Belfast Telegraph

Spike in web traffic a silver lining for embattled Press

By Paul Connolly

Some good news on the regional newspaper front. The number of people logging on to the website of their local newspaper across the UK is increasing.

This week, Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) figures show that all of the UK’s regional newspaper publishers saw rises in the average amount of daily unique users on their sites during the last six months of 2011.

As usual, breaking local news is a big crowd-puller, with local audiences turning to tried and trusted local newspapers in times of drama.

But also, increasingly, I would venture to add, because local papers are finally finding their voice and offering services — for example, grassroots sport and entertainment — that can’t be offered as well elsewhere.

And they’re doing it in a multi-platform fashion that reaches different people in different ways.

The spike in web traffic happened yet again at the Belfast Telegraph, where we attracted more than 1.8 million unique visitors last month. (Unique user counts are a common way of measuring the popularity of a website.)

February's total for monthly uniques (1,823,126) represents a year-on-year increase of 76% — the February 2011 total was 1.1 million.

On this measurement, the Belfast Telegraph is the UK’s most popular regional newspaper for web traffic.

That’s not to avoid the painful reality that print circulation — newspapers’ most valuable currency — is declining, with all local titles, including the Belfast Telegraph, joining the global downward trend.

But it does mean that overall audience is expanding; which gives a good platform for future growth.

It also underlines that, in spite of the pressures on print, there is still a massive appetite for professional journalism in the modern world.

  • On a separate matter, reader Ciara Moorhead has objected in the strongest terms to the use, by columnist Kevin Myers, of the word “mulatto”.

Ms Moorhead said she found the use of the word, to describe Barack Obama, as “completely unacceptable” and “on a par with the ‘N' word in terms of acceptability”.

Mulatto is an old word, which essentially refers to a person of mixed race. It is the subject of fierce division — as can be seen on the internet — between people who find it unoffensive and others who find it, quite frankly, repulsive.

There was no intention to offend and, where its use did, sincere apologies are offered. Its use will be avoided in future.

  • Many thanks, by the way, to the readers who have pointed out various grammatical errors since a recent column on the issue.

All comments have been passed on to the authors and received, I have to say, in a very positive spirit.

BTreaderseditor@gmail.com

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