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Readers reading web news just like it’s the morning paper

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A look at seven weeks of page view data from a mid-sized (Canadian) daily newspaper rather strongly suggests that the majority of their readers are treating the web like a morning paper.
The data, which charts the median number of hourly page views for each day of the week, reveals that six days a week, page views climb sharply starting at about 4:30 am, peaking before 8 a.m., that is before people get into work. The page views peak twice more during the day: once just before noon (lunch) and again just before the end of the work day — but each of these is significantly lower than the A.M. peak (75% and 60% of the pre-work peak respectively).
A couple of interesting points:

1) People are using the website like it’s a morning paper
2) People don’t plug into news when they arrive at work, at least not in great numbers.
3) People check the news site just before going to lunch and just before leaving for the day (Why?)
4) It looks like there’s a real potential to grow our existing audiences (page views and ad revenue) simply by delivering fresh, relevant content at noon and at the end of the day. The increase comes from better serving existing customers, without even worrying about attracting new ones.

Here’s the big takeaway though: best guess is that those pre-work readers have NOT simply dropped a paid subscription in favour of free web news, or at least most of them aren’t — the numbers are just too big. The paper hasn’t lost that many paid subscribers. This is most likely a new or at least expanded audience who wouldn’t pay for the paper anyway.

Or at least that’s my read of the numbers. Love to hear any other thoughts.

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