tops nation’s newspapers in per-user time

Say what you will about the ads, pagination and page refreshes: it seems users just can’t quit, at least compared to the nation’s biggest newspapers.

According to Editor & Publisher, topped the Top 30 — including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post — in “time spent per person” in August. Nielsen Net Ratings says the Strib users spent 20 minutes, 47 seconds on the site, compared to around 14 minutes for the Times and Journal, and 10 minutes for the Post.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was newspapering’s runner-up, with 17 minutes, 31 seconds.

The Strib’s stats are actually down from a year ago, but Nielsen says it made its panel eight times larger since last summer.

Few insiders take the Nielsen numbers as gospel, but still, the Strib has shown consistent strength in this area, and even with usability complaints, their web folks deserve a hat tip.

Of course, 20 minutes a month works out to about 40 seconds a day, which seems like an absurdly low number to build an economic model on. Obviously, we’re talking a lot of drive-by viewership and a smaller number of hardcores like me, who rack up 20 minutes on the site before breakfast. The hardcores will be the ones targeted for things like the Vikings paywall — one reason the Strib goal is to entice tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands.

If you believe Nielsen’s other number, the Strib has about 2 million unique users, more than any other local media outlet by a lot. So if my math is correct, we all spent a collective 691,667 hours staring at the site last month. There has to be some revenue in that.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Wayne Swickley on 09/24/2009 - 11:16 am.

    Just my personal observation, David, but I find that I spend an inordinate amount of time on the Strib site just trying to FIND things! It’s the most poorly organized newspaper site that I regularly visit, and the search feature is for crap. The 20 minute figure doesn’t surprise me a bit.

  2. Submitted by Michael Mischke on 09/24/2009 - 11:22 am.


    You’re right. Forty seconds a day IS an absurdly low number to build an economic model on. It’s even more absurd when you consider that the time spent on most newspaper websites has actually fallen since the election-inflated totals of last year. But the biggest problem newspaper websites have is this: Most people don’t look at online ads, and only a tiny fraction of those who do click through. That certainly was my experience when I traded ad for ad with when you guys started up.

    The Internet may be greatest communication tool ever devised, but its effectiveness as an advertising medium has a long way to go. And that’s only one of many reasons for the plummeting price of on-line ads.

    Michael Mischke, Publisher
    The Villager

  3. Submitted by karl anderson on 09/24/2009 - 01:03 pm.

    This made my point.

    Newspaper readership is not down, it is growing.

    The challenge is monetizing it.

    And if the can’t make it with those huge numbers that doesn’t bode well for Minnpost or any news outlet for that matter.

    Enough venting. I need to get back to the TASTE section of my morning PAPER…..

  4. Submitted by frank watson on 09/24/2009 - 01:16 pm.

    I just returned from my 90 minute lunch with this page up the whole time. That should add a few ticks to the counter.

  5. Submitted by David Brauer on 09/24/2009 - 01:26 pm.

    All – thanks for the substantive comments.

    Mike – agreed, though obviously everyone is trying to work for better click-through rates, or seek out advertisers for whom impressions are important enough (image ads). That’s not great for media with existing ad bases, though.

    Karl – I have always agreed with you about mass audiences. Advertisers want those, they’re just not willing to pay newspapers for that privilege. Also, audience is arguably shrinking locally (I’ve written about this in the Strib’s case), so the mass advantage weakens. Harder to monetize national mass, where the drive-by growth is coming from.

    Mike & Karl – I think the difficulties you rightly point to are why orgs like MinnPost can’t be solely or overwhelmingly ad-based. Taking scale into account, we have two advantages over places like the Strib: proportionately lower overhead, and a model with proportionately higher non-ad revenues (memberships, foundation sponsorships, other noncommercial support).

    I think you’ll actually see the Strib going this way somehow, though it’s budget will shrink and some of its mass advantage will be lost. Just a guess.

    Frank – are you saying Strib readers are lazier about closing their browsers than other newspaper readers?

  6. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 09/24/2009 - 03:20 pm.

    I expect the Strib to crash big time one of these months. The time readers spend at their site is due to excessive page refreshes, very short online pages, and comment baiting. I’d love to see what percentage of this time spent online comes from commenters.

    These are all short-term strategies and most of the Strib’s online readers will wise up and look for alternative ways of getting their local news.

    And no, I don’t expect the Vikings coverage paywall is going to keep ’em reading the Strib. That’s the easiest end around of all. Try putting “vikings football” into Google and count how many millions of matches you get.

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