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Big Public Relations Implications: Local Newspaper Web Sites Reaching National Audience

A new study indicates that more than one out of every three Houston Chronicle''s Web visitors aren''t in Texas, which has significant implications for public relations pros throughout Texas and other markets. 

According to net measurement firm Hitwise, while the audience reach of print-news, particularly newspapers, historically is limited to a title''s core geographic location, the Internet is breaking down that barrier. During the four weeks ending May 21, the Houston Chronicle''s www.chron.com received 36.7 per cent of its visitors from outside of Texas.

Newspapers and magazines face a more dynamic, complex landscape as they move and grow online, net measurement firm Hitwise has warned. As print-news organizations embrace the Internet, new online research suggests a competitive landscape where customer acquisition and churn is heavily intertwined with other news and content sites, search engines and e-mail.

"Brand equity, quality content and a rich experience are as important as ever," said Bill Tancer, vice president of research, Hitwise. "But as print-news organizations embrace digital, they must grasp the highly competitive and spontaneous nature of Internet news consumption."

Hitwise reports that 26.2 per cent of all visits to websites in its "News and Media - Print" category originated from another news site (both print and non-print affiliated) . In addition, 18.8 per cent of visits to print-affiliated news sites came directly from search engines and directories, 9 per cent from entertainment sites, and 7.2 per cent from Web e-mail services.

"Arguably, small and regional newspapers can be most competitive by focusing on their local markets," said Tancer. "However, as the data indicate, online distribution channels still can have significant appeal to customers outside of their core local markets. Local and regional newspapers should take note of this phenomenon when developing their online strategies, and consider such factors as national interest in major local stories, their utility as reference content, as well as ties to travelers and former residents."

The web is undeniably one of the most important variables as newspapers and other print media consider re-inventing themselves amidst stagnant and sometimes declining circulation.

Dan Keeney
(832) 467-2904
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Author: Dan Keeney
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