Despite a virtual meltdown in the newspaper industry, the nation's top 10 online newspapers posted a 16 percent increase in December Web traffic, according to a report released Tuesday by Nielsen Online.
Such results bode well for an industry that is currently undergoing tumultuous times, with a growing number of pulp-based publications contemplating bankruptcy, scaling back delivery days, or switching to an online-only format, as readership continues to decline and advertisers shift their spending online.
Unique visitors in the month of December rose to 40.1 million, compared with the same time a year ago, according to the report.
Chuck Schilling, Nielsen Online's research director agency and media, noted in a statement:
Nine of the top 10 newspaper Web sites experienced positive year-over-year growth.
News coverage in December ranged from how the 2008 holiday season would be affected by the weakening economy to Obama's latest nomination for his administration, all of which helped to drive this impressive growth.
The New York Times posted a 6 percent increase in its December Internet traffic to 18.2 million unique visitors, compared with the same time a year ago, according to the report.
USA Today jumped 15 percent to 11.4 million unique visitors and The Washington Post climbed 12 percent to 9.5 million.
Publications posting substantial increases included the New York Daily News with a staggering 99 percent increase to 5.9 million, the Los Angeles Times with a 73 percent jump to 8 million and the New York Post with a 60 percent increase to 4.6 million.
Despite such gains, the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which audits the paid circulation figures of publications, noted the six-month average for the top 25 U.S. Sunday newspapers, dropped by 3.2 percent to 7.2 percent for the period ending in September, over year ago figures. The Washington Post fell 3.2 percent, while the New York Daily News dropped 7.2 percent.
The challenge for newspaper publishers today is to learn how to capitalize on this active online readership and translate their increasing engagement into revenue.