Re: Can the P-I Switch to Online Only?

By Glenn Fleishman February 9, 2009

Earlier  today, in my weekly TechNerd column here, I analyzed why I thought the Seattle Post-Intelligencer doesn’t have a near-term future switching from to an online-only publication, even though I’d like that to be the case, and I believe there’s a long-term certainty that such publications will thrive—even in as little as a few years from now.

My analysis was critiqued by someone identifying himself as Seattle P-I columnist Joel Connelly. The brief comment noted the following:

“Typically, he does not include January figures, showing hits on website up to 2.8 million . . . with technology blog getting more hits than Cook at his best.”

This is both poorly written and confusing, so it may not be Connelly at all. Nonetheless, I wondered where these numbers came from. It turns out I missed  a report on the Slog last week where they printed an internal P-I memo.

The “up to [sic] 2.8 million” figure apparently comes from the total page views of all P-I blogs in January, a number which wasn’t publicly disclosed. The P-I claims 45 million page views a month (that number may be low, too, but it’s what the P-I provides), which makes their blog page views about 6 percent of total traffic.

However, those page views are up 33 percent over December, itself an extremely busy month overall at the P-I based on Nielsen ratings. That’s quite remarkable, even if it’s a subset of all traffic.

What’s also interesting is that even with the departure of business reporters Todd Bishop, who covered Microsoft, and John Cook, who covered venture capital and startups, the P-I saw strong traffic jumps in its technology section.

That’s good news. Technology pages will have higher ad rates than regular news pages, and it’s also impressive that Bishop’s replacement, Joe Tartakoff, is scoring lots of return readers for his posts rather than big wins from single events. The P-I memo says that 11 Tartakoff posts in January had over 20,000 page views.

I’m not sure if readers think I’m rooting against the P-I. Even though I’ve been a regular freelance contributor to The Seattle Times since 2000, I have nothing but respect for the P-I, and I have known many current and former writers at both papers.

In a fevered dream of an ideal world, Seattle would have many newspapers, print and online, all of them rooting out different stories, presenting different viewpoints.

To my mind, it’s a great thing if the P-I’s ability to transition to the Web could work. I’m afraid a 33 percent month-over-month increase in blog page views doesn’t get them there, but it’s still good to see that they have a loyal readership. 
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