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The Rise of Online News Sources and Blogs 7 April 2010

Posted by gjchatalas in Trends.
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We’re embarking on a dizzying tour of digital communication and the tools that enable it. So it may be constructive to take a quick look at the state of the mainstream media and the rise of ubiquitous online sources and blogs.

First of all, old media (and in particular, print publications) are in a state of crisis. Newspaper circulation has been steadily declining for years. Less than 50 percent of households read a newspaper these days, down from the good old 1960s when that number exceeded 80 percent.

These numbers become even more alarming when considering the younger generations, which are abandoning the printed page even more rapidly. A 2005 study found that less than 25 percent of teenagers had read any part of a newspaper the previous day; it’s unlikely that they will ever become converts to newsprint. Newspaper readers tend to be older than 45 years old, so publishing companies are seeing their primary audience age while making little progress in cultivating new readers.

Of course, both creating and filling this gap is the Internet, as we increasingly turn to online news sources and blogs to get information. Sixty percent of those same teens polled in 2005 use the Internet daily. Nearly 80 percent of adults these days use the web regularly, averaging three hours communicating, shopping or reading online. And all this Internet usage tends to take time away from other media.

In regard to blogs, their growth as an information source can be attributed to some other factors. To start, people are just down on the establishment media these days, which toil at the bottom of approval rankings with lawyers and politicians. Big media isn’t considered very trustworthy. Over 60 percent believe the press is biased in its coverage, and only around 45 percent trust these organizations to accurately cover the news.

As this perceived bias hinders the establishment media, it’s been a boon for the blogs, which display their bias proudly. Blogs are more transparent, they share links, and they correct themselves openly. This approach has served to gain the trust and following of readers.

In general, though, people are growing tired of these moneyed media monopolies that have controlled the news for centuries. The Internet represents the democratization of information, and blogs are taking full advantage of this trend toward alternative news sources.

All said, we shouldn’t be carting the mainstream media to the funeral parlor quite yet. While the Internet may be cannibalizing other media, it has nonetheless become a predominant source of news and advertising. And this plays into the hands of the established companies, which have the resources, systems and experience.

Mainstream media have necessarily made the move to the web, usually with a robust online presence. They have professional staffs which provide copious amounts of content. And because of their size and reputations, newspaper websites continue to garner a large amount of hits, many getting millions of monthly visitors. This dwarfs the traffic of the majority of blogs.

Big media is also pretty important to the blogs. Bloggers often rely on news coverage by traditional media outlets in the creation of their own content; blogs highlight published articles and offer opinions, analysis and humor on their own pages. Most blogs wouldn’t be as successful without the resources indirectly provided by the mainstream media.

What is clear is that in this media environment, online entities will continue to compete for readers. All websites will need to embrace quality design and usability to be able to create a positive user experience. Compelling information in an attractive and easy-to-use package will be the hallmarks of the best sites and blogs, and ultimately a component to online success.

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