Study: As Internet News Grows, Print Is in Jeopardy

By: Pauline Millard The Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University released a report today that examines trends in Internet news.

They looked at the traffic of 160 news sites for a yearlong period and found that the sites of national, "name brand" papers were growing, while the traffic on smaller, local papers, was not.

Sites connected to traditional media were growing more slowly than non-traditional media, such as aggregators, bloggers, search engines and service providers.

The study suggests that the Web is a threat to print media, whose advantage of being a "first mover" is in flux. The study also revealed that even though the Web tends to favor "brand name" news sites, local sites are a brand name in their community and should use it to their advantage.

News aggregators such as Google News and Yahoo News are cited as one of the largest threats to traditional news organizations. Their serious and successful forays into news are taking readers away from news sites. Other online ventures, such as user-generated news and interactivity are also taking a slice of the news audience.

Despite all the grim news, the Internet is seen as a growth opportunity for news organizations, provided that they adapt. The Shorenstein report says that part of the reason local media isn't seeing the jumps in traffic that national outlets are is because they were slow to respond to the shift in readership.

Above all, the news outlets need to focus on their greatest asset: the news. When readers come to a news site, it is deliberate -- the are looking for news. That said, it is the job of the news outlet to learn how readers like their news and deliver. The study mentioned that, ironically, many local news sites do not feature local news prominently, which may be an area for future research.

The full report can be read here.


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