KOREA: Naver's news dominance slipping

Nate's news section overtakes Naver's in number of page views for July 2009

The Korea Times
Wednesday, August 12, 2009

By Kim Tong-hyung

Naver (www.naver.com), the country's most popular Web site, may be losing some of its clout as an unbeatable online destination.

According to Korean Click (www.koreanclick.com), Naver's news section attracted around 1.37 billion page views in July, about 9 percent less than the 1.53 billion attracted by the news stories published on Nate (www.nate.com).

This is the first time ever that Nate has edged Naver in this category, Korean Click said.

Daum (www.daum.net), the country's second-most popular Web site, continued its unusual dominance in online news, getting 3.76 billion page views last month.

Naver, run by NHN, dominates Web traffic, hogging about 75 percent of the country's total search queries.

However, Naver was somewhat victimized by its own success as news organizations complained that the Web portal was benefiting from news stories the company didn't even produce itself.

In the end, Naver threw the media outlets a bone by deploying dramatic changes to its main page this year, offering direct links to the Web pages of newspapers and television networks, unlike the old Naver news box that was edited by in-house staff.

Although this made the news organizations happier, Naver seems to be paying the price in readership, with a growing number of Internet users complaining about the provocative and trashy online headlines used by the media outlets in their competition for traffic.

Its news section still retained a lead over Nate in the number of unique visitors last month, Korean Click said, but the gap was getting smaller.

Daum had just over 19 million visitors for its news section in July, down 3 percent from January. Naver's numbers dropped more than 5 percent during the same period with 17.6 million visitors. Nate, on the other hand, got 15.2 million visitors for its news stories last month, which represented about a 104-percent increase from earlier this year.

Nate is operated by SK Communications, which also operates Cyworld (www.cyworld.com), the immensely popular social networking service. Nate has been the forgotten sibling of the country's Web portals, a distant third behind Naver and Daum, but has been working vigorously to steal traffic from its rival sites in recent months.

Apparently, the news service is making the quickest difference, with the company's decision to combine the news sections of Nate and Cyworld proving to be a success.

Nate has also been trying to differentiate by strengthening its sports and cartoon sections.

"As seen by the recent news arbitration law and other changes, Web portals are becoming more recognized for their role as news distributors and their influence in shaping public opinion," said Kim Jong-hoon, an official from SK Communications' media business department.

"We will try to publish as much more news as possible, but also have equal focus on objectiveness."