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Malcolm Coles: How US traffic is vital for UK newspaper sites

This is a cross-post from Malcolm Coles’ personal website. You can read other posts by Coles on the Journalism.co.uk Editors’ Blog at this link.

The latest figures for UK users from the audited ABCes together with Compete‘s figures for American site usage show how USA traffic is vital for UK newspaper sites.

On average, US traffic is 36.8 per cent of the UK traffic (i.e. there is just over one US visitor for every 3 UK visitors). The figure for the Telegraph is slightly higher (44.5 per cent) and for the Mail it’s a massive 62.5 per cent.

Newspaper
site
USA
visitors
(Compete)
UK
visitors
(ABCe)
US users
as % of UK
Daily Mail 5,199,078 8,316,083 62.5
Telegraph 4,087,769 9,184,082 44.5
Times Online 2,805,815 7,668,637 36.6
Guardian 3,676,498 10,211,385 36.0
Independent 1,317,298 3,781,320 34.8
The Sun 2,419,319 8,704,036 27.8
Mirror 748,098 4,907,540 15.2
FT.com 5,960,589 n/a n/a
Express 63,216 n/a n/a
Average 2,919,742 7,539,012 36.8

These figures are all for June 2009. The FT wasn’t audited in June’s ABCes. The Express isn’t in the ABCes.

They are further proof that the Mail’s success in the June ABCes was driven by American searches for Michael Jackson’s kids.

Malcolm Coles: Michael Jackson’s kids made the Daily Mail the most visited UK newspaper site in June

This is an edited cross-post from Malcolm Coles’ personal website:

The Daily Mail surprisingly overtook the Telegraph and Guardian in the June ABCes – with more unique visitors than any other UK newspaper.

However it was only 4th in terms of UK visitors. Figures from Compete.com, which tracks Americans’ internet use, suggest that, of the 4.7 million unique users the Mail added from May to June, 1.2 million were from the USA. American and other foreign visitors searching for Michael Jackson’s kids – the Mail tops google.com for a search on this – drove this overseas growth.

US traffic to UK newspaper sites
This is what happened to US traffic for the ‘big three’ UK newspaper websites from May to June, according to Compete.com’s figures:

This dramatic increase in traffic, compared to its rivals, from May to June helps explains how the Mail leapfrogged the Guardian and Telegraph.

Traffic leapt from May to July

Google.com was the main referrer to the Mail – responsible for 22.7 per cent of its traffic. More on this below. Next up was drudgereport.com [a large US news aggregation site], followed by Yahoo.com and Facebook.com.

What was behind this rise in US traffic?
So what led to this sudden increase for the Mail? Compete also shows you the main search terms that lead US visitors to sites.

Top five search terms that lead US visitors to the Guardian

  • Guardian/the guardian: 2.6 per cent
  • Michael Jackson: 0.9 per cent
  • Swine flu symptoms: 0.6 per cent
  • Susan Boyle: 0.6 per cent

Top five search terms that lead US visitors to the Telegraph

  • Michael Jackson: 2.5 per cent
  • Susan Boyle: 0.8 per cent
  • Swine flu symptoms: 0.7 per cent
  • Daily Telegraph: 0.6 per cent
  • Michael Jackson children: 0.5 per cent

Top five search terms that lead US visitors to the Daily Mail

  • Daily Mail/Dailymail: 9.9 per cent
  • Michael Jackson (or Jackson’s) children: 2.9 per cent
  • Michael Jackson’s kids: 1.3 per cent

What does this tell us?The main keywords driving US search traffic to the Mail
The Guardian’s top five search terms, as suggested by Compete.com, accounted for just 4.7 per cent of its search traffic. The Telegraph’s top five for 5.1 per cent.

But the Mail’s top 5 accounted for a massive 14.1 per cent – split between searches for its brand name and for Michael Jackson’s kids (and outside the top five there may have been many other MJ-related terms).

Its search traffic in June is heavily skewed to these two search terms in the USA – and elsewhere in the world, I think it’s reasonable to presume.

Can this last?
Searches in the USA for ‘Daily Mail’ have been fairly consistent over the last few months according to Google Insights. I don’t know why so many people do this compared to other newspapers.

