Is Online News Faltering? (CBS)(NWS)(NYT)(WPO)(TWX)(DJ)

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A look at traffic patterns for online news sites indicates that there is a decline in consumers using the internet as a source of mainstream news.

Using information from website tracking service Alexa, most of the large news websites have six month declines. CNN.com has a six month downward trend. It three month average ranking among all websites on the internet is 76. But, over the last week, that has dropped to 85, which is part of a steady decline which was only interrupted in mid-April.

MSNBC is also down over the last six months. Its three month traffic average puts it 10,508 among all sites, but for the most recent week its average is 16,958.

FoxNews.com has been moving down over the same period, but its three month average is 599 and its one week average is 551, a slight improvement.

Among newspaper websites, the trend is also down. Washingtonpost.com’s Alexa ranking is down over the last six months, but has been stable more recently. Its three month average ranking among all websites is 616, down 123 spots. But, the last week the ranking was 604.

NYTimes.com has a three month rank of 185, down 41 spots. And, its rank for the last week is 229.

WSJ.com is at 1,043 as a three month average. That is down 85 spots. Its number for the last week is 1,110.

CBSnews.com sits at 2,462, off 421 spots. This week its place was 3,166.

Some of this is clearly due to the time of year. News consumption is likely to be lower in the summer. But, many of these sites also posted declines from February to May.

If the decline is indeed a move away from using large news company websites for information, where have the people gone? Probably not back to print newspapers and the TV set. It may simply be that the appetite for news is dropping overall.

The trend would be particularly troubling for newspaper companies. They are banking that revenue from the internet can help offset declines in print advertising. They need web audiences for their sites to grow, and grow quickly.

Douglas A. McIntyre