Healthy web growth in the West Midlands

The Midland News Association titles in the West Midlands have recorded healthy web-user growth – despite only putting around 10 per cent of print stories online.

The Express & Star site recorded 236,534 unique users in November, a 45 per cent increase on its previous ABCe report in April 2007. Page views on the site were up 90 per cent over last April, to 2.4 million. On average, there were 14,906 unique users a day, up 58 per cent from 9,421.

Its sister title, the Shropshire Star, saw unique users rise five per cent to 100,497, while page views were up 27 per cent 802,241.

Although Midlands News Association has a separate online arm, MNA Digital, to manage the commercial and technical development of the sites, the editorial operations have become more closely integrated with the newspaper newsrooms in recent months.

Two newspaper reporters on each title have retrained to work part-time as video journalists. Electronic editor Chris Leggett said: ’Online is where the publishers see room for growth and new revenues, but obviously it needs to work with the business model for the print output, and we feel that the number of users and page impressions is a sign that we’re able to build an audience online, while continuing to put out a high-quality product in print.’

With both papers publishing multiple editions a day, each with a large story count and pagination, only a small proportion of the newspaper’s content is being repurposed for the sites.

‘It’s at tops 10 per cent – we expect people to pay for the rest by buying the paper,’said Leggett.

‘There’s online stuff that we do, like the videos, but we’re a newspaper that has a website, rather than a website with a newspaper.’

The Express & Star is Britain’s biggest-selling evening newspaper, losing 4.2 percent of its sale to 143,522. The Star, meanwhile, sells 73,851, down 3.4 per cent over 2006.

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