A sign that the Internet as a distribution channel for the traditional print media comes with the inclusion by ABC of suscriptions to and activity on US newspapers’ websites in their audited circulation figures. A newspaper’s reach in their target markets will now be measured by combining their print paper circulation and their paid-for online subscriptions. So a paper with a 38% reach in print, but with a 20% online subscriber base in the same geographic area will be able to report a net combined audience of up to 58%. All duplicates will have to be eliminated so the net figures may reduce somewhat.
Leaving the maths aside, what this means is that newspapers who have invested heavily in their websites are now in a position to use the results of that investment to capture a greater share of advertising spend. This was never more critical for the traditional print media as research continues to show the rest of us are reading fewer print publications in favour of online sources of news and information.
In Ireland those who are least likely to gain from such a ranking system are ironically those that have made it easiest for their customers to access their sites. The Examiner doesn’t have any online subscription, so will have the least amount of geographic information about their visitors. The Irish Independent and Irish Times in particular are in a strong position because they have restricted their sites to subscribers. The Irish Times in particular which has taken the greatest risk by forcing paid-subscriptions will benefit most since these are really the only types of subscription that count.
The Internet is coming of age and becoming the preferred way for many of us to interact with each other and with companies. Businesses that embrace the Internet in ways similar to the newspaper industry are less likely to be left in the starting blocks as their competitors move off in the race for the hearts, minds and wallets of the next generation of online customers.