Oh, woe is journalism. Daily newspapers are dying. People don’t trust traditional media anymore. The American (and global) consumer has turned to blogs and social networks for news in the new media era.

November research from the Pew Internet and American Life project shows that only 29 percent of the public thinks the news media gets their facts straight and a paltry 18 percent think they deal fairly with both sides of a news issue. Online news has eclipses all channels other than local TV as the top source for local news for Americans. Online news has eclipsed all channels other than television for American’s source for national and international news.

It’s over. Put a nail in the coffin of newspapers and traditional media.

Or wake up and get a healthy dose of reality.

Just for gits and shiggles, I decided to run traffic comparisons of local newspapers and top news, politics or entertainment blogs in several markets across the U.S. Without exception, newspaper websites still kick blogging’s ass.

In Philadelphia, Philly.com trounces Phillyist and Philebrity:

Philadelphia website comparisons: Traditional Media vs. Blogs

In Albuquerque, The Journal has around 150 times the traffic of DukeCityFix, a leading entertainment and events blog.

Albuquerque Website Comparison - Traditional Media vs. Blogs

In Portland, The Tribune is hardly worried about competition from The Portlander.

Website Traffic comparison - Portland traditional media and Portland blogs

In Chicago, the distance between the Tribune and Chicagoist is like that between the Cubs and a World Series title.

Website traffic comparison - Traditional media versus blogs - Chicago

And in my hometown of Louisville, The Ville Voice gets around one percent of the traffic of the Courier-Journal.

Web traffic comparison - Traditional media versus blogs - Louisville

Certainly, Compete.com data is not 100 percent accurate, but I would venture to guess none of the blogs would surrender their actual analytics for fear we would know their actual traffic, which I’d be willing to bet many are reporting much higher than it actually is. The simple fact of the matter is that while local news and information blogs have niche audiences that are appealing to a number of advertisers for a number of reasons, when you look at traditional media versus new media in online news, the majority of people still prefer their news from the traditional media houses.

Just another reminder that social media is an emerging and relevant channel to which public relations professionals should pitch stories and brands should connect with audiences. But the rest of the world is outside the bubble. Forget about them at your own peril.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

    Hey Jason,
    I appreciate the quick comparisons. It is a healthy reminder of how things really are outside of the non-stop stream of information many of us are used to immersing ourselves into each day.

    I wonder how some of these traditional media organizations are fairing when you compare their paper circulation to the regional blogs.

    The most interesting numbers were those illustrating how little trust folks have for traditional news. Do you think those numbers would be similarly reflected if polled about new media blog sources? Do people somehow trust them more due to some sort of personal rapport with the writer(s)? Curious.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Good point, Adam. I'm not sure about the Courier-Journal, but I think the circulation might be in the 200K range. (Guessing.) So it's still significantly more than it's nearest online competitor's website traffic. Not sure that holds in all markets, but it's a good angle to take.

  • greggorman

    Hi Jason,

    I still get the dead tree version of the paper. And I do read the local paper online.

    Yet, I wonder if this is not similar to when cable was introduced. For years, no single cable channel approached broadcast TV channel for viewership, yet the sum total of all the channels diluted broadcast TV's monopolies on viewership.

    While no single blog approaches the local newspapers' traffic, the sum total of online sources does dilute the power of the local newspaper.

    So your overall point (the final sentence) holds:

    “Forget about them at your own peril.”

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I would agree, Greg, that the sum total of a city's blogs probably can equal the local paper. Not sure it always does, but that's kind of like saying you'll put your bets on all the other teams to win the women's NCAA Tournament instead of Connecticut. You're safer with the likely choice. (Bad analogy, but somewhat appropriate.)

  • http://asimplerway.com/ Evo Terra

    More important to me than the gap is the consistency of the data. Sure, Compete is inaccurate, but it's fairly equally inaccurate and the scale tends to be on target.

