Average visit at newspaper site: 1.1 minutes
The good news for publishers, as reported this week by the Newspaper Association of America, is that the number of unique visitors accessing newspaper websites grew to a record 161 million in March. This represents a 19% increase in unique visitors over the prior year and 66.6% of all adults in the United States, according to data provided to the industry organization by the comScore analytics service.
The bad news for publishers is that the average visitor in March spent only 1.1 minutes per day at a digital newspaper venue, according to supplementary data supplied to Newsosaur by comScore. The data show that the engagement rate at newspapers falls well under the time spent at competing digital destinations.
In comparison to the 1.1 minutes spent daily at newspaper sites, the average time spent on social media is 33 minutes per day and the average time spent at search sites is 3.6 minutes per day, said Andrew Lipsman, a vice president of comScore.
Engagement at newspapers is weaker than the dwell time at other news sites, too. In a group of dozens of sites tracked by comScore that includes the likes of Yahoo News, NBC News, BuzzFeed and CNN, the average visit is 3.8 minutes per day. As illustrated below, even weather sites do better than newspapers, hanging on to visitors an average of 1.5 minutes per day.
Lipsman said the number of unique visitors reported across all categories includes anyone who accesses a digital venue at any time in a month. “All someone has to do is read the news at some point in the course of the month to qualify as a unique visitor,” said Lipsman. “The time on site will vary a lot depending on the person. Some read every day. Some visit once a month. And a lot of people are in between.”
Commenting on the disparity in engagement across media types, Lipsman noted that lots of newspaper content is consumed at portals like Google News and other aggregation services. “There is a lot more consumption of general news content at those sites than there are for specific papers,” he said in a telephone interview. “And, remember, newspapers are read offline, as well.”
The popularity of newspaper articles at aggregation sites doesn’t generate revenues for publishers. This may be one reason that digital advertising sales at newspapers advanced 1.5% in 2013 while over-all digital sales grew by 17%.
Although there is little newspapers can do about aggregators usurping some unknown chunk of their traffic, publishers should not be content with merely celebrating the year-to-year lift in unique individuals visiting their sites.
Now that newspapers are attracting the attention – at least once a month – of two-thirds of the country, publishers need to encourage the visitors to stick around with compelling content, robust utility and the passionate community engagement that rivets users to the social media.