Setting newspaper site growth targets

If you’re a newspaper Web site manager, how is your traffic?

If at the end of the month, you tally up your unique visitors and page views and pat yourself on the back because you’re getting more traffic than any local competitor, you’re not really setting the bar high enough.

Have you ever tried to figure out what percentage of your DMA adult users visit your Web site on a daily basis?

To me, the most important metric for newspaper Web sites is local daily reach — how many people in your DMA visit your site each day.

I don’t have enough data yet to say what your goal should be, but I’m thinking two percent isn’t good enough.

There have been reports (sorry, I don’t have access to those reports right now) that put the percentage of adults on the Internet who visited a local news site on a typical day at eight or nine percent.

That means if your DMA population is 1 million, and 60 percent of the adults have a net connection, then on a daily basis 54,000 people in your local market are looking at local news.

I bet your local daily unique users are no where near nine percent of the DMA/access population.

Some factors to consider:

  • Some of your local competitors are getting a piece of that market share.
  • Survey respondents who say they are accessing local news may be looking at news for an old home town, not necessarily your town.
  • Survey respondents may be defining local news differently than we think, or over report their interest in local news.
  • People living in areas were major metros (such as and have done a great job of increasing audience share may skew the national numbers.
  • You are also competing against the news portals for some of the local news audience.

So let’s stipulate that 9 percent is an unrealistic target. How about 6 percent? That would mean your daily unique visitors in our imaginary 1 million pop DMA would be 36,000.

I can’t define your target for you, since there are a number of variables for each market, but here’s my suggestion:

  • Get the latest total DMA adult pop number.
  • Find the latest estimate of percentage with net access.
  • Now look at your average daily unique visitors.
  • Now you need to know what percentage of your site users live in your market. One way to calculate this is the percentage of registered users in your DMA, then compare this to metrics like percentage of visitors from your time zone. The best you can do here is guess at the percentage of daily visitors are local (unless you happen to use something like Tacoda or Omniture with registration data imported).
  • Of your daily unique visitors, how many do you estimate are local?
  • Divide that number by total DMA adults with net access — that is your daily local reach percentage.
  • Now set your goal 2 percent higher — that should be the target you will do everything you can to reach within the next 8 to 12 months.

If you’re a site manager, let me know how you measure up. I would like to aggregate some data for comparison sake and to help set a reasonable measure of audience growth progress.

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