The news industry is undergoing massive changes as the online waves of delivery continue to surface. The boom in social networking sites and disbursement of information across blogs, message, boards, and user-generated news sites is paving the future for news and content delivery. Traditionally, newspapers have served as a primary force behind the sharing of local and world affairs with the public. News correspondents, reporters, and complete media networks had full control over the quantity, quality, and timing of a news release. Today, more people that are jumping on board to ‘citizen journalism’ are finding unique and effective ways to get their daily newsbytes, but also to participate in an entirely new way.
Editorials used to be the only way people could correspond with the media and other readers; that all changed with the onset of blogs, specifically in the political blogosphere, but today covering much wider circles. Anyone can now join a variety of groups, communities, and blog circles to learn about and elaborate on trends, fresh news, perspectives, and offer predictions. Sites such as Digg and Technorati.com, for example, often hash out some news for the masses in tandem with the Associated Press. Although the content may not be journalist-endorsed, it still offers a wider range of perspectives for the average reader.
Google News and other aggregator news sites that pick up blogs and published posts open up new avenues for people to scour and receive comprehensive coverage on every topic. Sites that offer the speediest news can improve web traffic and general user interest since subscribers, visitors, and the general browsing public can take part in ‘live news.’ And of course, the newspapers are taking notice.
Editors of newspapers have generally been responsible for managing and coordinating content provided for their daily bulletin; after a series of approval processes, the information goes to press. Littered with advertising, the newspaper emerges to provide the news, and also create a vehicle for promoting the day’s advertising messages. Digital newspapers are changing all of that; the time element from print to press is almost obsolete as news can be flashed across the world in a matter of seconds. Print publications are also witnessing a gradual decline in readership: in earlier this year, the USA Today reported that: “Average weekday circulation fell 2.5%, to 45.4 million, in the six months ending March 31, vs. the same period last year, according to a Newspaper Association of America (NAA) analysis of Audit Bureau of Circulations data from 770 dailies. Sunday circulation fell 3.1% to 48.5 million at 610 reporting newspapers.” (USA Today, 5/9/06). This is a significant change for the industry, and much of it may be attributed to the shift to online resources.
Madison.com, a newspaper that is a part of the Capital Newspapers network in Wisconsin is taking the lead on engaging their audience. As one of the nation’s first newspapers to offer readers the option to ‘vote’ on stories, Madison.com has become one of the state’s top visited websites for news, events, and general community information. Serving as a portal to the city of Madison helps businesses allocate advertising dollars effectively: Madison.com reportedly receives 400,000 unique visitors and over 2.2 million page views per month. In addition, the Wisconsin State Journal has set aside a portion of the daily print paper fro user-voted stories from the online version. Integrating their print and online presence may prove to be a valuable move for the newspapers, and other states may follow suit if interest picks up.
The Wall Street Journal and New York Times, two of the nation’s leading newspapers, offer many of their articles on a registration-basis only. Although the articles online are still free, registration allows both papers to log and track their readers more effectively than a random visitor. It may also create a sense of belonging for interested readers; they are less likely to go elsewhere if they are ‘subscribed’ via an e-mail list or even on an RSS feed.
Newspapers are undergoing massive change with today’s developments online. Not only do they need to find new ways to engage their readers, but they must ensure that their regular readers are still reading, even if they are getting their information by registering on site first. For the online world of news, sometimes scanning articles proves more worthwhile than reading entire pieces; when this is the case, RSS feeds, top headline delivery, and highlights-only style presentations can give readers an easier, flexible, and more efficient opportunity to choose from.