    Still, this is an interesting wakeup call. I've been a reluctant marketer in the digital space for over a decade, happily decrying the death of print. And with all the sabre rattling as their parent companies lament the lack of subscription dollars, it seems that the online traffic alone ought to make up for that with ad dollars. Now if they can just get their rate-cards in line. :)

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Hear ya on the rate cards! And I think it will still take some time before print and broadcast media figure out a web-centric approach, but they will and when they do, they'll still be where most people go for online content. Thanks, Evo.

  • scotttownsend

    I still enjoy the tactile sensation of reading a newspaper.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      But not the ink stains on my fingers. Heh.

  • http://www.louisville.com/ Dan Vonderheide

    In the end it all comes down to resources, I think. Traditional media companies may not hold the audience they once did thanks to fragmentation, but their audience is still huge in comparison to the smallish blogs you've compared here (who, by the way, are most likely 1-10 person operations). So they have the ability to promote their online properties in their traditional outlets without having to rely on SEO and a Vaynerchuck/Crush It method of promotion.

    Take, for instance, local TV websites. For the most part, they are doing nothing more than regurgitating their over-the-air content (70% weather, 20% police-blotter bloodbath, 5% sports, 5% local interest stuff). There isn't much of value to their online content, but the great mass of their viewers have never heard of local blogs that are telling great stories because they've been told by the TV station that their website has everything they need.

    The right company with the right financial backing and the right domain could do some serious market share damage to local papers. It just seems that either nobody is up to the challenge or their content with the share they ARE getting.

    One of these days, consumers will have an actual alternative to the old-school papers. But first it's gonna take somebody with deep pockets to pay the journalists that were laid off in the past 18 months.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I see where you're coming from Dan, but I really think the notion that local TV (or newspaper) sites as regurgitating or aggregating sites is moot when you see that the majority of the available audience goes there for their information. Yes, a blog with good backing and staff, etc., can compete, but doesn't that just make them a newspaper or TV station that does web-only content? The media is struggling to figure out the web-centric approach, but they will and when they do, blogs will still be a blip on the radar. Trained journalists, ethical standards of reporting, citing, sourcing, etc., have value and merit. They always will.

      • http://www.louisville.com/ Dan Vonderheide

        Madison.com is neck and neck with courier-journal.com in traffic. No print version for that paper, it just lives at madison.com. I guess my point isn't the media company going by the wayside…it's the medium itself. But removing the barrier to entry of owning and operating a massive printing press and employing all the manpower that goes with it evens the playing fields for a well-organized and smart startup with some motivation. Those “trained journalists” (and the standards they bring with them) are finding themselves as self-employed bloggers more and more. Once somebody figures out how to finance getting them all under the same masthead online, local papers/media companies will then have a real fight on their hands. And if they continue to stick to the same old business model (with dwindling circulation and skyrocketing ad rates), they'll most likely lose enormous market share.

        Thanks for making me think today ;-)

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          If I'm not mistaken, Dan, Madison.com is to the Wisconsin State Journal what
          Kentucky.com is to the Herald-Leader – It's not a stand-alone
          blog/website/news magazine. But I could be wrong. Regardless, Rich Becker's
          point above (or below I forget since I respond via email) is spot-on. It's
          about the traditional outlets finding web-centric monetization sources.
          They've got to get more creative with their advertising, not their content.
          And that's going to be painful for the church and state separation of the
          content and ads that has kept that journalistic sanctity over the years. The
          future will be interesting, for sure.

  • stringsn88keys

    First thought: Is it fair to compare a news site to a blog, especially for local? Newspaper sites are aggregators of information as much as they are publishers of news–think classifieds, weather, crime reports, sports scores…

    I think local news is still in the hands of traditional media partly because it takes established relationships to even get a seed of information to start a story. A local blogger may develop relationships to be able to cover one small segment of local news very well, but that hardly creates enough content to build an audience outside mostly faithful followers. Of course, if you to be able to compare people who visited looking for information only on a topic that the local blogger covers, you'd probably get a much more competitive snapshot.

