With its long-delayed redesign expected to go live in the next six weeks, Time.com has its sights set on being a 24-7 news destination. It’s already shown significant traffic growth this year, and the site was on track to have a record December. But a look at an array of numbers shows how far the print-centric brand has to go to catch up in the intensely competitive news category, comprised of digital natives and network TV brands as well as other print stalwarts. Here’s how Time.com, whose redo is being closely watched as Time Inc. prepares to spin off as an independent company, stacks up against some of its rivals:
Traffic: With 19 million monthly unique visitors on mobile and desktop combined, Time.com ranks No. 16 (comScore, November), behind such heavy hitters as Yahoo News (99 million), BuzzFeed (53.3 million) and ABCNews.com (32.8 million). Time’s magazine content accounts for less than 5 percent of the site, but the fact that it’s behind a paywall may not be helping the site’s traffic.
Engagement: Time also lags its competitors when it comes to time spent on the site; it was in 20th place, with visitors averaging only 4 minutes (mobile and desktop, per comScore, November). “Right now, we get a ton of traffic through social and search,” said Edward Felsenthal, who became Time.com's managing editor in April. “We want them to stay longer. Video, interactive and 24-7 news coverage are the pillars of what we’ve done this year, and we’ve got a variety of plans to expand further next year.”
Volume: Time.com has been averaging 214 posts a day, a tenfold increase since the beginning of the year. But it trails digital natives like the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed that churn out 700 and 292 daily posts, respectively, albeit by playing by different rules; HuffPost leans on unpaid contributors to boost its volume, while BuzzFeed trades in addictive linkbait. Time.com wants to take a higher ground, but it can't live on deep reporting and investigative journalism alone for traffic; to that end, it's set up a continuous news desk to feed its breaking news offering.
Staff: Time.com has added 30 staffers ahead of the relaunch, and while all edit staff works on both print and Web, its masthead shows 40 edit people dedicated to the site. Again, that’s well behind digital-only brands like HuffPost, with 500 edit staffers; and BuzzFeed, with 140.
Video: Thanks to a huge focus on video this past year, Time.com now produces up to 10 videos a day, roughly on a par with NYTimes.com and BuzzFeed. Then again, it can't compete with HuffPost, which aggregates YouTube and others' videos in addition to producing its own. Time.com plans to do more video in 2014, including some recurring daily shows.
Native advertising: Time.com is already running some native ads, and they’ll be a big part of the redesign. But other brands have been in the game longer, like BuzzFeed, whose advertising is 100 percent native; and the HuffPost, where native accounted for 15 percent of ad revenue this year, helped by the contribution of a new division, Partner Studio.