Story volumes down at biggest digital publishers

The nation’s biggest digital newsrooms are publishing approximately eight per cent fewer stories a day than they did at the end of 2019.

The data may be evidence of coronavirus-induced job cuts starting to impact output, although there are other possible explanations.

Streem examined the story output of 19 of the nation’s biggest national and metropolitan news websites, including free sites such as ABC and News.com.au and subscriber sites like AFR and The Australian.

From September to November 2019, the 19 sites published an average total of 1854 unique stories a day, once syndication was removed.

From April to June 2020, that figure had dropped to 1700 stories a day, a fall of 8.3 per cent.

The fall is at least partly attributable to lost jobs, as the now defunct 10 Daily was one of the news sites being monitored. However, that explains only about a third of the fewer stories.

While many newsrooms have endured staff cuts due to coronavirus, there are also likely to be other factors at play.

Many publishers in recent years have targeted reducing the quantity of stories they publish in favour of focusing on quality.

Meanwhile, coronavirus has caused pauses or reductions in many newspaper print sections in areas such as entertainment and travel, with those stories now potentially not migrating online.

Streem media and partnerships lead Conal Hanna said while there may be some lift as those sections came back online, he doubted story volumes would return to 2019 levels.

“Trying to do more with less is never easy, and in a constrained ad market like this one it also doesn’t make much strategic sense.

“Far better for publishers to continue focusing on aligning their output with the needs of their core audiences.

“That means having the best stories, not the most stories.”

The reduced output certainly hasn’t hurt audience figures which, while falling in May from their March peak, were still considerably higher than late 2019 for almost all major news brands.

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