But I do know that interest in Michael Jackson’s kids is going to die down. This graph shows how there was a huge and sudden surge in searches for his children and kids after he died. The graph shows just two search terms – there are likely to be many others, and so a significant proportion of the Mail’s overseas traffic increase is down to search terms related to Jackson’s offspring.

Searches for Michael Jackson and kids/children shot up

This increase in searches translates into traffic for the Mail because it is currently TOP for a search on ‘Michael Jackson children’ at google.com and 3rd for kids (it’s also top in Google India for a search on his children, and India is the next most common source of traffic to the Mail after the UK and USA).

So all this data suggests that the Mail’s top spot in June’s ABCes is built on US and other worldwide search traffic around Jackson’s children – the massive peak in late June and again around his funeral in early July.

Once people stop searching for these terms, this traffic will disappear. The Mail may still top July’s ABCes on the back of this traffic – but it’s hard to believe it will still be top in August.

Methodology
You can, of course, pick holes in this argument.

The three MJ’s kids search terms account for 4.2 per cent of Google traffic, which accounts for 22.7 per cent of 5.2 million visitors – so about 50,000 users.

But I think it’s reasonable to assume that there are more search terms outside the top five; there are other search engines; and that the other sources of traffic, such as people sharing links on Facebook and news aggregators, will also partially be about Jackson’s children.

Plus this is the only publicly available data that I’m aware of, and this is the story it seems to be telling.

A guide to newspapers on Twitter

National newspapers have a total of 1,068,898 followers across their 120 official Twitter accounts – with the Guardian, Times and FT the only three papers represented in the top ten.

The Guardian’s the clear winner, as @GuardianTech’s place on Twitter’s Suggested User List means it has 831,935 followers – 78 per cent of the total. @GuardianNews is 2nd with 25,992, @TimesFashion 3rd with 24,762 and @FinancialTimes 4th with 19,923.

Complete list of national newspaper Twitter accounts

Other findings:

  • Glorified RSS Out of 121 accounts, just 19 do something other than running as a glorified RSS feed. The other 114 do no retweeting, no replying to other tweets etc. (The 19 are the ones with a blue background in their URL and a yes in the last column).
  • No following. They don’t do much following. Leaving GuardianTech out of it, there are 236,963 followers of these accounts, but they follow just 59,797. Are newspapers bringing their no-linking-out approach to Twitter? Or is it just because they’re pumping RSS feeds straight to Twitter, and therefore see no reason to engage with the community?
  • Rapid drop-off There are only six Twitter accounts with more than 10,000 followers. I suspect many of these accounts are invisible to most people as the newspapers aren’t engaging much – no RTing of other people’s tweets means those other people don’t have an obvious way to realise the newspaper accounts exist.
  • Sun and Mirror are laggards The Sun and Mirror have a lot of work to do – they have few accounts with any followers. And they don’t promote their Twitter accounts on their sites. The Mail only seems to have one account but it is the 20th largest in terms of followers.

More on newspaper Twitter accounts:

Some papers publish lists of their Twitter accounts:

Other useful places:

  • Newspaper people on Twitter from mediaUK
  • Newspaper titles on Twitter (inc local) from mediaUK
  • Twitian – a list of people at the Guardian who use Twitter (and their latest tweets), created by Paul Carvill.
  • #followjourn – a daily recommendation service from Journalism.co.uk.

This post originally appeared on MacolmColes.co.uk.

Malcolm Coles: re-thinking newspapers and RSS feeds

“OK, newspapers shouldn’t turn off RSS feeds… I was wrong,” writes Malcolm Coles. After a little reflection on comments received about  his post ‘ Newspapers: Turn off your RSS feeds‘ [also pasted on the Online Journalism Blog and his own blog] he concludes that link-bait headlines are dangerous… His fuller explanation is at this link…

Newspapers: Turn off your RSS feeds

This is a cross-post from Malcolm Coles’ personal website:

The latest subscriber figures (see table below) show that, apart from a couple of exceptions, it’s time for newspapers to turn off their RSS feeds – and hand over the server space, technical support and webpage real estate to their Twitter accounts.

