Online Newspaper Popularity

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What’s the most popular newspaper in the United States?

A decade ago, that might have been easy to figure out. You just look at the circulation of the papers. That’s not true today. Many folks are reading their news online.

So, I thought it would be interesting to look at circulations numbers today and try to find some other figures that might be used to consider online popularity.

The following numbers are from the nonprofit Audit Bureau of Circulations, and are a ranking of newspapers by largest reported circulation as of September 30, 2005:

1. USA Today – 2,590,695

2. The Wall Street Journal – 2,100,760

3. New York Times – 1,682,644

4. Los Angeles Times – 1,247,588

5. The Washington Post – 965,919

6. Chicago Tribune – 950,582

7. New York Daily News – 781,375

8. Denver Post/Rocky Mountain News – 725,178

9. Philadelphia Inquirer – 714,609

10. Houston Chronicle – 708,312

Just how does the online popularity of these newspapers match their offline popularity? What do we use to calculate that online readership?

One measure of that popularity would be to look at the traffic statistics of each to see how many people visit the sites regularly. Sounds like a good approach, and I would do that. But I don’t have access to the log files for these sites.

Google gauges popularity by looking at the backlinks to sites and modifies that measure by the popularity of the sites doing the linking. I would do that, too. But I don’t have the server farms, and the crawlers to look at all of the links on the web, and do the math.

I’m going to go with a simpler measure, and look at just the links pointing to each of the sites. I would use Google’s “link” operator to see how many links are pointed at the sites of each newspaper. But, Google’s tool for looking at links only shows a random number of links and wouldn’t give us good numbers. Instead, I’ll use a similar tool from Yahoo! which is believed to show more accurate numbers. I also don’t want to count the internal links from each site, so I’ll subtract those out like this:


(The format of these searches is described on a Yahoo! search Tips page.)

Here are the number of links to each paper, as determined by a search in Yahoo! (with circulation listed in parenthesis below.)

1. (1) USA Today – 3,860,000

2. (3) New York Times – 2,710,000

3. (5) The Washington Post – 1,280,000

4. (4) Los Angeles Times – 834,000

5. (6) Chicago Tribune – 506,000

6. (8) Denver Post/Rocky Mountain News – (227,000 + 138,000) 365,000

7. (7) New York Daily News – 216,000

8. (9) Philadelphia Inquirer – 203,000

9. (2) The Wall Street Journal – 193,000

10. (10) Houston Chronicle – 152,000

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3 thoughts on “Online Newspaper Popularity”

  1. Just a note – you’ve switched the figures for the New York TImes in place of the 2,590,695 which should be registered for the USA Today.

    This is an interesting topic, though – I was having a conversation on this subject very recently, although it was more pertaining to whether newspapers had experienced a drop in circulation proportionate to their online presence.

    My investigation was inconclusive – I had very little luck in finding good historical data for web presence. Not an easy research area.

  2. Thanks, Joe. I’ve corrected that. I started looking around the sites to see if there was a metric listed for advertisers about online presences, and found a few different ones used.


    I looked only at US newspapers for this post. But I did look at data for newspapers outside of the United State, and the circulation of a good number of non-usa newspapers is very large, and dwarf the numbers above. This page shows some impressive numbers: World’s 100 Largest Newspapers

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