An empirical analysis of UK regional newspapers websites’ unique browsers

Brightman, Michael Brian (2016) An empirical analysis of UK regional newspapers websites’ unique browsers. Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

[thumbnail of Thesis document] PDF (Thesis document) - Submitted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike.



Having relied on the traditional business model of a low cover price to woo readers and advertisers for 170 years, newspapers are in crisis due to the disruptive innovation of the internet and the arrival of online news which has negated the purchase of a newspaper for many.
UK Regional newspapers rely on advertising for around 80% of their revenue and paid circulation for the remainder. Both have been in freefall since 2006 and attempts to recoup losses from online revenue streams have not, as yet, proved successful.
Newspapers use their print circulation as a measure of value to advertisers with larger circulations attracting more advertisers and higher rates per advertisement. For news websites the equivalent metric is unique browsers. Given that the number of unique browsers potentially increases value to advertisers and consequently increases advertising spend, the research focus was on what factors influence the amount of visitors to a regional newspaper’s website with the aim of investigating those factors or variables empirically.
Fifty UK regional newspapers and their respective websites, that are audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), were selected for an empirical study that sought to analyse their relative success in attracting online visitors. Unique browsers was the response variable with seven explanatory variables; the 7C’s. The study reframed the 4C’s from Nel and Westlund’s (2010) longitudinal study of mobile news (Channels, Commerce, Content and Conversation) and added print Circulation, Cost and Connections.
A detailed analysis of each of the 50 websites recorded the presence/absence of 111 separate website elements using binary notation and then created indices for Channels, Commerce, Content and Conversation from different configurations of the elements. Print Circulation and Cost were ascertained mainly from ABC and Connections were recorded from the individual Facebook and Twitter accounts of the newspapers forming the study.
The study found that print Circulation figures for both December 2014 and June 2000 were statistically significant as explanatory variables for Unique Browsers June 2014 with respective Rsq results of 39.7% and 45.4%. The study also found that Connections showed statistically significant results for Facebook and Twitter when measured separately and together. None of the 4C’s or Cost were found to be statistically significant
The final model of Unique Browsers = C0 + C5Circulation + C6Connections + ε
where Connections is Twitters Followers + Facebook Talking about has an Rsq(adj) of 82.52%.
This demonstrates the importance of both print Circulation and Connections (social networks) to the success of a regional newspaper’s website when that success is measured by the industry standard measure of the number of unique browsers. This is a particularly important finding because there is ongoing debate within the industry and academia both of whether newspapers and their websites are substitute or complementary goods and what role social networks play.
The research has demonstrated:
• Newspapers and their website are complementary goods
• Newspapers’ Facebook and Twitter accounts are important drivers of traffic to their news website and that the greater the interaction on these social networks the larger their number of online unique browsers and that this is statistically significant.
One could argue that these findings are not surprising, dependant with which side of the substitute/complementary debate one sits, and that it is expected that social networks are drivers of traffic. However, given the continued debate and that newspapers are not fully aware of the value of social networks, the magnitude of the findings are indeed of particular interest.

Repository Staff Only: item control page