Nielsen on the Increase of Online News Readership

    December 22, 2008
    Chris Crum

Just after examining one print publisher’s idea that staying away from the web would be in the best interest for his business, I came across a post on the Nielsen Online Blog indicating that going online is the key to print media’s survival.

Chuck Schilling, Research Director for Agency & Media Analytics at Nielsen talks about how he has been through many major print publishing houses both as an employee and as a consultant, and how he has never seen such levels of economic pressure put on these establishments. Yeah, there is the eonomy, but there is also the fact that every day, more people are turning to the Internet to get their news.

Print publications might be in better shape, had they done some things differently over the years. Schilling explains:

During the last decade or so, many print companies engaged in subscription practices that grew their rate bases to artificially inflated levels (higher rate bases mean higher rates can be charged for an ad), while simultaneously liberally discounting their higher published ad rates. As a result, much of the industry’s perceived vitality was in fact illusory. At the same time that the primary target audience was being diluted, costs – including those associated with building, updating and maintaining world-class media websites – were on the rise, all of which has led to serious consequences. Recently, we’ve seen drops in circulation, significant layoffs, the shuttering of the Christian Science Monitor’s print edition, the Chicago Tribune’s bankruptcy, and a possible rate base reduction for Newsweek from a circulation of 2.6 million to 1 million – and this is just the beginning according to many industry reports.

On the ad sales front, newspapers have been hit particularly hard. The Newspaper Association of America (NAA) recently reported that newspaper print ad revenues were down 16% for Q2 ‘08, continuing a two year decline.

It’s not looking great for print, it’s hard to pretend that it is. I’m not quite convinced that it will be completely dead anytime soon, but the web is going to be an increasingly important element to the print organizations. Even TriCityNews, may have to give in sooner or later. Still, I don’t think I’m alone from the reader’s perspective in that I enjoy getting up in the morning, sitting in my recliner with a cup of coffee and the day’s issue of the local newspaper.