Thursday, February 10, 2011

Web users are lazy, selfish and ruthless

(Versión en español aquí.)

Somebody brilliant said that, and if we need any proof we need look no further than a study by Comscore and the Newspaper Association of America.

The data show that the 108 million unique users of newspaper sites in June 2011 spent an average of just over a minute a day, 32 minutes a month, viewing their contents. (Updated July 2011.)

In a separate study, Facebook users were shown to be spending 14 times more time on that social networking site, or a total of 7 hours a month.

It´s one reason why newspapers are trying to make their contents part of that social web with strategies such as hiring community managers.

The Comscore study showed that users of newspaper websites:

-- Visited the sites 9.3 times in the month.

-- Stayed 3 1/2 minutes per visit, which is about enough time to scan some headlines, read an article and maybe watch a video.

-- Viewed 4 pages per visit. They weren´t lingering over the contents.

Some good news for publishers

Print editions of newspapers are still a powerful, engaging medium. A separate study by Pew Research showed that these readers spend an average of 10 minutes a day, or 5 hours a month, with the print product.

That´s 10 times more time spent with print than with internet. That time spent has tremendous value for advertisers.

Humbling numbers for journalists

Editors and reporters who believe the public is hanging on their every word are fooling themselves. The internet numbers for time spent on site tell us that we face tremendous competition for attention.

The implications for producing web content are that it can´t be the same as the print version, and it has to get to the point quickly or risk losing a busy reader.

We´re back to the basics of the inverted pyramid. There are exceptions, of course. But they should be exceptions.

The beauty of the internet is that we don´t have to rely on editors and reporters´ opinions about what holds a reader´s attention. The data on reader behavior are there. Obviously the numbers are our guide, not our boss. We shouldn´t be a slave to them.

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