Chicago-area Online News Site Survey Results Released

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By: E&P Staff

The second annual “NEW News” report, produced by Community Media Workshop and funded by The Chicago Community Trust’s Community News Matters program, surveyed 121 online news outlets on matters ranging from salaried employees to the type of content produced.

According to the report, most online sites surveyed rely heavily on unpaid bloggers and reporters and piggy-bank financing. More than 60% had only one full-time staffer. A similar percentage reported no one receiving health insurance from their online news outlet.

The report also shows the Chicago area’s online news ecosystem is “still growing, evolving and retooling,” Chicago Community Trust CEO Terry Mazany said in a statement. “Through our work with the John S. and James Knight Foundation’s Community Information Challenge, The Chicago Community Trust is committed to examining how the rapidly changing media landscape is impacting the residents of our region. The NEW News report helps us understand the sources and availability of information in our community and whether or not it is meeting the needs of residents.”

The report contains the survey’s findings and list of 146 outlets identified as online news sites, which give an idea of the diversity in size, content, format and issue area of Chicago’s online news ecosystem.

While the report show more competition than ever for news consumers said Community Media Workshop President Thom Clark, “the roadmap for vetted, authoritative information that frames the public debate is still being charted.”

Last year, the report identified almost 200 local news and information sites and ranked 60 of them. This year, the workshop identified more than 300 potential news-related URLs, and honed in on 146 sites. Results are from an online survey conducted in spring.

Among the report’s findings:
• The largest share of respondents identified themselves as blogs and/or niche news sites, and about one in six were self-identified aggregators.
• Almost a third reported publishing YouTube videos on their sites, and about one-fifth reported publishing podcasts or posting photos to Flickr feeds.
• A quarter of respondents used a partnership or means other than RSS feed to distribute content. Some partnerships are online-print partnerships at a community level. Half said they use RSS feeds to make finding updates easy.
• While 52 sites aim to serve the entire city, and a few neighborhoods seemed to be populated with their own local news sites, each neighborhood is covered by three to eight sites.
• With the exception of the 12 aimed at the Latino population, sites with target groups numbered in the single digits for each surveyed demographic. Of the 121 responding sites, 92 had “no special focus.” The same was true for age groups – all were in the single digits, with “all adults” registering 38 respondents.
• In content, after the 71 sites that checked “general news,” the numbers fell steeply to 44 citing “community development,” then trailed off gradually through 14 other categories of coverage, ending with “international” (9) and “aging” (3).

Based at Columbia College Chicago, Community Media Workshop is a 20-year-old nonprofit aiming to diversify the voices in the news and public debates. Seeking to increase the flow of accurate and insightful news and information in the region and spur development of new business models for news, the Community News Matters program was spurred by a lead grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Knight Community Information Challenge and is jointly funded by The Chicago Community Trust, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The Chicago Community Trust foundation connects donors with community needs by making grants to organizations working to improve metropolitan Chicago.

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