Hitwise: Newspaper Sites Draw Out-of-Market Readers

Geography matters to daily newspapers' print editions, but less so to their Internet versions.

Proof of this is in online data provider Hitwise Inc.'s tracking of large dailies with a significant national focus for the four weeks ended May 21.

The New York Times' Web site at www.nytimes.com received 72.2 percent of its U.S. traffic from visitors outside New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The Washington Post's site at www.washingtonpost.com garnered 68.6 percent of its U.S. traffic from visitors outside Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.

The San Francisco Chronicle's site at www.sfgate.com and the Los Angeles Times' site at www.latimes.com got 50.4 percent and 43.84 percent, respectively, from outside California.

This suggests that major city dailies have a large online audience beyond the typical footprint of their print paper distribution.

The phenomenon of falling geographic walls also applies to regional and local newspapers, Hitwise discovered.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's site at www.philly.com got 45 percent of its visitor traffic from outside Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Also, the Houston Chronicle generated 36.7 percent of its traffic to the site at www.chron.com from outside Texas.

The Detroit Free Press welcomed 46 percent of visitors to its site at www.freep.com from within its home state of Michigan. Online readers from states like Florida, California, Texas, New York and Georgia contributed another 18 percent of traffic to the Free Press site.

Hitwise suggests that small and regional newspapers can be most competitive if their print focus is on their local markets. Yet, as seen with the Free Press, newspapers also should develop their online strategies keeping in mind markets beyond their core local readership.

Factors such as national interest in major local stories, the sites' use as reference content and ties to travelers and former residents play key roles in driving non-core-market traffic.

Hitwise research also shows immense churn in traffic to news sites. For the four weeks ended May 21, 26.2 percent of all visits to sites in its print news and media category originated from another news site, both print and non-print-affiliated.

Also, 18.8 percent of visits to print-affiliated news sites came directly from search engines and directories, 9 percent from entertainment sites and 7.2 percent from e-mail services.

Print-news sites receive considerable traffic from other news sites, but they also lose more visitors — 25.8 percent — to them versus any other category. Also, 10.6 percent of visitors to print-news sites are lost to entertainment locations, 9.8 percent to business and finance and 7.4 percent to lifestyle.

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