According to a new report from Scarborough Research, newspaper Web sites are contributing significant numbers of readers to their overall audience who do not necessarily read the printed publications. The "Online Exclusive" audience — or the audience that reads a newspaper’s Web site but not its printed version — accounts for 2% to 15% of the integrated newspaper audience of the publications.

For example, in an average week, 8% of the total New York Times audience reads the paper exclusively online. This equates to 366,540 people. Those that read both the print and online versions of the paper make up 22% of the company’s total readership. The Scarborough study examined selected newspapers in 25 of the nation’s biggest markets.

An alternative study by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press also confirms the findings of Scarborough. The New York Times leads the way among the major dailies in terms of online readership, but the national dailies have nothing on the local newspapers when it comes to online consumption.

Interestingly, 39% of US adults accessing online newspapers go to the Web site via a link from another site or a search engine rather than through the front door. With the blogosphere expanding daily, and many bloggers linking to professional content such as newspapers, the audience for a particular newspaper article can extend well beyond the local market. This would suggest that it still comes down to writing good copy, and the blogosphere will do the rest.

It is important to put online newspaper sites in context with other online news sources. Recent data from comScore Media Metrix indicate that the audience for Yahoo! News in August 2006 was nearly four times as large as that of the New York Times brand.