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Magazines and papers are opening their vaults

Online newspaper advertising in the U.S. rose by 18.8 percent in 2007 to $3.2 billion, according to the Newspaper Association of America [via Mindpark]. And although advertising on newspaper web sites have seen double digit growth for thirteen consecutive quarters, the increase in Q4 was the lowest in the last eight quarters, “only” 13.6 percent.

However, we should not be surprised if this is a temporary dent in the curve. Many news organisations have begun to exploit a resource that has remained largely untouched up til now, namely their archives. About a week ago, Sports Illustrated introduced the Vault, a free part of SI.com that contains all the articles that Sports Illustrated has ever published, many of the images, and some video material. The Vault is expected to account for 5 percent of SI’s online revenue in its first year and then continue to grow.

Other sites have done the same and the experience from for example the New York Times is that the archives drive a significant amount of traffic, with increased ad revenue as a result. When NYT removed its pay wall last September, visits to the archive grew quickly.

– Since then, search traffic to archive pages has more than doubled, and the archives now represent 10 percent of the page views on NYTimes.com, said Diane McNulty, a spokeswoman.

In other words, as more newspaper sites follow the same route, advertising revenue will continue to increase. And with those numbers in mind, it will be interesting to follow how sites like Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet will manage to keep content behind a pay wall. Aftonbladet.se has indeed seen an increase in the number of unique visitors during the last 12 months by about 12 percent, according to KIA Index, so they’re not doing so bad after all.

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