Let's quickly get rid of gradually

I missed this Bivings Group study of America's Top 100 newspaper Web sites when it came out last month, but the Center for Media Research pointed to me to it in an email this morning.


The report says the key challenges for newspaper Web sites are:

  • Lengthening the amount of time users spend on newspaper Web sites;
  • Expanding the purpose behind newspaper Web site visits;
  • Converting page views and stickiness into revenue;
  • Improving advertiser incentives for purchasing online ads on newspaper Web sites.

OK, we've got the rocket science out of the way.

The research data from the report is available in an Excel spreadsheet and it includes data on the News Sentinel, The Tennessean and the Memphis Commercial Appeal in Tennessee.

It's an excellent snapshot of where newspaper Web sites are now and the changes that have occurred since the consulting group's last survey.

The issues and opportunities it identifies aren't eye-opening, but it does encapsulate a lot of points in one 35-page report.

The one paragraph version is:

Newspapers are moving too slowly to adopt the ways of the Web. "This slow and gradual pace has cost newspaper web sites in terms of ad dollars and users, who have turned to other sources for classified ads and generic news content."

Four improvements are suggested:

  1. Monetize RSS feeds with ads.
  2. Improve online classified sections
  3. Expand the functionality suite
  4. Improve user experience through design and layout

Except for No. 1, which is a relative newcomer, I heard these 10 years ago, five years ago and (including No. 1) last year.

The top-level focus is certainly there this year now that "some day" has become "some day very soon." (I think I've heard that before, too, but I'm trying to be an optimist.)

Hopefully, when the Bivings Group does this report again, "gradual" won't be the main descriptor of newspapers' Internet strategy.

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