Research: Going web-only could kill your newspaper

With the economics of news forcing the likes of Seattle-PI and Christian Science Monitor to abandon print for the web, doubtless dozens of other publishers are mulling the same option. Not so fast – ditching the dead tree could lose publishers the bulk of their revenue and even a sizable chunk of their web traffic, say researchers from London’s City University.

Could going web-only kill newspapers? Photograph: Makz/Flickr/Some rights reserved

Finnish business daily Taloussanomat stopped printing to focus on digital in December 2007. Though costs fell 52% by jettisoning print, Taloussanomat also lost 75% of revenue when print ads and subscriptions disappeared in favour of cheap web ads, leading the site to neglect innovation and researchers to conclude: “Ditching the print edition makes such a strategy financially worthwhile only if expenditure is at least 45% higher than income … If this finding holds true more widely, current profit levels can sustain newsprint for some time to come.”

While sites with print editions continued to grow traffic, within five months of losing cross-promotion from the newspaper,‘s unique users and page views were down 22% and 11% respectively, according to researchers Neil Thurman and Merja Myllylahti.

The problem for anyone considering online-only – readers spend just 3.5 minutes on-site and view just 2.6 pages, in’s experience; that’s about a quarter the time readers spent with the printed equivalent. And’s website is still loss-making.

Focusing on just one title, it’s unclear how far this study can be extrapolated more widely – but we know lost a fifth of its page views a week after axing its paper. Thurman has previously researched online news video and US visits to UK news sites. The Finnish study’s methodology was company interviews and newsroom observation.

From paidContent:UK:
Research: Going web-only could kill your newspaper
Britain’s got talent lets dream a dream
Broadband Content Bts: video; Tiscali VOD; FactualTV
EU tech group joins EC’s anti-Microsoft browser inquiry
Coke’s social reality drama on YouTube turns us a bit green
Industry Moves: Sony EU games chief executive; Disney-Jetix execs
300 years of Welsh newspapers going online soon
Mixmag publisher buying clubbers’ social net
SoundCloud gets €2.5m for hosting web songs

From paidContent:
Interview, Steve Brill, part 2: Lessons learned from Contentville
eBay to buy Korean auction site; Yahoo helps out
The Microsoft pub lives!
Former Seattle P-I staffers launch non-profit news site
Music firm Passalong networks to shut down
Macrovision buys metadata provider Muze for $16.5m
Twitter added five million users in march
Mags’ ad pages plunged 26% in first quarter
Interview: Mochila’s Bekkedahl: Balancing syndication and paywalls