Study: users spend 5 minutes on newspaper sites

A study commissioned by the National Newspaper Association (press release) and performed by Nielsen/Net Ratings says:

“more than 59 million people (37.3 percent of all active Internet users) visited newspaper Web sites on average during the second quarter of 2007, a record number that represents a 7.7 percent increase over the same period a year ago.”

Nielsen/Net Ratings (NNR) — one of several firms that audit publications and report their audience data to advertisers — is in the process of trying to shift the measurement away from the number of visits to the time spent on the site, a term called “engagement.” (Associated Press story explains the shift, saying that Web 2.0 technology can update sites without clicks, making time rather than visits the better metric.)

With this in mind, NNR also reported as part of its newspaper study that:

“users spent a combined 7.2 billion minutes browsing newspaper Web sites during the second quarter during nearly 1.4 billion total visits.”

That works out to a tad bit over 5 minutes per visit.

As this is a new measurement I am, as yet, unaware of how that would compare to time spent on, say, search, shopping, social networking or the many other genres of web sites with which people might fill their online “day.” But it would be interesting to see a portrait of that — how do Netizens divide their time?

I mention this report, in part, because a few days ago I postulated that local television websites might have a leg up on papers as (or if?) news becomes a hyperlocal phemenon because local TV seems to have a greatest penetration into the local audience od any news medium. (Here is that posting.)

This report doesn’t really speak to that supposition but it does make me wonder what might be the comparable time spent on local TV websites. Perhaps such studies will be forthcoming.

Meanwhile, as I was thinking about whether “engagement” or “unique visits” is the proper metric against which to rate different online advertising buys, it occurred to me that engagement plays to the strength of content sites while the unique visits metric caters to search engines. The latter can argue they are a smart buy because they are often the gatekeeper to whatever content is sought. But search is a get-in, get-it, get-out operation. The audience presumably lingers longer over whatever is the object of the search.

I’m pretty darn sure search engines consume a huge chunk of total online ad revenues but I could not find a specific reference in a quick search just now (if you can, please comment).

But this thought-provoking report from touches on this point of time-spent but includes other concepts that I will consider and perhaps write about later. From

“To some analysts, the amount of advertising on the Web does not correlate to how much time people spend there. A Veronis Suhler Stevenson study found that consumers were spending 17 percent of their media consumption time with the Web. But the medium made up just 8 percent of total ad expenditures . . . this represents a “misalignment,” and more money could be steered to the Web once it is corrected.”