Newspaper Blogs: ‘Constant, Instantaneous Feedback’

Traffic to blog pages at the top 10 newspaper sites jumped 210 percent in December compared to the same month in 2005.

Moreover, blogs garnered 13 percent of all traffic to the sites during the month, compared to only 4 percent in December 2005, according to findings released Wednesday by Nielsen//NetRatings, a media and market research firm based in New York City.

The top online newspaper sites had 29.9 million unique visitors in December 2006, compared to 27.4 million in December 2005, or an increase of 9 percent, Nielsen reported.

Meanwhile, there were 3.8 million unique visits to blog pages during December 2006, compared to 1.2 million in December 2005, or an increase of 210 percent.

The top 10 newspaper sites analyzed by Nielsen were The New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Daily News.

Low Baseline

Although a tripling of traffic to blog pages may appear to be impressive, the baseline for the increase was low, acknowledged Nielsen Senior Director of Media Analytics Carolyn Creekmore.

“If you look back a year ago, there were a number of the top 10 newspapers that were just beginning to begin their blog arenas or simply didn’t have a blog arena within their newspaper content online,” she told TechNewsWorld.

“So the growth is clearly in large part stemming from creating a section like that within their newspaper arena,” she added.

There were very few blogs at newspaper Web sites a year ago, agreed Dan Kennedy, an assistant journalism professor at Northeastern University in Boston.

“There’s been an explosion,” he told TechNewsWorld. “At — the Boston Globe‘s Web site — there was very little in the way of blogs there a year ago. Now it just goes on and on and on. You have to hit the scroll bar several times just to see them all. And The New York Times seems to be launching a blog every week or so.

“Naturally, you’re going to get a big increase in readership of newspaper blogs now that there arenewspaper blogs,” he added.

Connecting With Readers

Blogs offer newspapers an opportunity to connect with their readers and their communities in new ways, maintained Creekmore.

“It gives them the opportunity to interact with their consumers in a real-time fashion that they haven’t been able to do previously offline,” she observed.

Not only can blogs be a valuable asset to a news organization as a whole, but they can be an asset to the reporters who write them, pointed out Kennedy of Northeastern.

“Good reporters always have tons of stuff that doesn’t make it into the paper, and some of it is pretty good, so blogs can be an outlet for that,” he said.

“Blogging is also a great way of doing some interacting with readers and generating ideas for the next story,” he added.

Constant Conversation

That interacting with readers is one of the major differences between being a blogger and a rank-and-file reporter, noted Kimberly Atkins, a former political reporter and blogger for the Boston Herald and now a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.

“There’s constant, instantaneous feedback,” she told TechNewsWorld. “It’s almost like a constant conversation that you’re having with the readers.

“That’s a good thing because you get a sense of what your readers are looking for, what they think about your stories and that helps you give them the product that they’re looking for.”

Her blog seemed to give her a newfound notoriety in the political universe that she covered, she added. “I got far more comments about the blog than about the stories that I wrote in the paper,” she said.

Melting Readership

As blogging is embraced by the mainstream media, the blogosphere will be transformed, contended Robert Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association in New Rochelle, N.Y.

“As we go forward, blogging as a distinct activity is going to melt away because large media organizations are going to see it as a good place to be for them,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“What you’re going to see is that in time, the vast majority of the reading of blogs will be done on mainstream news and media outlets like those covered in the Nielsen survey, and a much smaller percentage, a very small percentage of the reading of blogs, will be done at what has traditionally been thought of as blogs — these small, independent, snarky, personal sites,” he maintained.

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