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Blog Traffic Triples at Newspapers' Web Sites

Opportunities abound for staff writers that have expertise in certain areas, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

Blog traffic at the top 10 online newspapers more than tripled in December compared to the same period a year earlier, according to Internet market research firm Nielsen//NetRatings.

Online newspapers saw interest in blog pages grow by 9% during this period, rising from 1.2 million viewers in December 2005 to 3.8 million in December 2006. Unique viewers overall for online newspaper sites increased from 27 million to 30 million.

"The blogging arena is a good opportunity for online newspapers to really leverage assets they already have," said Carolyn Creekmore, senior director of media analytics at Nielsen//NetRatings. "And by that I mean their staff writers, their expertise in certain arenas. If you think of it from a marketing perspective, it also allows direct communication with their consumers and their staff, which always a good thing, to engage folks that way."

The online audience at these newspapers is disproportionately male -- 60% are men and 40% women. Among readers of blog pages, the statistics are even more out of balance, with 66% men and 34% women. Creekmore attributes this to a male proclivity for being early adopters of technology and content preferences.

"In general, the news category in the top newspapers will skew slightly male to begin with," said Creekmore. "And in the blogging arena, we're seeing that a little more emphasized. But I think that depends largely on the type of content. If there's more lifestyle or entertainment focused blogging within this blog section of a newspaper, you may get that female presence more than you might in a sports section, for example."

Nielsen//NetRatings also reported the top 10 Web site brands during December 2006 in terms of unique visitors and time spent per visitor. Microsoft led the list with 121 million unique visitors who spent an average of two hours and three minutes on its sites. Google came in second, with 112 million visitors whose visits lasted an average of one hour and fifteen minutes. Yahoo placed a close third, with 111 million visitors to its properties who spent an average of three hours and two minutes online.

The surprisingly long average time spent online by visitors reflects not just browser usage but also application traffic, according to Creekmore. Thus, Microsoft's users might have been using Windows Live Messenger or Windows Media Player rather than, say, navigating its Web site for two hours straight.

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