We have recently completed the 2007 study of America's top 100 newspaper websites, entitled "American Newspapers and the Internet; Threat or Opportunity?". As the newspaper industry continues to suffer declines in readership and circulation, using the Internet to expand a newspaper's reach is becoming more and more important. While many industry experts fear that the Internet will spell the end of newspapers as we know them, our team here at TBG feels that the Internet presents newspapers with a unique opportunity to make up for lost circulation and readership. This study explores these concepts, as well as the difficulties facing newspapers regarding online advertising, shrinking staffs, and reaching out to consumers. Our research examined the websites of the top 100 newspapers in the United States, as determined by circulation (via the Audit Bureau of Circulations). We evaluated all of the websites on the presence of lack of various web features. Here are some of our key findings:

  • The use of RSS increased in 2007 by 21 percent since 2006. Now 96 of the papers we researched are using this technology. Within this group, 93 papers offer partial text feeds, while three offer full text RSS feeds. No papers have begun embedding advertisements in their RSS feeds.
  • Ninety-two percent of America’s top 100 papers now offer video on their websites. This represents a significant jump from 2006, where just 61 percent offered video. In this group, there is a mixture of local, Associated Press, and original content available on newspaper websites. Thirty-nine papers offer original content, 26 use AP video streams, 13 offer video content from local news outlets, four papers use all three technologies, and 10 papers use a mixture of two different types of video.
  • The number and quality of reporter blogs also improved in 2007. Now, 95 percent of papers offer at least one reporter blog. Ninety-three percent (88 papers) of these blogs allow comments. In 2006, 80 percent of the papers offered blogs, with 83 percent (67 papers) allowing comments.
  • One-third of newspapers now allow comments on articles. This represents a 14% improvement on 2006 statistics, when only 19 percent of papers allowed comments on articles.
  • The number of papers requiring registration increased by six percent from last year’s results. Twenty-nine percent of the nation’s top 100 papers now require users to register before gaining full access to their website. Of this group, three papers required a paid subscription, while 26 papers required free registration.

Overall, use of online features by newspapers improved across nearly all the categories when compared to last year's research, "The Use of the Internet by America's Newspapers."

Read the study in its entirety here and let us know what you think! Our research data is available in Excel format here.