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Most newspaper Web sites have been focused on driving new audiences, but McClatchy sees a gold mine in its existing print circulation. How many local media outlets have 40 percent penetration in this age of fragmentation?

Speaking at the Inland Press Association meeting this week, McClatchy Digital President Chris Hendricks' comments were fully blogged by Howard Owens (a ground-breaker in the newspaper-driven community who is appearing on our Big Thinkers panel at Local '07). Per Owens, Hendricks noted that 70 percent of the print audience never touches the Web site in a 30-day period.

“That's not acceptable. We need to do a better job of driving print readers to our Web sites,” says Hendricks. “The untouched print audience represents a huge opportunity for online. We need to tell people we have more content of interest on our Web sites. Why would you let them go someplace else?”

In addition to adding extensions of print content to the Web, Hendricks says papers should keep the story and readership cycle by fostering user-generated content. “Comments on stories mean that frequency, time spent on the site and unique visitors all go up. Comments bring readers back to see what other people are saying, and they encourage readers to forward the story to friends.”

Hendricks is also pushing hard on video. (Almost every post I write these days has video. That's the way it's going to be for a while). “We need to be in the video business. Some McClatchy sites have studios, but many just have $99 cameras and reporters out shooting video.”

As for forming partnerships with various Internet players, Hendricks is all for them. “You can't look at these people as enemies, because they are the environment.” He flatly rejected the idea that Google, Yahoo! and Monster are using Trojan horse relationships to kill off the papers. “If they wanted to own our industry, they could just roll it up and buy it.”

Also speaking at IPA, and again, fully blogged by Owens, was Bob Kempf from Boston.com. I’ve written extensively about his efforts, but Kempf reveals new details of research showing why Boston.com is focusing on becoming a local information hub (watch out Yellow Pages!). Only one in three users and one of five non-users are happy with their current options for finding local information, he says. But access to local information doubles the likelihood that non-users will visit Boston.com. The research also found that 50 percent of users like the idea of getting all their information in one place.

Personal Note: I was involved in similar research efforts in 1994-1995, when I was doing strategy work with FIND/SVP on its Interactive Consumers reports. The results were almost exactly the same. That's why I decided to focus exclusively on local.

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