How Income From News Readers Stagnates Despite Growth

Here is the current dilemma, for many a consumer online news publisher, summed up in a graph pair…

In slides presented to investors today, Schibsted‘s Norwegian publisher Media Norge says: “Overall traffic levels may be reaching saturation and online ad prices are stagnating…”

Most publishers know this, but few actually disclose their average revenue per user. Media Norge is a stand-out in that regard. Giving us a rare insight, it acknowledges average income per monthly unique visitor of two Norwegian kroner (that’s $0.32 or £0.21) is now less than it was back in 2006.

So Media Norge, which publishes Norway’s largest paper Aftenposten and classifieds site, told investors it will “focus on improving traffic quality and value – loyalty over heads and eyeballs“.

This sounds an awful lot like Mirror Group Digital director Matt Kelly’s oft-argued thesis that readers from search engines are too fleeting to monetize. In Kelly’s case, has hived football and showbiz news off to separate niche sites in a bid to cultivate loyalty. In News Corp.’s case, The Times has blocked search engines from crawling its site.

For the Scandinavian group, like other publishers, the search for “quality” will go hand-in-hand with a resumption in selling content. “The climate for selling content to readers online is improving,” its slides say. “Media Norge plans experimentation, launches and enhanced monetization.”

It’s also planning to shave 100 million kroner ($16.2 million or £10.4 million) from its online costs through synergies and sharing of group facilities.

Media Norge Q2 revenue is 8.5 percent up from last year, though Aftenposten specifically has come in three percent down, but both posted big pre-tax profit rises after cutting costs.