is the top-rated Web site in the nation in market penetration, according to new survey results from The Media Audit.
The Capitol Broadcasting Co.-owned site widened its lead in the Research Triangle metropolitan region over The News & Observer and surpassed The Washington Post, the former top-rated site, with a market penetration of 45.0 percent to a 43.1 rating for The Post, Media Audit figures show.
The results impressed Robert Jordan, the president and co-founder of Media Audit.
"I don't remember ever seeing a number as high as 45 for a local Web site," said Jordan, whose Texas-based company has been surveying web viewership for nearly a decade. The company has media clients around the United States, measuring TV and newspaper viewership as well as other data. "From what I see of your numbers, WRAL has excelled at building its Web site for years," he said.
The rating also impressed Paul Jones, a professor at the School of Information and Library Science at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who runs the internationally recognized Internet site iblio.org.
"It's almost unreal," Jones said. "That's an incredibly impressive number if you think about how rich the news and other selections are in this market."
The Raleigh-Durham market data was gathered by Media Audit in March and April of this year through a survey of adults 18 and over in the metro area counties of Wake, Durham, Orange, Person, Chatham, Franklin and Johnston. The Washington market data was last collected between September and November. A new report for the Washington market will be released soon.
WRAL.com's penetration increased 8.2 percent, from a 41.6 rating in 2005. WRAL.com now leads The News & Observer by 18.2 percentage points.
The News & Observer ranks second in the market at 27.8. Its penetration declined 0.4 percent from a 2005 rating of 27.9.
In the fall 2004 survey, WRAL.com led The News & Observer by 11.6 percentage points, 39 to 28.4
Before the most recent Raleigh survey data was released, The Post ranked first nationally with a 43.1 market rating based on survey results from September-November of 2005.
"The growth shows what we continue to do," said Jimmy Goodmon, vice president and general manager of Capitol Broadcasting's New Media Group, which is responsible for the WRAL.com Web site. "We have a single strategic focus on the product - to always make it better."
In the latest ratings, WTVD's Web site ranked third in the Triangle market with a 14 rating. That's the same as the 2005 survey.
Next came WNCN at 13, a decline of 6.5 percent. Time Warner Cables News Channel 14 was fifth at 10.6, a decline of 13.8 percent.
Rounding out the top 10 were: Triangle.com (9.6); UNCTV.org (9.3); HeraldSun.com (9); Fox50.com (8.9); and WB22TV.com (2.9).
Of the top 10 sites, only WRAL.com (8.2 percent), UNCTV.org (31 percent) and Fox50.com (14.1 percent) gained viewership.
The ratings gap between WRAL.com and its competitors widens further among the 82 percent of Triangle residents who have Internet access.
Among those online viewers, WRAL.com has a 54.5 rating. The News & Observer has a 33.7 rating. Others include WTVD (17), WNCN (15.8), News 14 (12.9) and Triangle.com (11.7).
Nationally, WRAL.com is the only TV station Web site to rank in the top 10, Media Audit figures show. Others are run by newspapers, with the exception of a San Antonio Web site operated jointly by the metro newspaper and a TV station.
Charlotte.com, published by The Charlotte Observer, ranks seventh nationally with a market penetration of 35.9, according to Media Audit survey taken in August and September of 2005.
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