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Tracking The Online-Only Seattle P-I: Traffic Down 20 Percent

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imageIt makes some sense: Cut your editorial staff by 80 percent, and there’s at least a decent chance that Web traffic will tumble. And that’s just what has happened at the new online-only Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Page views are down about 20 percent in the week since the newspaper killed its print edition and became an online-only publication, according to internal numbers. averaged between 1.3 million and 1.4 million page views a day this week, down from 1.7 million page views a day in January, when the site was able to draw large chunks of content from the print edition. And more than a third of those 1.3 million to 1.4 million hits are from photo galleries and comics. (Disclosure: I worked at the P-I until the very end.)

Clearly, the P-I‘s online experiment is still in the early days, but the company itself has fanned heady expectations: A day after the new launched, Hearst Spokesman Paul Luthringer told the Associated Press that the company was encouraged by the website’s traffic on its first day, when it got 1.9 million page views. The dirty little secret: a good chunk of that traffic probably went to content created by staffers who had already left.

As you may remember, in ceasing publication of the paper’s print edition, Seattle P-I owner Hearst Corp. laid off 160 of its employees, including most of its long-time beat reporters, and replaced them with 20 full-time “news gatherers,” who write on a myriad of topics. The site now depends heavily on local AP stories and to a lesser extent on third-party sites it links to for content. According to one report, Hearst expected that traffic would drop between 25 percent and 30 percent initially, before increasing within three months, though the company hasn’t offered such figures publicly.

Luthringer did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment today.

Update: Luthringer writes in an e-mail, “Traffic remains encouraging and continues to track above plan.”

15 Responses to “Tracking The Online-Only Seattle P-I: Traffic Down 20 Percent”

  1. Reader

    Sounds like it still hurts to be on the cut list.

    Of course you can't, or at least shouldn't, draw any significant conclusion from one data point, but as a journalist you already know that. Regardless, if I were them I'd be elated that cutting 80% of the staff to stop the hemorrhaging budget only cut the views by 20%. If the cuts balanced the budget, it totally supports their decision. Time will tell if they can sustain that readership, or even grow it.

    See, I think there's a problem with many journalists, they seem to think the the news business should be some sort of philanthropic endeavor, or something. It's a business, it has to make money or they close it down. And if the readers are going elsewhere, blaming them or throwing stones certainly won't bring them back in shame. You can only try to adapt to the changing availability of information. Three cheers for the P-I for being brave enough to try a new business model. The paper-based news business is all but dead, likely out with the buggies and their associated whips. Evolve or die.

    Just one question, since you brought up the stats of the online edition: On an average day of the print edition, just how many articles were actually written by P-I staffers, versus how many came from wire services and the like? The stats from most papers are surprisingly low, and they, unlike the P-I, are still printing.

  2. Lop off 95% of your operating expenses and still retain 80% of your web traffic?

    Sounds like a wildly successful business move to me.

    This is not to say I agree with their decision or that I'm happy so many were laid off but business is business. Altruism cannot hold up in a company hemorrhaging cash.

  3. All I can say is I am so glad I left the news business in 2001. It was getting pretty bad back then.,..but nothing compared to today's disaster. The Seattle PI will fade away eventually. I just don't see it suriving in today's landscape. There are just too many places to go that offer the same content.

  4. I must say that this is a drastic fall of page views for this site. Maintain the marketing strategy or find other minimal cost but effective marketing strategy to maintain the objective.

  5. only down 20% ain't bad. i imagine the previous month's # are somewhat skewed with all the talk (around the globe) of hearst shuttering the paper.

    have faith.

    i'd imagine even at -20% traffic they were still kicking the local tv stations' collective keesters.


  6. Joseph Tartakoff

    Some guy — Of course, and I am clear in the article that it's still early in the experiment.

    LiveFree and Some guy — I'm using the January numbers as comparison because those are the only traffic numbers the P-I has released publicly. See this Associated Press article,, where the Hearst spokesman mentions the January numbers.

    As for the traffic numbers from this past week, sources provided them.

    — Joe Tartakoff, [email protected]

  7. S Curve Watcher

    Keep in mind that the print publication was a great marketing tool for the Web site. Every day, the newspaper told thousands of people to go to the Web site. Cut your marketing and you cut your reach, too. Out of sight, out of mind.