Sunday, August 31, 2008

Online and Digital News

The Pew Research Center has a comprehensive survey report on the online and digital news consumption of Americans. During the last decade the general public has shown a 24% increase in using the Internet for news. Overall the channels for acquiring news have increased over the years and Internet, cell phone and other technologies are becoming more dominant.

The popularity of online news is prevalent among college graduates. They comprise of 61% of the population compared to 44% of college students and 19% high school or less educated users. Interestingly, the top two sources for news are web portals - Yahoo (28%) and MSN (19%). While CNN, Fox, New York Times and other traditional media sites stand much lower in the list. This amazes me because Yahoo and MSN use wires and other news sources to post news. Overall the reliability on print media websites like New York Times (4%), Wall Street Journal (2%) and Washington Post (2%) is very low.

On the other hand the use of search engines to look for news stories has grown from 70% in 2004 to 83% in 2008. There is also a fair amount of general web users (23%) reading blogs on politics or current events.

Good news for magazines like Slate and Salon; a very small amount (5%) of population goes online to read them. Though news videos on Internet is gaining popularity with 33% of Americans watching news programs online.

It is no surprise that the social networking sites have become popular. The survey says, “Fully 65% of people 18 to 24 - 82% of those who go online - say they have a profile on MySpace, Facebook or another social networking site.” But the SSNs haven’t been a popular source to get news. The survey also reports, “Three-in-ten of those who have social network profiles say they regularly (10%) or sometimes (20%) get information about local, national or international news through social network sites.”

While social network sites remain a sluggish source of seeking online news, email (35% in 1995 vs. 68% 2008) is a rapidly increasing form of sending or receiving news story to friend of associate.

In conclusion search engines, web portals, blogs and emails are different channels within the web that people acquire their news from. The common theme here - none of these are actually responsible for creating or reporting actual news. Traditional news reporting and writing is losing its essence gradually and if the online and digital news continue to invade (which it will), the presentation formats might become smaller and headlines will become entire story. In a way newspapers and news channels will have majority of its operation online and the original format will take a back seat.

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