Is your newspaper online yet? If the answer is No, then you may be feeling left out as the industry stampedes to create supplemental online services. More than 300 newspapers worldwide operate or have under development supplemental online services, according to new figures from the MediaInfo Interactive "Online Newspaper Services Resource Directory" (a collaborative project between Planetary News (my consulting company) and Editor & Publisher magazine).
Since the amount of activity in the newspaper online services area is my most Frequently Asked Question, I'll spend today's column bringing you up to date and interpreting the statistics. Numbers cited are from the Online Newspaper Services Resource Directory.
A fast-growing toddler
At the beginning of 1994, there were about 20 newspaper online services worldwide -- mostly BBSs with a handful of publisher alliances with the commercial online services. By the end of 1994, online was starting to show serious signs of life, with about 100 newspaper services operating or under development. 1994 saw a lot of newspaper deals with the online services, particularly Prodigy, which launched online editions of the Atlanta Constitution-Journal and Los Angeles Times, among others, and signed up several newspaper chains for eventual Prodigy online services. By year-end, though, newspapers on the World Wide Web (the part of the Internet with the acronym that has more syllables than the full name) were sprouting like mushrooms.
Today, there are 313 online newspaper services across the globe (not counting another 100-plus college newspapers on the Internet). The online newspaper services business, while still minuscule compared to the $44 billion core newspaper business, has grown more than 200% since the beginning of 1995. The online newspaper business has entered the toddler stage, and is growing fast.
"It's the Web, stupid"
If anything about this business is clear from the last year, it is that the World Wide Web has been adopted by newspapers as the favored online publishing medium.