How readers use newspaper websites

Good piece in the Guardian by Jim Bilton of Wessenden Marketing on newspaper website metrics. The latest ABCe figures show a decline in December, but the most interesting parts are about how people use sites:

– Most users come in for one article only – so monthly unique user figures are misleading.
– “Users typically access more than one newspaper site to get their news – the average is 1.8 sites per person.
– On the one hand, 56% of newspaper site visits last for under one minute as people dive in for a quick search or update.
– On the other, dwell times are increasing significantly, with the average visit now standing at five minutes 36 seconds.”
As the piece points out: “All this is impacting on the architecture of websites, as home pages are used as the entry point to the site less frequently. In December, only 23% of visits were via the home page. Add in the fact that the interest levels shown in different areas of sites are shifting constantly, as are search terms, then editing a website becomes increasingly complex.”
What is clear is that editing and designing these sites as newspapers – discrete chunks of content with boundaries that people visit for some period of time, have a loyalty to, work their way through systematically, etc – doesn’t work. Perhaps it might in the future, but it isn’t what people do now. A good piece on this subject – how newspapers didnt really get the internet – on Slate, here.

Meanwhile, the online ads market is weakening, with prices down 20 per cent according to Advertising Age. The piece highlights some of the problems with the area: the “spray and pray” approach to buying ads; the huge inventories that sellers are only too ready to discount; the massive oversupply.

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