the UK’s traditional media owners combined take under 20 per cent of the total online advertising market – whereas Google takes 40 per cent.
She agreed with Clarke that publishers need to share more of their web statistics with advertisers if they are to make more money online.
She said: ‘In this new world they need to have all those statistics showing engagement and loyalty.”
McCall also made one of the most pessimistic forecasts yet for the financial prospects of the regional newspaper industry.
She said: ‘Every single regional playes is not on a very secure financial footing and most will find it difficult to report profits in the next two years as a result of the recession and structural decline.”