The Best Online News Providers Aren’t All Newspapers

By: Steve Outing

In the online news field, newspapers don’t have a lock on the market. They must compete with broadcasters, software companies, wire services, Internet directory and search engine companies, Internet entrepreneurs, etc. Newspaper companies don’t necessarily have the best online news services on the Internet, either, according to results of a poll released last week by Newslink, a World Wide Web site that catalogs thousands of online media services worldwide.

Newslink published a survey of what Internet users think is the best news site on the Web. Here are the results of the voting, with more than 10,000 votes cast in the straw poll by visitors to the Newslink site. (Newspaper services included in the list are in boldface.)

1. CNN Interactive 12.8%; 2. C/Net Central 10.7%; 3. USA Today 9.2%; 4. Boston.com 7.5%; 5. NandO Times 5.6%;

6. HotWired 5.4%; 7. Electronic Telegraph 3.8%; 8. Reuters NewMedia 3.7%; 9. TimesFax 2.5%; 10. Mercury Center 2.3%;

11. Money and Investing Update/Wall Street Journal 2.0%; 12. U.S. News Online 2.0%; 13. ESPNet SportsZone 1.9%; 14. Philadelphia Online 1.7%; 15. Time Daily/PathFinder 1.6%;

16. ZDNet 1.6%; 17. Houston Chronicle 1.2%; 18. The Gate/San Francisco Newspaper Agency 0.9%; 19. The Globe and Mail (Toronto) 0.7%; 20. Detroit News 0.7%;

21. EduPage 0.6%; 22. Irish Times 0.4%; 23. Jerusalem Post 0.4%; 24. Byte 0.4%; 25. The Age 0.3%.

(To view the above sites, go to the Newslink poll page, which has hypertext links to all the news sites.)

The NewsLink survey is of course an informal popularity poll, so don’t take it too seriously, but it is useful in pointing out that newspapers need to be aware that they have a lot of serious competition in the online world. for this reason, it often makes sense to ally with other companies in creating compelling online sites that will stand up to the competition. Boston.com, an alliance of the Boston Globe and several TV and radio stations, is a fine example of this. Another is the upcoming political Web site called ElectionLine, a joint Web site of the Washington Post, ABC TV and Newsweek magazine.

It is worth noting that a broadcaster came out on top of this particular poll, which should tell you that effective use of visuals beyond static text and photos are what tomorrow’s online news consumers will expect and demand. Newspaper online service operators need to master video, audio, animated graphics, etc. just as well as their broadcast cousins.

By the way, Newslink’s survey may sound similar to the Editor & Publisher/Kelsey Group Best Online Newspaper Services Competition that I’ve been touting in this column. The E&P contest is primarily a newspaper industry competition, designed to recognize and reward outstanding achievement by newspaper companies in creating online services. We hope that this competition will help improve the quality of newspaper online ventures, precisely because the newspaper industry has a difficult job ahead in competing with so many other types of organizations that in the low-barriers world of online publishing can operate on an equal footing with established news organizations.

NAA launches New Media Federation

The Newspaper Association of America this month is launching a New Media federation, an organization devoted to newspaper new media professionals who belong to NAA member companies. It is intended to provide an online home for those working in newspaper new media — online services, audiotex, CD-ROM development, etc. A Web site for the Federation is in the works. For more information, contact Randy Bennett at NAA, Randall@aol.com.

Best Online Newspaper Services Competition

Please don’t forget to nominate your own company or another for Editor & Publisher/The Kelsey Group’s 1996 Best Online Newspaper Services Competition. The nomination form is on the Web at http://www.mediainfo.com/contest.form.html. Deadline for nominations is January 24, 1996. Winners will be announced at the Interactive Newspapers conference in San Francisco on February 24, 1996.

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This column is written by Steve Outing and underwritten by Editor & Publisher magazine. Tips, letters and feedback can be sent to Steve at steve@planetarynews.com

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