updated 4/23/2009 5:43:44 PM ET 2009-04-23T21:43:44

Newspaper Web sites attracted an average of 73.3 million unique visitors per month in the first three months of the year, a 10.5 percent jump from the same period last year, according to Nielsen Online.

The average number of pages views climbed nearly 13 percent to 3.5 billion. Both figures were the highest since 2004, according to the Newspaper Association of America, which commissioned the analysis.

The Nielsen figures are the latest to show a growing audience for newspapers on the Web, even as publishers continue to struggle in their search for a viable online business model to replace falling print revenue.

With the recession reaching into its second year, many newspaper companies have watched online ad revenue shift into reverse after years of growth.

The NAA nevertheless called the results a positive sign for the future of newspapers and testament to their role in keeping the public informed.

"These record audience numbers provide further proof that Americans continue to rely on the trusted newspaper brand for highly accurate news and information in print and online," John F. Sturm, the group's president, said in a statement.

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