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Good News Amid the Gloom: Online Newspaper Readership Soars

One industry had a terrific December: the online newspaper "industry."

We put that word in quote because, well, no one's quite figured out how to make it an industry; i.e., sustainably profitable.

But in these times, we'll take any good news we can get. And those of us in the newspaper industry have been living a smaller version of the global economic collapse for the past several years -- average national U.S. daily newspaper circulation has been in steady decline since 1987.

So today's news from Nielsen that traffic at the Top 10 newspaper Web sites jumped 16 percent in December, we accept with open arms.

A lot of the surge is likely attributable to the widespread interest in the presidential election. It's worth noting the big bump at the Wall Street Journal comes at the end of the first full year of Rupert Murdoch ownership. Partly attributable to the ongoing financial crisis as well as Murdoch's global platform for promoting WSJ.com, we'd guess.

And what are those guys at the L.A. Times doing to drive those numbers?

Here are the numbers for monthly unique viewers in December of last year compared to December 2007 for the five most-visited newspaper sites:

Paper (December 2008) Pct. change
1. New York Times (18.2 million) 6%
2. USA Today (11.4 million) 15%
3. Washingtonpost.com (9.5 million) 12%
4. L.A. Times (7.9 million) 73%
5. Wall Street Journal (7.2 million) 34%

Of the top 10 newspaper sites, only Boston.com, the online site of the Boston Globe, managed to lose viewership in December, shedding 6 percent from December 2007.

-- Frank Ahrens
The Ticker is Twittering!

By Frank Ahrens  |  January 27, 2009; 1:20 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: newspaper industry  
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