Newspapers failing to diversify and grow younger audiences.
Greg Harmon of Borrell Associates, who has been tracking readership trends for more than a decade said that “the average print reader is a female nearing 60, when the average age of the national population is 43.” He continues “The user of a newspaper website is a little less female than the print subscriber and just over 50 years old. Our research shows that print and web readers are basically the same people – and that the average age of the online newspaper audience keeps getting one year older every year.”
So how do we know that newspapers are doing a poor job diversifying their audience? Professor Rich Gordon of Northwestern University completed a study in September 2012 based on 300 of Chicago’s largest news-oriented sites. His main focus was to determine who was linking to whom so that he could better understand whether the readers of a particular news source were coming in via a third party (new audience), or simply being redirected from a sister site (existing audience).
After studying the results, it was clear that newspapers were gaining the bulk of their link-driven traffic by steering existing readers from place to place on their own sites. Specifically, he found that 81.7% of the links generating traffic for sites associated with the Chicago Tribune came from within the newspaper’s family of sites and that 80.4% of the link-driven traffic at the Sun-Times Media Group came from its corporate cousins.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with redirecting readers to various places within the same newspaper company. However, the lack of engaging new audiences can, and will, be detrimental in the end.
One example of how newspapers can leverage new and younger audiences is by linking to third party content. An example of this would be The Chicago Tribune’s ChicagoNow.Com. They aggregate content from many Chicago area bloggers covering just about any topic out there. This allows blog users to become engaged and perhaps stumble upon valuable staff generated content on the main Tribune site.
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