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According to Nielsen, (via MediaPost), traffic is growing very briskly at the major newspaper publishers' sites. The top 5 are:

  4. (Tribune Co.)
  5. (Hearst, SF Chronicle)

Meanwhile, Knight Ridder has put itself up for sale, the LA Times is going to lay off a bunch of staffers and pretty grim projections continue to swirl around the traditional print publication.

The dilemma of newspapers is reflected in the paradox of younger readers, who value the news but don't find a need to subscribe to newspapers, and perfectly recapitulated in the surge of the online product combined with the decline of traditional subscribers.

I have a journalist friend who was formerly a higher-up at ZDTV/TechTV (where I used to work) and Wired News. Notwithstanding generational trends toward online/digital media, he argues that content — and quality content in particular — is a key differentiator for newspapers. But the trends are away from quality because it costs money.

I have argued that news has almost become a commodity (with the exception of local news/features). Quality content is something of an antidote to that problem. However, the corporate parents of newspapers don't generally want to make the investments needed to reverse the overall quality slide.

Going forward, newspapers will need to bundle online and offline ad offerings, leverage their local sales channel and radically rethink their Web sites — editorial is a hook and differentiator. But what consumers want and need from local Web sites is much broader and more dynamic than what newspapers are currently offering.

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