Newspaper blogs are booming… But what does that really mean?

posted by Brendan Hodgson

So, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, and as reported by the CBC here, visits to newspapers’ online blogs are booming and growing faster than overall hits to the newspapers’ websites. 

Here’s the horse’s mouth: “Web traffic to the blog pages of the top 10 online newspapers grew 210 percent year over year in December (see Table 1). The overall unique audience growth to these online newspapers was 9 percent year over year. Unique visitors to blog pages accounted for 13 percent of their December 2006 Web traffic, up 9 percentage points from 4 percent in December 2005.”

But what does this really mean – particularly as it would appear that (according to the CBC), “blog visits are only a fraction of total visits. There were 29.9 million total visits to online papers in December, and 3.8 million visits to blogs.”?

Is it truly indicative of any meaningful trend, or does it simply imply that more and more columnists have editorially-endorsed blogs and that Canadians appear to enjoy reading opinion even if resides within the MSM? Clearly, it reflects the increasing attention being paid to social media by the MSM. But from a PR perspective, I’m not sure if it really changes anything… in fact, it resolves in my view a rather niggly issue of how one approaches a journalist who also hosts a popular “personal” blog? Do you approach that journalist as a blogger (with his or her own opinions and agenda) or as a representative of the media outlet that employs them - or both? In this instance, that issue is fundamentally resolved. Or is it?

6 Comments
18

Jan
2007

Jonathan Dunn

For me, this indicates a couple of things: 1. You’re right that it seems to reflect a growing interest in social media by the MSM. 2. It reveals a growing interest in social media in the general public (riding the wave of Time’s Year of You?). 3. It shows that non/late-adopters will read blogs when they are immediately accessible (say vs technorati or other such searches) and presumably credible as a result of being aligned with an already trusted info source.

However, what kind of assumptions are we making about this readership? What I’d like to compare is the growth rate of blog visits outside the MSM over the same period of time. Is this just a snap shot of an existing audience expanding it’s consumption or does it actually show new consumers taking their first tentative steps?

18

Jan
2007

Brendan

Jonathan, I’ll agree with your first and last points, but debate 2 and 3,in that people have read columnists online for years, in blog format or other, so I don’t think it should be implied that this indicates a general increase in ‘public’ adoption of social media.  That said, I would be interested in seeing what the level of engagement is now given the adoption of the blog format ie. With respect to comments and ‘conversation’.

I think the same could be said for your third point. Is the increase an indication of increased reader interest, or rather the simple act of migrating columnists onto a blog platform, and simply the movement of readers/viewers in following their favorite columnists.

All that to say, your last point is, I believe, the key.

My apologies for spelling errors-am typing from a mobile.

18

Jan
2007

Jonathan Dunn

Brendan,

A fair point. Perhaps the key lies in the fact that overall online readership is also growing (if it was flat or dropping, then we might be able to conclude it’s all the same people following their favourites to their blogs)? Of course, that just could be increased internet penetration outside urban centres or older demographics increasing their online activity.

19

Jan
2007

Dan

"Responding to a blog posting is like writing an instant letter to the editor," -Carolyn Creekmore

i’m sure it has to do with people wanting a direct connection to the source of their daily information.  Could the blog be the present day writers business card?

19

Jan
2007

Elliott Silverstein

Forgive me for being cynical, but isn’t it premature to lend credibility to year over year stats?  In many ways, blogging in 2006 reminds me of the state of the web in 1995/96.

19

Jan
2007

Brendan Hodgson

Hey brotha, if we could actually determine if the level of direct engagement between the media and its readership has increased, I think that would be something… but there’s no indication of that here.

And yes, Elliott, I think you’re right… although, I guess you have to start somewhere in order to create some kind of benchmark.

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