From Newsstand to Newsreader: The Continuing Quest for Content

November 5th, 2009
by

by Stephen Lawrence*
I’ve now seen more New Jersey newspapers and news sites than most have probably seen in their lifetime.  I’m quite sure of it – not that that’s a bad thing.

My latest project has consisted of compiling, cataloging, and comparing the Garden State’s newspapers to their respective websites.  Not in terms of content, though, only for presence.  (A discussion of the big “C” – content – will come later.)

In terms of circulation, here’s a fun fact that struck me regarding the N.J. 200. (Note:  These numbers are based primarily on the 2008 Audit

Flickr Image: erjkprunczyk

Flickr Image: erjkprunczyk

Bureau of Circulations figures.)

  • 95 percent are less than 50,000
  • 77 percent are less than 25,000
  • 46 percent are less than 10,000

Almost half of the N.J. 200 have a circulation of around 10,000 or less.  Yes, while many of these are local editions, they’re still individually published even in these dark days for the newspaper industry.

Not so simple was the cataloging. The first lesson I learned from this project is not to trust the website address that many papers publish as part of their masthead.  Re-directs and dead links are common. Thanks to the New Jersey Press Association (http://www.njpa.org/njpa/), I was able to fill in the blanks.

Another interesting discovery: very few papers have stand-alone sites.  In fact, the vast majority are relegated to local content pages on larger sites maintained by their publishing group.  For example, the nj.com site hosts the content of a dozen New Jersey papers whose combined print circulation exceeds 1,000,000.  Northjersey.com, centraljersey.com, and southjerseylocalnews.com gather together major elements of content from their associated papers.  Then there are numerous smaller papers which are distributed out of the My Town Navigator Network (http://www.mytownnavigator.com), which is closer to a community, than a newspaper homepage. Only five percent of the NJ 200 had no locatable web presence.   

How does the print to web content ratio suffer in aggregate sites such as these?   There are some very lean sites out there; most only present the ‘above the fold’ stories. My guess is that local newspapers, such as the N.J. 200, aren’t the only ones holding back some of their content from the web.

In my next post, I will discuss the next “C” – comparison – and talk about what content is missing from newspaper sites.

*Bio: A native of Mesa, Arizona, I graduated from the University of Arizona with a major in Near Eastern Studies. I began my career with BurrellesLuce in 1997 as a reader. As with most readers, I developed a special relationship with my assigned papers – those small town dailies and weeklies of the same flavor that my family had been employed in for two generations. Currently, I hold the position of quality assurance specialist, troubleshooting daily production issues. Outside interests include woodworking, and keeping my wife and dog happy. Twitter: BurrellesLuce; Facebook: BurrellesLuce

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