Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Hearst: Zombie Seattle Paper Doing Better Than the Original

globeI’m still on record predicting the demise of seattlepi.com–the online-only zombie version of the erstwhile Seattle Post-Intelligencer. My gut is that even though the Hearst-owned site has an edit staff 80 percent smaller than its predecessor paper, it still won’t be able to generate enough traffic and advertising to cover its costs.

But while Hearst isn’t ready to declare victory, it does say that the first two months of seattlepi.com’s life have been “encouraging.” Via a press release, Hearst offers up a bevy of traffic stats that show the site has grown even as its staff has shrunk. Hearst doesn’t offer up any info about revenue, but does say that its “sales and marketing team is highly energized.”

I sincerely hope so, and I sincerely hope it works. I still don’t get the math: Hearst says seattlepi.com is attracting 4.3 million monthly unique visitors. Chris Batty, who runs sales for Nick Denton’s Gawker Media empire, figures that traffic could support a staff of perhaps a dozen editorial workers at one of his sites–not the 20 or so that Hearst has working in editorial.

And bear in mind that Gawker’s titles have a national focus, not a regional one, which makes it much easier to sell than Seattlepi.com.  There may be a thriving business for regional/local online ads one day, and we’ve been hearing about the potential for many years. But it’s not there yet, and it’s not close.

Still, better to have Hearst says it’s encouraged than to have Hearst pull the plug after a few days.

Two months after becoming the nation’s largest newspaper to move to an all-digital news model, seattlepi.com’s year over year numbers show that it has more users this April than last April, when the Post Intelligencer was still publishing with an 80% larger staff, an amazing feat for an online venture with a newsroom of 20.

In April, its first full month of operation, seattlepi.com had 4.3 million unique visitors, up 1.6% from 4.2 million in April 2008 (source: Omniture). Total page views for the month were 37.3 million.

During the last week of April, the site broke its one-day unique user record since going online-only. There were 324,000 unique visitors on April 30—the 4th highest day in terms of unique visitors in 2009—breaking previous records set since going online only on April 29 (290,000) and April 27 (283,000). Total page views for those days were 1.5 million, 1.4 million and 1.5 million, respectively.

Two months into our online-only experiment, we are encouraged by this growth in visitors and expect our numbers to improve as we continue to establish new partnerships.

We get a lot of feedback from readers cheering us on and thanking us for continuing to bring them the local news and information they want and need. It’s great to see that not only have we not lost readers, we’ve actually gained new ones.

A new team of more than a dozen sales and marketing representatives and managers has been tasked with building advertising and marketing partnerships and creating a unique Seattle digital advertising agency.

Our sales and marketing team is highly energized to be working with such a vital and dynamic product. We will leverage existing partnerships with Yahoo!, Kaango, Metrix4Media, and others to create what is essentially a local digital advertising agency offering unique opportunities for business in the Seattle area and across the country. Advertisers and other partners understand that seattlepi.com is in an unrivaled, popular destination for news and information, offering tremendous value for exposing their products, services and brands to a large and very desirable audience.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik