NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Newspapers, once a cornerstone of consumer media consumption, are losing ever more readers to online editions, according to the latest research by Internet measurement firm Nielsen/NetRatings.
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Nearly one-quarter (21%) of Web users who do read newspapers now read the daily paper online.
The biggest: NYTimes.com
Overall, online newspaper readership is led by the NYTimes.com, which had 11.3 million unique visitors in May, according to NetRatings. No. 2 is USAToday.com, with 9.2 million unique visitors and WashingtonPost.com with 7.4 million. Rounding out the top five were LATimes.com with 3.8 million and SFGate.com, the Web site of the San Francisco Chronicle, with 3.4 million unique visitors.
Although the research shows the majority of newspaper readers are still turning to the traditional print edition, the finding shows that the shift away from paper to computer screens is steadily increasing.
A Newspaper Association of America analysis of the figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations calculated that newspapers' total average daily circulation dropped 1.9% to 47.4 million, and that Sunday circulation fell 2.5% to 51 million. The figures cover the six-month period ended March 31.
The Nielsen study, the first NetRatings has done focusing on newspaper readership, shows that online editions have incorporated original, Internet-specific content that seeks to keep readers on the site. That content includes online message boards, editorial blogs and up-to-the-minute news postings, which leverage the medium's strengths, said Gerry Davidson, senior media analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings.
'Immediacy and interactivity'
"Newspapers are appealing to their readers with immediacy and interactivity options and are delivering what the technology allows them to do," Mr. Davidson said.
Men, more so than women, access their newspapers primarily online. Men make up 53% of online readers, while women comprise 47%. Comparatively, women make up 57% of those who read newspapers primarily in print.
The NetRatings survey routinely polls 36,000 online users by telephone. For this study, they were asked, "Do you primarily read the newspaper online or offline?"