The Leading Global News Brand

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I was at breakfast last week with Dan Gillmor and we got to talking about the leading globals news brands.

I said they aren’t CBS news, NBC news, or ABC news.

And they aren’t MSNBC, CNN, or Fox News.

And they aren’t Dow Jones or Reuters.

I said for english speakers, they are The New York Times and the BBC. Dan added The Guardian and I agreed with him. That was just breakfast talk between two people who care a lot about news and its distribution and consumption.

But I’ve been thinking about that conversation since then and tonight I went to Comscore Media Metrix and did a query for the top news services on the Internet on a worldwide basis.

Maybe this is a well known fact, but I am not sure people realize how big The New York Times has become.

The New York Times, my hometown paper, is the leading global news brand with an audience of 74 million unique visitors a month. That compares to a circulation of the paper edition of 1.1 million daily and 1.6 million on Sundays.

Online, the NY Times gets 50 times the audience that it gets in paper form. Wow.

Yahoo News is next with 67 million unique visitors a month, but they are aggregating news. The New York Times is not, but I wish they would. That would only add to the power of their brand, particularly if they did it intelligently learning from what I read in their pages every day.

Next is The Weather Channel with 44 million unique visitors per month. I wonder how that compares to their TV audience?

MSNBC and CNN are next, about tied with 36 million unique visitors per month.

Then we start to get to the international news organizations with the India Times at 22 million, and Sankei and Asahi at roughly 15 million.

The BBC is harder to figure out because there are multiple entries for the BBC. When you add them up, the BBC’s audience is about tied with MSNBC and CNN at 36 million uniques per month.

The Guardian, possibly the best english speaking online news service, is in 32nd place with an audience of 7.5 million uniques per month.

I have two reactions to this. First, I realize how big of a mistake it was to sell Flatiron Partner’s minority interest in The New York Times Digital back to the parent company.  We bought the interest in the spring of 2000 and sold it back in late 2001. I have no idea how valuable it would be right now if we held onto it, but it sure seems like something we should not have sold.

Second, what The New York Times has done with the Internet is truly amazing. They have turned what was an important but essentially a hybrid local/national newspaper into the leading global news service. They are reaching 11% of the global internet audience and they have the 18th highest reach on the entire Internet.

That is an incredible accomplishment and I believe the Internet has made The New York Times Company a much more valuable business than it was 10 years ago when it first saw the power of the Internet and started investing in it.

So for all the handwringing about how the Internet is destroying the newspaper business, we can point to at least one well positioned newspaper company that took advantage of the Internet to add significant value to its business.

All market disruptions bring both risk and opportunity. The Times Company accepted the risk and grabbed the opportunity and look what they have to show for it now.

I only wish they’d make the opinion columnists available to all 74 million of their worldwide audience and not keep them behind a wall that makes them available to something way less than 1% of that number. Even an organization as successful as The New York Times doesn’t get everything right.