Online visitors add to newspapers' reach

The Sunderland Echo’s print circulation was down 3.1 per cent in the second half of 2007 to 42,910, beating the industry average decline of around five per cent.

But online, things were rather different. SunderlandEcho.com claimed 173 per cent year-on-year growth in January to 216,000 unique users.

Like most traffic figures for regional newspaper web sites, the Echo’s claim is based on unaudited internal figures.

Many of the large regional press publishing groups – like the Echo’s parent company, Johnston Press – have held off publishing audited data for their websites as the industry continues to work on the Portfolio Audience Project, which is seeking to measure cross-media readership.

The aim of the project is to measure newspapers’ combined print and online reach, down to the postcode level, by combining audited web traffic data with readership surveys.

Some groups with fewer titles have already produced audits for individual titles.

Last week, the Manchester Evening News became the first regional newspaper to publish a single ABC document including both print and online audits.

The only other regional sites to publish recent ABCe audits are Express & Star in Wolverhampton and its Midlands News Association stablemate, the Shropshire Star.

Trinity Mirror last week revealed the results of an audience survey conducted using a new technique created by Survey.com to identify the unduplicated reach of its regional titles ,print and digital.

‘It shows that our website portfolio provides a 10 per cent uplift over and above our print reach. In addition to that, we’re obviously also regularly publishing our audience figures for each of our markets as well as,’said Trinity Mirror director of digital publishing David Black.

Northcliffe Media and Johnston Press are understood to be carrying out similar research.

MEN Media is also preparing to publish research on its total cross-media audience and reach in the next few months. The research uses a survey of 5,000 people in the Manchester area in an attempt to create a ‘de-duplicate’print and online readership.

The MEN Media ‘group product report’included ManchesterEveningNews.com’s ABCe figure from November 2007, when it recorded 1.53 million unique visitors, and 9.2 million page impressions.

The only other regional sites to publish ABCe results were the two sites published by the Midlands News Association.

The Express & Star, Wolverhampton, recorded 236,354 unique web users in its last ABCe certificate, up 45 per cent on its debut ABCe in April.

Monthly page impressions almost doubled in the same period, up 90 per cent from 1.3 million to 2.5 million. Sister title ShropshireStar.co.uk grew at a slower rate, with 100,497 monthly unique visitors in November, up five per cent in seven months.

Johnston Press reported 7.9 million unique users to its group of websites in the first half of 2007 and 76.2 million page impressions. The publisher was due to provide an update on its digital progress when it brings out its end-of-year results on 5 March.

Newsquest parent company Gannett said in its end-of-year results last month that Newsquest’s 180 sites attracted a combined audience of 4.8 million unique users last December and displayed more than 62 million page impressions.

The group has not published a group ABCe audit of its sites since last May, when it posted 4.5 million unique users across its network of around 180 websites.

Trinity Mirror claimed 4.3 million unique users across its network of sites in January, a figure up 67 per cent year on year. Director of digital publishing David Black said the relaunched sites in Teesside, Newcastle, Liverpool and Cardiff have experienced the fasted growth rates.

Northcliffe Media group claimed record traffic to its network of 50 regional ‘thisis…”-branded regional news sites in January. Unique visitors to Northcliffe’s sites were up 56 per cent year on year to 2.74 million. Page views were up to 51 million. A breakdown for individual sites was not made public.

The Kent Messenger Group said its portal site, KentOnline.co.uk, recorded 174,498 unique users in January – up 17.5 per cent on its January 2007 ABCe figure. The site also claimed 3.8 million monthly page impressions.

The Archant-owned Evening Star in Ipswich claimed 105,000 unique users and 1.5 million page impressions in February. Editor Nigel Pickover said the site moved ‘into overdrive’to cover the trial of serial killer Steve Wright, who was sentenced to life in prison for killing five prostitutes.

Cumbrian Newspapers’ News and Star in Carlisle saw a dip in unique users compared with six months ago, but the fall has been put down to a change in the measurement system used.

Automated visits to the site by search engine robots have now been stripped out. Last September, traffic was hovering around the 150,000 mark. In January this year, the site claimed 128,380 unique users and 1.56 million page impressions.

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