    Is there any similar comparison for national/international coverage?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I agree the comparison isn't fair, but a fair number of public relations professionals are starting to see blogs as a primary media source. This post was an attempt at bringing a bit of levity to the situation. It's not that blogs aren't important or significant in outreach, but let's be real: Worrying over 4,000 uniques a month versus a media outlet with 400,000 uniques per month, in the grand scheme of things, isn't smart.

  • http://twitter.com/anthonycloskey Anthony Closkey

    I don't think comparing one blog to all of a newspaper is fair. I doubt that blog covers every facet the city that the paper does, but there are other blogs in that city who make up the difference.

    How about comparing traffic per posted article?

    • Corey Dilley

      Completely agree, Anthony. It's like comparing NBC viewership to the streams online of one NBC TV show.

      It almost seems like the author decided to make a point, then dig up any statistics that would tell his story. It's then put into graph form so a broad audience (including those who won't ask questions) can understand it.

      • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

        Nice try, Corey. I happen to be one of the few bloggers who wants his audience to ask questions and challenge the notions. The comparison between NBC and online streams of one show does have some parallel … IF the presiding opinion was that TV was dead and online streaming of shows was the only thing that worked anymore. That's not the case yet.

        In the public relations world, a lot of people get hung up on blogs and blogger outreach and the new face of new media when the majority of people still count on the old standards for news. This post was simply an attempt at reminding people that the leading blog competitor in at least the markets I found (at a 100-percent accuracy rate) wasn't really a competitor at all of the local paper's website.

        Happy to entertain more push back. Thanks for the comment.

      • http://mediaemerging.com Scott Hepburn

        I'll vouch for Jason's credibility — he welcomes constructive criticism and those who challenge his premises or his logic.

        I tend to agree (sorta) with Anthony, though, Jason. The competitive threat to newspapers isn't a single competitor (a.k.a., one blog), but the collective impact of thousands of self-publishing authors. Local newspapers, who once were gatekeepers/middlemen of national and international news for local audiences, also face increasing competition from outside their geographic area.

        From the PR point-of-view, I agree with you (and others): Neglecting “the big dog” is short-sighted. But there IS one challenge: Even if viewership is steady, newsroom staffs are dwindling. In short, there are fewer people to pitch. A good media relations pro still pitches to the traditional news outlets, but that'll only last as long as someone's there to answer the phone.

        • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

          Not disagreeing with you, there, Scott. What the local papers need to
          recognize (and monetizing this appropriately is a separate challenge) is
          that they aren't the gate keepers of national and international news
          anymore, we get that info elsewhere. And blogs are STARTING to scoop them on
          local news and insight as well. If they would focus on their beats and not
          wire copy sourcing, they may just find they'll hold on to that web audience.
          How to monetize it, though … different problem. Thanks for the push back.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I'd love to do just that, Anthony, but unfortunately don't have access to analytics for other people's sites. I can just go with what the tools out there provide. Certainly blogs have a niche audience that is important to consider, just like they may have very distinct areas of coverage (The Ville Voice in Louisville is mostly politics and doesn't have a lot of other sections, authors, etc.) but the point is that the notion that blogs are somehow replacing traditional media is disproven with these analytics. Certainly if it were this case in one market, I wouldn't make a claim. But across the board in any market, I tried to pick the top local newspaper alternative and each pales in comparison to overall traffic.

      Yes, it's just one angle and one big bucket stat, but the point, I think holds true.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    But not the ink stains on my fingers. Heh.

  • http://copywriteink.com/ Rich Becker

    Jason,

    Newspaper readership is up and continues to be up. That was never the problem. The problem is in how to monetize it. Newspapers are having a hard time supporting their print product, selling advertisements, and finding subscribers.

    Information wants to be free, but someone has to pay for it. And dailies have yet to figure out how.

    Best,
    Rich

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Fair point, Mr. B. Thanks for stopping by again. My hope is the papers and
      other media figure out the web-centric model soon so we can all get back to
      normal. Heh.