The table below shows that only three of the nine national newspapers have an RSS feed with more than 10,000 subscribers in Google Reader. And most newspaper RSS feeds have readerships in the 00s, if that.

Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips has 11 subscribers to her RSS feed (maybe there’s hope for the UK population yet …).

Despite having virtually no users, the Mail churns out 160 RSS feeds and the Mirror 280. All so a couple of thousand people can look at them in total.

The other papers are just as bad. And while the Guardian has a couple of RSS readers with decent numbers (partly because Google recommends it in its news bundle), it has more feeds than there are people in the UK…

Top three RSS feeds at each newspaper
They didn’t all have three that showed up:

Table of UK newspapers' RSS feeds

Switch to Twitter instead
I suggest newspapers switch to Twitter instead. Twitter’s advantages over RSS include:

  • Wheat vs chaff – As a reader, you can see which stories other people are RTing and are therefore popular.
  • Context – There’s space in 140 characters for newspapers to give some background to stories as well as the headline (well, there is for those that don’t just stick the first few words of the standfirst after the headline).
  • Promotion – Followers can RT newspaper stories, promoting the paper – they can’t do this with elements of an RSS feed.
  • Tracking – Stories’ development can be tracked on Twitter – you can’t usually tell what’s changed in an RSS feed.
  • Conversation You can take part in a conversation on Twitter. People only talk to their RSS feed when they swear at it. The journalists behind the story can tweet, too.

Newspapers agree with me
As I say, despite poor subscriptions for many feeds, papers pump out RSS feeds as if there’s no tomorrow – the second column in the table below shows how many feeds (rounded) that each paper has.

But despite this, it’s clear some papers agree with me – and have already given up on RSS feeds and no longer actively promote them.

No visibility
The Mail, despite its 160-odd feeds, only mentions them in its footer.

The same is true of the Sun.

On the page but hardly visible
The FT’s RSS link does at least have a logo – but its buried at the bottom of the right-hand column on each page.

The Telegraph shows relevant RSS feeds on pages – but they’re buried in a different way: above a banner ad that no one will ever look at.

Even the Guardian, which lets you mash up your own RSS feeds (hence the 000,000s in the table), hides details of its feeds under an unusual term ‘webfeed’ in the far right of its header.

The Times still has an RSS link in its main header menu on its news page. On other pages it’s at the bottom. And it mentions Twitter on its pages much more than RSS.

Visible – but not doing them any good
The Independent is alone in listing RSS feeds on its main category pages – although that doesn’t seem to get it many subscribers.

The Mirror has an RSS link next to its search box, although it took me ages to find it. Does this count as visible – it’s not exactly intuitive…

And the Express has a link and a logo prominently in its header. But as the Express doesn’t update its website often (or at all on Sunday), I guess that’s why no one subscribes. And some of its RSS feeds appear to be garbage – check out its theatre one…

Caveats about the data
After you’ve started writing something about newspapers, you’ll eventually discover that Martin Belam has already written about it. Having just noticed his Top 75 British newspaper RSS feeds as I was researching Google Reader’s market share, I figured I’d just repeat his caveats about his own data as they apply to mine too:

  • Subscribers don’t necessarily ever read anything.
  • Numbers quoted by Google vary wildly.
  • Newspapers have problem with the same feed on different URLs. To quote Martin: “If the papers themselves can’t work out how to set one canonical URL for their content, why should I?”
  • Google Reader search is not great. There may be missing feeds.

Essential journalism links for students

This list is doing the rounds under the headline 100 Best Blogs for Journalism Students… and we’re not on it. Nope, not even a smidgeon of link-love for poor old Journalism.co.uk there.

The BachelorsDegreeOnline site appears to be part of e-Learners.com, but it’s not clear who put the list together. Despite their omission of our content and their rather odd descriptions (e.g: Adrian Monck: ‘Adrian Monck writes this blog about how we inform ourselves and why we do it’), we admit it is a pretty comprehensive list; excellent people and organisations we feature on the site, our blog roll and Best of Blogs mix – including many UK-based ones. There were also ones we hadn’t come across before.

