The sum of all fears?


The media is, by nature, in a constant state of flux. And since the first printing press rolled progress has barely stopped for breath, with developments accelerating exponentially over the last half-century or so.
As a public relations agency we have to keep an eye on how our job is changing, an obsession that leads us to muse, frequently, about what the wealth of statistics available on consumer news consumption actually mean. So what if a problem far graver than the fall in physical newspaper and magazine sales began to emerge?
According to journalism blog Fleet Street Blues, and Press Gazette, it has. Both titles have been analysing online  news readership figures released by UKOM / Nielsen, which tell quite a different story to the usual ‘enormous growth’ idea. In short, from the ten most popular editorial sites in Britain over half have less eyes perusing their web pages than a year ago.
This means that BBC, Guardian.co.uk, Yahoo, MSN News & Weather, Yahoo! News Websites, and the Telegraph have all seen a fall in internet usage when compared to 2010. In some case the reduction is equal to almost a quarter of all unique hits. Naturally, this makes pretty uncomfortable reading for some.
Of course there could be a break in the clouds. Tablet computing continues to look like a potential saving grace for publishers, a format not represented in this survey, and analysing the Top 200 sites may reveal a web based vanguard of fresh faced titles threatening to surpass these historically trusted sources. But then there are also a number of professionals that have pointed to this representing the fact that UK online news consumption has peaked. There are too many websites, an overwhelming amount of options, yet we all have less time than ever to read and research.
Basing such claims on one singular study might be spurious, especially as it took into account a relatively small number of internet users (50,000), and is an anomaly when compared with the usual online news statistics. That said though the next 12 months will be very telling, because if the results paint a similar picture in one year’s time there will, understandably, be concerned faces in the press and publishing, as the focal point for many business models could well be failing before it has even managed to recoup the enormous losses incurred by the collapse of a profit making print medium. Fingers crossed for good news then, here’s the Top 10.
BBC: Unique users 11.1m. Year on year readership change -12%.
2 MailOnline: Unique users 6.3m. Year on year readership change +12%.
3 Guardian.co.uk: Unique users 5.2m. Year on year readership change -2%.
4 Telegraph: Unique users 5.0m. Year on year readership change -7%.
5 Yahoo! News Websites: Unique users 4.5m. Year on year change -11%.
6 Newsquest Local Media: Unique users 2.8m. Year on year change +12%.
7 Trinity Mirror Nationals: Unique users 2.6m. Year on year change +3%.
8 The Sun: Unique users 2.6m. Year on year change -15%.
9 MSN News & Weather: Unique users 2.3m. Year on year change -23%.
10 The Independent: Unique users 2.1m. Year on year change +3%.