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Culture

Study: Online newspapers flourish

As print circulations continue to shrink, newspapers see their Web site visitors grow in steady ranks.

Circulation of daily print newspapers may be declining, but Web sites of top newspapers are going strong, according to a new study.

Newspaper Web sites have grown 11 percent year over year to 39.3 million visitors. That increase surpasses the growth in number of total active Internet users, which grew 3 percent, according to data released Tuesday by research firm Nielsen/NetRatings.

Furthermore, almost one out of four U.S. Internet users reads online versions of newspapers, the study said.

Nearly 22 percent of newspaper readers prefer online sources, while 7 percent divide their time between print and online. The majority of readers, 71 percent, still prefer print newspapers, Nielsen/NetRatings said.

Among online newspapers surveyed, NYTimes.com was the top site, with 11.4 million visitors in October 2005. The paper recently reported that subscribers for its fee-based site have reached 270,000 since its introduction less than two months ago.

USAToday.com and WashingtonPost.com came in at No. 2 and No. 3 with 10.4 million and 8.1 million visitors, respectively. LATimes.com and SFGate.com rounded out the top five with 3.9 million visitors each.

"The growth among newspaper Web sites demonstrates that these entities offer unique incentives to visitors," Gerry Davison, senior media analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings, said in a statement.

"Most, if not all of the top newspaper sites offer interactivity such as blogs, podcasts and streaming video and audio. These interactive features, combined with Internet users' thirst for up-to-date information, make newspaper Web sites an increasingly appealing choice for news."

Growth in online newspaper readership comes at the expense of of print editions. The Audit Bureau of Circulations last week reported that newspaper circulation fell 2.6 percent among the top 20 largest newspapers in the U.S. in the six months that ended in September. That's a larger drop than in any comparable six-month period since 1991.