NEW YORK The number of people visiting U.S. newspaper Web sites rose 5.3 percent during the first quarter, an industry group said on Monday, even as publishers reported slower online advertising sales growth.
More than 59 million people, or 37.6 percent of all active Internet users, visited the sites in the quarter, the Newspaper Association of America said, citing an analysis it commissioned to Nielsen/NetRatings.
The figures are the highest for any quarter since the association began tracking the numbers in 2004, the group said.
"Newspaper Web sites continue to grow audience and contribute to newspapers' broadening revenue streams," said association Chief Executive John Sturm. "In addition, the sites attract a younger, more affluent audience coveted by advertisers while providing a valuable service to readers seeking immediate information from a trusted local source."
The sites generated a record-breaking 3.1 billion page views in January, the association also said.
The news is welcome for U.S. newspaper publishers, which are grappling with a downturn in their print advertising operations, notably in classified ad sales.
Several publishers last week, including Gannett Co. Inc., The New York Times Co. and Tribune Co., also reported slowing growth in their online advertising operations.
That has led industry experts to fret over growth prospects for newspaper publishers, which have been hoping that online growth would help compensate for print declines.