Does the newspaper drive web traffic?

Go Triad, the News & Record’s weekly entertainment magazine, has a cover story today titled “Top Tweets: Four Triad tweeters you should follow.” I wondered whether the four got a bump in followers as a result of the story.

They did, but it was nothing to write home about. The report from the four:

Jermaine Exum, manager of Acme Comics and who tweets mostly about comics, had seven new followers by noon. Eight is usual in a week. He said retweets drive new followers. One of his tweets today was RT’d by the Henson Company. He then got 10 new followers in 10 minutes.

Danielle Hatfield, a PR and social media expert, got 17 new followers by dinnertime. She averages five to eight new followers per day. “I think as more people read online & share – awareness could last weeks.”

Nikki Miller-Ka, who tweets about food, had 15 new followers, when she normally has just 2 or 3 a week.

Kit Rodenbough, owner of a shop downtown, only had 3, but at about 1 p.m., she noted that “the day is young.”

Here are possible interpretations those results:

1. The readers of the newspaper who are on Twitter already subscribe to those four. Unlikely.

2. Newspaper readers aren’t big Twitterers. Probably.

3. Their issues — comics, food, social media — aren’t so broad that “everyone” wants to sign up. Oprah and Ashton Kucher they aren’t, and I mean that as a positive.

4. People don’t follow the bread crumbs that newspaper stories leave leading to online sites. Most likely.

When I was at the paper, we never saw conclusive evidence that newspaper readers followed online promos from the paper. At least, directly. We often saw conclusive evidence that they did NOT. Don’t be surprised. Think about the number of online denizens who pick up a newspaper to read an article that they can’t get online.

In no way does that suggest that the story was a waste. If papers made editorial decisions based on how many people would act on it, they would hardly cover primary elections. I advocate journalism that exposes readers to something new. Readers don’t need to follow the link to learn about what 100 million people are members of.

Danielle says the viral nature of the web will come into play over the next several days. “Most who use twitter will read the article online and share web article over the next few days or so vs. purchasing paper.”

I think she’s right, but even if she’s not, the story introduced readers to four interesting people doing interesting things. Not bad.

*** Full disclosure: I know Danielle and Nikki personally. Nikki reported to me at the paper for a time. I also follow the article’s writer, Jennifer Bringle,on Twitter.

Friday update: It appears that scientific research bears Danielle out. The bottom line is simple: articles that many people tweeted about were 11 times more likely to be highly cited than those who few people tweeted about. Its implications are even more interesting. It generally takes months and years for papers to be cited by other scientific publications. Thus, on the day an article comes out, it would seem to be difficult to tell whether it will have a real impact on a given field.

4 thoughts on “Does the newspaper drive web traffic?

  1. Glad you wrote about this John, I was curious about how many followers These guys would get from the article since it was so visible. I followed the two I wasn’t already following early this morning and was thinking they would have a buch by the end of the day. I guess the main problem is that the newspaper article was missing a “follow” button.

  2. While Twitter/Facebook don’t necessarily drive web, I have found that web traffic can sometimes lead to a few extra hard copies being picked up…

    Also, surely a picture gallery of some event would have a benefit if you’re getting readers to have a look-see online…?

  3. Well, I definitely fall into the category of having found the article online. In fact, I saw it on Twitter. :-) I also followed the two people I wasn’t already following. I think Danielle is right that they’ll start to see more growth as people share the story around. Thanks for sharing your insights on newspaper promos.

  4. Jeff, not sure if you saw the link to the article online – http://gotriad.news-record.com/content/2012/01/11/article/the_triad_s_top_tweeters – there are links to everyone’s accounts there.

    For me – I didn’t see this as an opportunity to get more followers – but for the community to learn more about those included in the article. I know I enjoyed learning more about @LordRetail, @NikSnaks and @DesignArchives.

    Over all, I think the story was about awareness. As you said John, many who have a subscription to the paper don’t follow links mentioned in print and probably have no interest in a personal twitter account. What you said about exposing readers to something new. . . this story was a window into an online world many may never step foot it. It’s a way to connect across generations and educate readers about a social media tool that is being used by locals in a more personal and thoughtful way.

    What Barnaby mentioned above about web interest driving hard copy sales. . . *that is the number I am interested in. With all of the buzz yesterday – I would be interested in learning if hard copy sales saw a bump. And what about web hits to the article?

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