In true web 2.0 self-promotional style, here are our own links which any future list-compilers might like to consider as helpful links for journalism students:

And here are some blogs/sites also left off the list which immediately spring to mind as important reading for any (particularly UK-based) journalism students:

Organisations

  • Crikey.com: news from down under that’s not Murdoch, or Fairfax produced.
  • Press Review Blog (a Media Standards Trust project) – it’s a newbie, but already in the favourites.
  • StinkyJournalism: it’s passionate and has produced many high-profile stories

Individuals

  • CurryBet – Martin Belam’s links are canny, and provocative and break down the division between tech and journalism.
  • Malcolm Coles – for SEO tips and off-the-beaten track spottings.
  • Dave Lee – facilitating conversations journalists could never have had in the days before blogs.
  • Marc Vallee – photography freedom issues from the protest frontline.
  • FleetStreetBlues: an anonymous industry insider with jobs, witty titbits and a healthy dose of online cynicism.
  • Sarah Hartley previously as above, now with more online strategy thrown in.
  • Charles Arthur – for lively debate on PR strategy, among other things

Writing this has only brought home further the realisation that omissions are par for the course with list-compilation, but it does inspire us to do our own 101 essential links for global online journalists – trainees or otherwise. We’d also like to make our list inclusive of material that is useful for, but not necessarily about, journalists: MySociety for example.

Add suggestions below, via @journalismnews or drop judith at journalism.co.uk an email.

Producer responds to Guardian TV review: ‘If an opera is reviewed, you get someone who knows about opera’

A commenter who claims to be producer-director of BBC2’s ‘The Madoff Hustle’ (aired Sunday), Roger Corke, responds to Tim Dowling’s review of the programme for the Guardian:

“If an opera is reviewed, you get someone reviewing it who knows about opera. The same is true if dance, art, architecture is reviewed. Why is it, then, that newspapers give the TV reviewer’s job to someone who clearly doesn’t know anything about TV?”

Comment and article at this link…

The Madoff Hustle on BBC iPlayer at this link…

Hat-tip: Malcolm Coles (@Malcolm Coles)

Malcolm Coles: MPs’ expenses – the best of the web

It’s fair to say Journalism.co.uk is interested in the media’s coverage of the recent UK MPs’ expenses scandal, so before we start rivalling the number of Telegraph pages published on the subject, here’s a round-up by Malcolm Coles of the best source data, visualisations, analysis and reportage.

A great guide for data-based storytelling too.

Meanwhile, on the front page of today’s Guardian an update on the title’s own crowdsourcing MPs’ expenses project – as reported by Journalism.co.uk on Thursday: almost 20,000 people have taken part and 160,000 pages examined.

Journalism.co.uk particularly liked this par from the Guardian’s report:

“All this will take much more careful analysis but shows the power of ‘citizen journalists’ and provides something of a riposte to one Telegraph commentator who dismissed the idea that a ‘collective of Kool-Aid slurping Wikipedians’ could conduct ‘rigorous analysis necessary for the recent MPs’ expenses investigation’.”

Second dose of Stephen Fry: transcript from Digital Britain – ‘I don’t need to be re-skilled into anything’

Another dose of Fry this morning, in an earlier post we reproduced yesterday’s comments to the BBC about journalists and expenses.

Courtesy of Malcolm Coles, here is the full transcript [below video] of Stephen Fry’s presentation at Digital Britain on April 17. Fry’s appearance caused a little stir that day, not least for the way he was introduced onto the stage by the BBC’s Nick Higham:

“Stephen is, one of the organisers told me beforehand, the representative at this conference of the ordinary person, frankly: if that’s what someone thinks the ordinary person is like, then someone needs to take them aside and fill them in…”

Some of Fry’s comments relate to technology more broadly, but some interesting points on media, and keeping the web ‘organic’:

“You talk about the BBC doing a digital switchover, as if that’s the same thing as the world-wide web.”

“We’re moving from a world, in which no-one knew or saw the point of, online world, into something [where] everybody has reserved to themselves some special insight into how it’s to affect us.”

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