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Comparing reading times on US newspaper websites with their digital editions on PressDisplay.com

About a week ago, Editor and Publisher released August data on the time readers spent on the top 30 newspapers in the US.   As I read the article I thought to myself that the numbers seemed rather low. 

Check out just a few of the top titles in the article:

Average reading time on newspaper websites in August 2009

So I decided to see if these reading times matched up with their digital editions on PressDisplay.com.  As you probably know, PressDisplay.com has some pretty cool technology under the hood for publishers.   One of those tools is called “Reading Map”.

 Reading Map

 Reading Map uses sophisticated tracking techniques to monitor the exact amount of time users spend reading a particular location of a digital newspaper, right down to an area roughly the size of a postage stamp. With this technology, publishers can see the reading patterns throughout their publications, gaining valuable insight into what elements of the publication are read most and least. This information is essential in order to better understand the impact of editorial content, layout and advertising on reading behaviour — and therefore the value provided to the reader or advertiser.  Also, Reading Map provides some valuable aggregated statistics to publishers, allowing them to see the median and average reading times for every one of their issues. 

So, I decided to check out the Reading Maps for a number of the titles in the Neilson Online list and I discovered that the digital editions on PressDisplay.com held the attention of users much longer than their corresponding newspaper websites. In fact, it was often 2 or 3 times longer.  Although I’m  not at liberty to share our publishers’ confidential Reading Map results, I can tell you that generally, if a newspaper had an average reading time of 10 minutes on its website, the corresponding digital edition on PressDisplay.com often had an average reading time between 20 and 30 minutes on PressDisplay.   Sometimes it was even longer.  And don’t forget, those website stats E&P were sharing were the “TOP” newspaper websites in the US.  So what does that tell you? 

So when I hear people suggest that digital editions are not the right format for a online newspaper, I laugh.  The numbers speak for themselves.  Digital editions retain the interest of readers longer than websites.   And I have over 1,000 publications to prove it!

Gayle

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