      • http://copywriteink.com/ Rich Becker

        Me too Jason. Or, maybe we can get back to better than normal. Ha. :)

        I read the feed every time I see a new post. Always useful stuff.

        Best,
        Rich

  • http://davidwmullen.com David Mullen

    I can't tell you how strongly I agree with you Jason. I've even had a few posts on my blog that warn of the absurdity of forsaking all traditional media and focusing 100% of efforts in new media. That line of thinking can only work for a very small number of businesses, in my opinion.

    1. Ignoring traditional media ignores a decent percentage of most companies' – especially larger companies – customers and how they prefer to receive information.

    2. Even if your primary target is new media savvy, seeing your brand in other ways and places – online advertising, TV advertising, print advertising, news articles in the local newspaper, etc. – increases the chances they'll recall your brand and also can serve as reinforcement of the experiences they have with your brand in new media.

    In short, most companies need a strategically planned, well executed marketing mix to successfully market products and services. Social media is an important part of that mix for many brands. But it's part of a larger mix, not the sole savior or the second coming of you know who. I'm a big advocate for integrating social media into your marketing mix, but I don't wear a WWSMD bracelet for a reason.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Amen, Brother David. Sing it, my man. A really good example recently is
      GoToMeeting.com. I've been a customer/user for a long time but I keep seeing
      their ads in print, on TV, etc. I love their product and service but they
      wouldn't grow as a company as fast without seeing the traditional side as a
      needle mover. Good for them for doing that and not taking the “let's just do
      Twitter” approach.

  • http://amymengel.com amymengel

    Perhaps a bigger piece to this story is how important local content is to people (whether they get it from a print newspaper, a hyperlocal blog or a newspaper Web site). People care about information that's relevant to the area where they live.

    From a PR perspective, for many organizations a local media hit has much more impact than a story on CNN or in a national newspaper. Making sure local news outlets, whether they are “old” or “new”, can easily find your news and that local audiences can easily share it with others is important for PR professionals to remember.

    @amymengel
    readMedia
    http://www.readmedia.com

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Excellent point, Amy. Also ladders up or back to the discussions here with
      Scott and others, too. Local blogs may well be better sources for each
      community (or certain ones). But if the traditional, trusted resources for
      news become more adept at delivering the local coverage, mixed with opinion
      and conversational opportunities (not to be confused with anonymous
      commenting trash boards), then blogs may not stand much of a chance. In my
      opinion. Thanks for the comment.

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  • jeffespo

    One of the more interesting numbers to look at would be the print vs. online consumption of these papers. The traditional media outlets also have been moving to more of a breaking news-blog style with stories updated as information becomes available. Boston.com had a great example of this during an accident on the train system.

    The numbers could also suggest that while we can get our news from blogs, twitter and any other site you can shake a stick at, the trust level is not always there. You may also verify local news by checking out the city's paper after the blog post.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Good thoughts Jeff. Thanks for the ideas.

  • http://digitalgreenlight.com/ Carl

    All of the mainstream outlets included traffic for their classified sections. If you want to make it a fair comparison perhaps you should add craigslist's traffic to that of the blogs?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Heh. Fair point, Carl. Obviously there's a bit of apples to oranges
      here, but I think everyone sees what I was shooting for. Thanks for
      the reality check.

  • http://www.4over4.com/ Large Format Prints

    Although social media has become exceedingly important, traditional media is still relevant. It's the same if we compare e-books with libraries, although e-books are present, nothing beats the feel of a real book- I think that the same applies here.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Can't say that I disagree too much. Traditional outlets have problems
      for certain? Butthe notion they'll disappear seems way out of the
      realm of possibility to me too.

  • http://twitter.com/JohnAtkinson JohnAtkinson

    Jason's right, “traditional media” is far from irrelevant.

    To echo Rich's comments, traditional media's problem is not a traffic problem, its a revenue problem.

    According to the 2009 State of the News Media Report, traffic to the top 50 news sites rose 27% (but print & classified ad revenue has been decimated and online ad revenues nowhere near make up the delta).

