SMH and The Age take digital ratings hit following Nielsen withdrawal

The impact of Fairfax Media’s decision to withdraw from Nielsen’s digital content ratings (DCR) has been felt by its online mastheads, with sessions per person and time spent on site noticeably declining for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in February.

Although the SMH’s unique audience remained relatively stable – an audience of 3.913m compared to 3.910m in January – sessions per person reduced from 12 to seven, and time spent on site fell from one hour, nine minutes and 43 seconds to 43 minutes and 30 seconds.

Meanwhile The Age’s audience – which dipped from 2.098m in January to 2.042m in February (-2.6%) – saw more notable changes in its sessions and time spent. Sessions per person fell from 12.83 to 6.26, and time spent fell from 46 minutes 17 seconds to 32 minutes and nine seconds.

Nielsen’s top 10 news and current events website for February. Source: Nielsen

The results come almost three weeks after Fairfax Media revealed it had not renewed its contract with Nielsen. Mumbrella understands the decision was based on concerns with the rating’s measurement methodology.

As a result, Fairfax Media no longer inserts Nielsen tags on its pages, meaning not all activity is tracked and reported in the DCR.

This affects the sites’ digital ratings monthly as tagging is used in combination with panel based data to measure sessions per person and time spent on site – otherwise known as volumetrics. Time spent per site is often seen as an indicator of audience value, as opposed to audience reach.

Nielsen’s top 10 news and current affairs websites in January. SMH has more sessions per person and time per person than February. Source: Nielsen

Tagging is not used in digital ratings monthly to calculate unique audience, Nielsen told Mumbrella.

Nielsen also made a note of this in this month’s ratings: “Fairfax Metropolitan sites, including metropolitan mastheads does not include any census data for their volumetrics including time per person and sessions per person. Unique audience uses the same methodology as previous months and is consistent with all sites in the rankings.”

But in January, had the most time spent per person of any of the news websites in the top 10 by a significant amount, while this month the impact sees it fall into second place among other publishers. The reductions in sessions per person sees it fall to the bottom of the news website rankings, with only MSN news and The Age reporting fewer sessions.

Mumbrella has approached Fairfax Media for comment.

Returning to unique audiences, extended its lead over other publishers in February, growing from 5.450m to 5.749m, a 5% month on month increase.

ABC News websites were static, reporting a unique audience of 4.849m. Publishers including Nine, and The Guardian also saw little difference compared to last month, with audiences of 4.557m and 2.570m respectively.

Daily Mail saw the most growth this month, up to 2.778m compared to last month’s 2.615m. BBC also showed modest growth in February, up 4% to 2.411m.

One of the biggest declines of the month was Yahoo7, which fell form 3.270m in January to 3.072m.

MSN News also saw a drop, down 7% compared to last month, with a unique audience of 2.141m.

Outside of the top ten, unique audience proved more volatile, with The Daily Telegraph, Buzzfeed Australia, HuffPost Australia, Mamamia, Pedestrian and Mashable all seeing month on month declines of more than 10%.

Mashable saw the biggest month on month decline, down 33.77% from 305,000 to 202,000. Meanwhile, Mamamia’s unique audience fell by 28.92% compared to January, with its unique audience now sitting at 531,000. Pedestrian’s audience dipped from 773,000 to 587,000, according to the latest figures.

Buzzfeed Australia’s unique audience fell below the 1m mark down to 975,000 (-13.26% month on month) and HuffPost fell by 10% from 1.170m to 1.050m.

The Daily Telegraph also fell by more than 13% from 2.133m in January to 1.846m in February. Courier Mail fell by 4% to a unique audience of 1.260m.

Nielsen’s February results were most positive for The Australian, which climbed by 5% from January to 1.411m unique views.

The New Daily saw the biggest growth amongst the small to mid size publishers, up almost 18% from 842,000 to 993,000 in February.

Junkee is now being reported on a brand level, combining Junkee, The Cusp, inthemix, Punkee and AWOL it its unique audience. In February, that audience was 410,000.

January Results: News, ABC and Nine see digital news growth in January following December slump


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