Web newspaper blog traffic triples in year

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NEW YORK - The number of people reading Internet blogs on the top 10 U.S. newspaper sites more than tripled in December from a year ago and accounted for a larger portion of overall traffic to those sites, according to data released Wednesday.

Unique visitors to blog sites affiliated with the largest Internet newspapers rose to 3.8 million in December 2006 from 1.2 million viewers a year earlier, tracking firm Nielsen//NetRatings said.

Some of the growth stems from newspapers adding new blogs to their site that were not running in 2005, Nielsen//NetRatings said, as well as readers' greater familiarity with the reading format.

"This is the first time we've really drilled down into the traditional newspaper online segment (for blogs)," Carolyn Creekmore, Nielsen//NetRatings senior director of media analytics, told Reuters.

"There's certainly a degree of comfort level that has grown over past year or so (for reading blogs)," she said. "We've all gotten a little more comfortable in having a conversation online."

U.S. news organizations are increasingly calling on their reporters and editors to write news blogs and compete with the expanding Internet format for informal analysis and opinion.

It is one of several tactics they are using to keep readers who can choose from a flood of competing information sources on the Internet.

Blog pages accounted for 13% of overall visits to newspaper sites in that month, up from 4% a year earlier. Total visitors to the top newspaper sites rose 9% to 29.9 million.

About 60% of online newspaper readers were men, with the percentage rising to 66% of blog readers, Nielsen//NetRatings said.

The top U.S. newspaper site in December belonged to the New York Times Co.'s flagship newspaper at NYTimes.com, with 13.2 million unique viewers, followed by Gannett Co.'s USAToday.com site, with 9.1 million viewers, and the Washington Post's washingtonpost.com, with 7.6 million viewers, Nielsen//NetRatings said.
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