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New study shows that traffic to local news sites is not so local

Unique visitors to local news websites are less unique and less local than one would assume. A new study from research and consulting firm Borrell Associates challenges many of core ways that online audiences are characterized and counted by local news outlets.

On average, a third of the visitors to a local news site live outside the market, and a quarter of the visitors are “fly-bys.” The Borrell report counts three basic types of website visitors: “core loyalists,” people who visit 18-20 times per month; “incidental loyalists,” those who visit one to three times per month; and “fly-bys,” users that are led to a specific story from another website or aggregator and are likely not to return again in the year.

The details from Mediabistro.com:

At one local newspaper website examined by Borrell, 48% of visitors were “incidental loyalists”; 27% were “core loyalists”; and 25% were “fly-bys.”

The study also reveals a major discrepancy in how unique visitors are usually reported by local news entities. Because of a handful of factors, including a person’s use of multiple computer devices and regular clearing of browser “cookies,” the unique visitor-to-actual-people ratio is nearly 4-1.

Although the study disproves some popular perceptions of local news websites, it doesn’t necessarily discount the value of their audience. Most website advertising is based on pageviews, which continues to be a reliable metric, and, although local websites may be drawing a significant portion of their audience from outside the market, the loyal audience accounts for the majority of pageviews. According to the study, “core loyalists” account for 82% of a local site’s pageviews.

Date posted: February 20, 2011 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 130