Does Print Drive Online Readership?

Maybe print does drive online readership.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which published its last edition on March 17, was knocked off the list of top 30 newspaper Web sites in March, according to the latest figures form Nielsen Online.

Seattlepi.com fell to No. 32 with 1.4 million unique users, down 23 percent compared to March 2008. In February, the site was ahead of its then-joint operating agreement sister The Seattle Times. Seattlepi.com had 1.8 million uniques, while the Seattle Times had 1.5 million in February.

The Seattle Times picked up online readers as well. In March, the site recorded year-over-year growth of 70 percent to 2.2 million uniques.

Online-only newspaper readership is still very low in the United States. According to Scarborough Research, the number of adults who have read newspapers online-only during the week is 4 percent. Scarborough measures the top 81 markets in the U.S. but they said it was a fairly close approximately to national online-only-readership.

Overall, three-quarters of the top 30 online newspapers experienced double-digit growth in March year-over-year. The New York Times still leads the list and was up 7 percent. Yet today it reports that its online ad revenue in the 1Q sank about 8 percent.

McClatchy papers News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. and The Miami Herald zoomed up the list in March. The News & Observer increased its unique users by 106 percent to 1.6 million compared to the same period a year ago. At the Miami Herald, unique audience advanced 85 percent to 2.6 million.

Below is the latest list of top 30 newspaper Web sites based on U.S. panels and ranked by unique audience for March. The percent change compares March 2009 to March 2008. Please note that starting with the March list, Nielsen is excluding newspaper groups. Also keep in mind there are several reasons why traffic fluctuates, including news events.

NYTimes.com — 20,118,000 — 7%
USATODAY.com — 9,961,000 — (-7%)
washingtonpost.com — 9,367,000 — 5%
Wall Street Journal Online — 9,192,000 — 34%
LA Times — 8,643,000 — 51%

Boston.com — 5,742,000 — 37%
Daily News Online Edition — 5,658,000 — 71%
Chicago Tribune — 5,270,000 — 38%
SFGate.com/San Francisco Chronicle — 4,227,000 — 11%
New York Post — 3,827,000 — (-18%)

DallasNews.com – The Dallas Morning News — 3,536,000 — 30%
The Houston Chronicle — 3,095,000 — 15%
Newsday — 3,065,000 — (-5%)
Atlanta Journal-Constitution — 3,041,000 — 28%
Politico — 3,033,000 — 45%

Chicago Sun-Times — 2,737,000 — 24%
MiamiHerald.com — 2,686,000 — 85%
Star Tribune — 2,360,000 — 34%
The Seattle Times — 2,262,000 — 70%
International Herald Tribune — 1,984,000 — (-23%)

NJ.com — 1,897,000 — 39%
Orlando Sentinel — 1,851,000 — 13%
Azcentral.com — 1,805,000 — (-10%)
The Washington Times — 1,753,000 — 35%
The News & Observer — 1,665,000 — 106%

tampabay.com — 1,649,000 — (-14%)
Cleveland.com — 1,586,000 — 9%
MercuryNews.com — 1,556,000 — (-6%)
KansasCity.com — 1,552,000 — 10%
MLive.com — 1,531,000 — 39%