While one can argue with some of the interpretations, Matthew Hindman’s new study on how local online news is consumed gives us interesting data on reader behavior. And beyond the headline — people don’t consume a lot of local online news — there’s also an interesting data set that goes beyond national generalizations to individual markets.
Below, I’ve broken out three slices of that data set that get at the same question: How does local online news consumption differ from community to community?
Hindman’s analysis looked at 100 metro areas in the United States and examined sampled data from comScore on how web users in those metro areas use the Internet. He then tried to identify all noteworthy local news sites in those cities. (You can read the full paper for his methodology, but he was looking in part for any local news site that was viewed at least once by at least 1 percent of the comScore sample in a particular month.) Armed with that list, he was then able to see how much of a typical web user’s Internet time was spent at local news sites.
The first slice of that data: How many pageviews did a typical web user of each metro area generate per month on local news sites? A higher number means more clicks and more engagement on local news sites. So, for example, in Baton Rouge, a typical web user generated 26.1 pageviews on Baton Rouge-area news sites. On the other end of the spectrum, a typical Los Angeles web user generated only 3.9 pageviews on L.A.-area news sites.
There’s a wide spectrum of results from the top 100 markets. You’ll notice that No. 1, far and away, is Salt Lake City — specifically, at KSL-TV, whose big investment in online classifieds generates a remarkable 250 million pageviews a month. It’s a big outlier in this dataset.
...The next slice is of something called the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index. It’s a statistical measure of the vibrancy of competition and the distribution of market power in a given market. It uses a scale of 0 to 10,000, with 10,000 representing a perfect monopoly and 0 representing perfect competition and the absence of market power on the part of any of the competing businesses. (I am not a statistician, so I hope I’m doing this justice.)
If you’d like to see all of the market-by-market data from Hindman’s report, either check the pdf (starting on page 41) or see the Google Spreadsheets version I uploaded.