    Great info about the changing news industry here: http://www.stateofthemedia.org/2009/index.htm
    (checkout the Executive Summary, unless you have a whole day to read the full report :)

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Great info and additional thought John. Thanks for this!

  • billgrunau

    I agree and don't see blogs replacing newspapers anytime soon, I would even say ever, but it is not a fair comparison. Blogs are basically digital op-ed pages, news papers are the ink version of NPR, CNN or my iGoogle page. Blogs have their place in news-journalism as a digital voice that has democracized the media – now everyone has a voice, e.g. you and me right here.

    The more important point is that newspapers and traditional media have not figured out how to monetize their intellectual property – their content. They let the horses out of the coral long ago giving away digital content and rounding it up and getting it back will be next to impossible. They have tried to charge for visiting their sites many times and failed at every attempt. Traditional media is HUGELY important to the future of digital media because we all depend on their content and thought leadership from their talented journalists. They need to figure out a way to be relevant in the digital landscape, bring new value, and monetize their digital products in an acceptable way for today.

    My suggestion is that they should develop better websites that are actually interesting and user friendly. I love iGoogle, CNN, and NPR for my news. Sadly must admit I have not bought or even read a hard copy newspaper in years.
    Bill Grunau

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for the ideas Bill. Great take on the issue. Very much
      appreciate your comment.

  • http://themaria.me/ themaria

    Interesting discussion, Jason! I agree that traditional news sources aren't going away any time soon. It's a trust issue, I think. We have read papers for decades, and have come to expect that they are an authority on news. The social media revolution definitely upended some of that notion, and although many are excited about citizen journalism and “everyone is a publisher” approach, many are still wary of sources that aren't affiliated with major news networks. Reminds me of Clay Shirky's “Here Comes Everybody” – there's still some cache to being a published author, because it implies that the person passed through somewhat rigorous filters. Same with news sources. So much info out there that necessity for filtering is more pronounced than before. And major news sources (online or offline) provide that comfort.

    I agree with @billgrunau in that news outlets need to do a better job of monetizing their content, and making their sites more usable and relevant.

    Good stuff! (As always)

  • halpeat

    Well, yes. And I wish you'd also come over some time and fight the good fight on behalf of travel media big and small, and all “traditional” (whatever that is) as opposed to the New Messiah oops New Media Travel Bloggerati. Have yourself a laugh as they expound at great length on why all traditional media is a sinking Titanic along with all journalists big and small who still have any stake in it, while they have found the sole wave of the future to catch. Curious though, isn't it, that they expound at great length about the sinking ship but never tell you what that oh-so-successful “business model” online of theirs is? You tell me, why anyone who is genuinely successful at any enterprise of any kind in this life spends that degree of time and word length examining the supposedly sinking downside but never reveals the details on the all-saving upside? Thanks, Jason, keep on telling it like it is, and not just like what people who are actually more desperate than certain are hoping it will be like.

  • http://www.4over4.com/ Large Format Prints

    It just occurred to me that by drawing full comparisson between blogs and newspapers is not the same as just comparing blogs with editorials; considering that blogs are much more opinionated than newspaper articles (theoretically).

    Furthermore, one of the reasons newspapers are perceived as not containing facts is because they are usually done the day before; whereas online media can update it every minute. Regarldess, newspaper is still a good source of initial information.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Certainly not arguing that point. The comparison was drawn to make a point,
      not be an apples to apples analogy. Thanks for the comment.

  • http://www.4over4.com/ Large Format Prints

    It just occurred to me that by drawing full comparisson between blogs and newspapers is not the same as just comparing blogs with editorials; considering that blogs are much more opinionated than newspaper articles (theoretically).

    Furthermore, one of the reasons newspapers are perceived as not containing facts is because they are usually done the day before; whereas online media can update it every minute. Regarldess, newspaper is still a good source of initial information.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Certainly not arguing that point. The comparison was drawn to make a point,
    not be an apples to apples analogy. Thanks for the comment.

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