The Salt Lake Tribune is at a point where roughly half of its readers are reading The Tribune on a screen.
And the overall audience for The Tribune — online or in print, desktop or mobile — has never been bigger, even as print readership for all newspapers slips.
Like all businesses, we know more about our customers’ habits than ever before. Usage and survey data show that our readers are shifting the ways they get their news, but through it all The Tribune’s basic relationship with its readers has remained remarkably steady. There are hundreds of thousands of people who are looking to us daily — and more often — to see what is news in Utah. (Almost two-thirds of our page views come from Utahns.)
Screen or paper, the biggest portion of Trib readers still looks at us in the mornings. One small difference: The online readers tend to wait until they’re at the office. Thousands of office workers appear to start their days at work by calling up sltrib.com. No doubt that morning dose of news stimulates them to be productive citizens throughout the day.
Timewise, the fastest-growing group is the evening audience. As recently as three years ago, the typical day saw online readership climb to a peak around 9 a.m., stay high until around noon, and then slowly decline. Now we’re seeing another, smaller bump in traffic in the early evening. This audience — much of it driven by iPad users — is checking in at home to see what they might have missed during the day.
Speaking of iPads, while our electronic audience grows overall, it’s the mobile chunk that grows fastest. "Mobile" is defined as both smartphones and tablets (mainly iPads). The mobile audience was close to zero three years ago and is now approaching 20 percent of our total traffic, including both those who use our mobile "apps" and those who use our website and mobile website. (Mobile apps? We have more than 50,000 downloads of our iPhone and iPad apps, and that number is growing. But, like most news providers, we have more mobile readers on our websites than our apps.)
And which day of the week do we see the highest percentage of our page views on mobile devices? It’s Sunday. (Are you reading this in church? You are not alone.)
How are our readers finding out about news? Social media gets the attention these days, and Tribune staffers put a lot of effort into maintaining a fresh and interesting presence on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Again, in a matter of a few short years, we’ve arrived at a point where social-media referrals are responsible for about one in five page views on sltrib.com.
But for all the social-media buzz, the other 80 percent of page views come other ways. One huge path is search. Put "Utah Jazz" in Google, and you will likely see a Salt Lake Tribune link on the screen.
But for more than half of our audience, we are a destination. Without knowing what they will find, our readers are checking in, much like our faithful print readers trudge to the driveway, open the paper and hope to be surprised by something.
And that print readership? Yes, it’s declining, but there remains a stubborn core that prefers a once-a-day, non-electronic experience. And while that core skews toward older people, the survey data still show that more than half of adults under 35 in the Salt Lake area look at the printed Tribune at least once a week.
To be sure, modern journalism is not a once-a-day affair anymore, and that is the most profound readership change The Tribune has embraced in recent years. We know our readers are making that electronic walk to the driveway many times a day, and they expect fresh news. The cycle has accelerated, and the deadline is always now.
In times like that, you want professional journalists who can gather and sift information to give you a fast and accurate picture. We have more pros covering Utah than anyone. No matter where you are and how you get to us, we’re ready for you. That will never change.
Tim Fitzpatrick is deputy editor of The Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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