(Chicago, IL) – July 9, 2010. The Chicago Tribune may hold a nearly 2 to 1 lead over the Chicago Sun-Times in print circulation, but unique visitors to the Sun-Times Web site may soon outstrip those to the Tribune’s if trends continue, according to a new survey of area newspapers’ Web site traffic.
The Tribune holds and incontestable lead in Monday through Friday print readers—452,145 to 268,803—but its monthly Internet traffic of unique visitors to its Web site has shrunk from an estimated 3,084,971 in May 2009 to 2,813,095 in May 2010, an 8.81% decline, according to the latest data estimates publicly available at Compete.com, a Web analytics company.
Meanwhile, monthly visitors to the Sun-Times has surged, growing from an estimated 1,950,364 in May 2009 to 2,673,095 in May 2010, a 37.06% increase.
From April 2010 to May 2010 alone, the Tribune’s unique monthly visitors declined 1.11% while Sun-Times visitors grew 11.97%, reducing the Tribune’s online edge to only an estimated 140,000 visitors in May, down from 1,134,607 a year ago, according to the latest data.
Commenting on the Sun-Times’ surge, the paper’s corporate communications chief, Tammy Chase, said:
Our sites’ traffic is benefiting from our continuing emphasis on local news and sports, news that is relevant to our readers. A good news cycle helps, too: Our excellent coverage of key stories in the city, such as the Blago trial and pre-trial coverage, as well as in the suburbs is paying off, as our numbers show increasingly that we’re the place to find the best coverage of spot news like the Darien murders in March and to find investigations like those into Dr. Eric Whitaker, one of President Obama’s friends in May.
The survey, conducted by THE iLLINOIS OBSERVER on July 8, 2010, compared the Web site traffic of top Chicago area newspaper operations, including the Daily Herald, the Southtown Star (owned by the Sun-Times), and Suburban Chicago News, which publishes newspapers such as the Joliet Herald News, Naperville Sun, Aurora Beacon News, etc.
Of the sites surveyed, with the exception of the Tribune, each news group increased monthly Internet traffic to its Web sites over the last year, with the Daily Herald witnessing the greatest increase, 41.1%. An estimated 332,128 Internet visitors headed to the Daily Herald in May 2009, and by May 2010 that number had jumped to 468,618.
Meanwhile, online traffic to Suburban Chicago News sites increased an estimated 17.78% and the Southtown Star saw a 2.86% bump from May 2009 to May 2010.
As long as the Tribune holds its print reader lead and the lucrative advertising advantage that comes with it, the paper will retain significant advantages over the Sun-Times.
However, if the Sun-Times manages to surpass the Tribune on Internet traffic—the readers of the future–the print underdog may gain more than bragging rights—it may secure its financial future if the paper’s new publisher, John Barron, can learn how to monetize its growing online strength.