Janesville61.7°

Web numbers surge; does print suffer?

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Scott Angus
July 3, 2008

We knew June would be a big month for gazettextra.com, but we were surprised when the numbers came in.

The biggest? More than 4 million page views in June.

We had approached 3 million a month several times since we redesigned the site in October, and we had hoped to top that mark in June.

We sailed right by it and ended up with 4,092,522.

As Iíve said before when it comes to the growth in our Web traffic: Wow!

Weíre thrilled that so many people find value in our new and improved site. It certainly helps to have big news, and we had waves of it in Juneópardon the pun. It wasnít good news, but it was big news.

First came GMís announcement June 3 that it would stop production at the Janesville plant by the end of 2010. That was a huge blow to the community, and it raised serious questions about its future. People flocked to our site to learn the news, find perspective and join discussions.

GM news dominated the newspaper and the site for more than a week, and interest was intense.

And then came the flood. The Rock River flowed over its banks, and people scrambled to protect their properties, often to no avail. The flood remains big news today more than three weeks after the riverís surge reached Rock County.

As I wrote in my newspaper column two weeks ago, the Gazette staff has done an excellent job of covering the news, and that helped draw and sustain traffic on the site.

Interestingly, these big numbers come at a time when the Gazette is reviewing its strategy for the Web and assessing its possible impact on newspaper circulation. While our Web traffic grows, our print circulation continues to slide. Itís the same story at most newspapers, but itís particularly timely here given our recent Web improvements and the huge growth in visitors.

Itís seems logical that people would stop paying for a print newspaper when they can get the Web version for free. But several big studies and anecdotal evidence from several newspapers that have grown circulation suggest itís not that simple. The Web and the print product appeal to different audiences, that evidence suggests. Beyond that, the world is going digital, and we need to be there to meet it.

We donít put all of our print content online. But we do offer features on the Webósuch as video and extensive photo galleriesóthat we canít in the newspaper.

What are your thoughts? Do you read both the newspaper and the Web site? Would you read the paper more if the Web site wasnít as strong? What advice would you give to a media company trying to find its way in a new and rapidly changing environment?



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