Monday, August 20, 2007

Non-national U.S. newspapers now losing web audience, Harvard study finds

News Consumption: Peering into the Future

The Shorenstein Center has released a new report which attempts to gauge the future of news in America through an examination of trends in Internet-based news traffic. The report, titled Creative Destruction: An Exploratory Look at News on the Internet, suggests that the Internet is redistributing the news audience in a way that is benefitting some news organizations while harming others.




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August 16, 2007 Harvard: Tom Patterson

Harvard Study Finds Internet Is Redistributing News Audience Shorenstein Center Reports America.s Daily Newspapers Most at Risk

Cambridge, MA. Like the cable and broadcast revolutions, the Internet revolution is redistributing the news audience in ways that has and will continue to benefit some news outlets, while harming others, according to a research report released today by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University.s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Based on an examination of traffic to 160 websites over a year-long period, the research found that traffic to newspaper-based sites has leveled off. The overall traffic level, however, hides important differences within the newspaper sector. The web sites of nationally known newspapers.the New York Times, Washington Post, and USA Today.are gaining audience. On average, their site traffic increased by 10 percent over the past year. In contrast, the websites of most other newspapers.whether in large, medium-sized, or small cities.have lost audience. Their sites on average have substantially fewer visitors now than a year ago.

The websites of national .brand name. television networks, such as CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, and Fox, experienced increased traffic during the past year. In fact, their traffic increase exceeded 30 percent on average. The websites of local commercial television and radio stations also gained audience, though at a slower pace than that of the .brand names..

The biggest gains in audience occurred among the non-traditional news providers. The sites of search engines, service providers, aggregators, and bloggers grew faster on average than the sites of traditional news providers, whether print, broadcast, or cable. The sites of Google, Yahoo, AOL, and MSN, along with sites such as,, and, saw large increases in traffic during the past year.

The Web particularly threatens daily newspapers. They were among the first to post news on the Internet but their initial advantage has all but disappeared in the face of increased competition from electronic media and non-traditional providers. The Internet is also a larger threat to local news organizations than those with national reputations. Because it reduces the influence of geography on people.s choice of a news source, the Internet inherently favors .brand names..those relatively few news organizations that readily come to mind by Americans everywhere when they seek news on the Internet.

Although the increase in Web traffic to the sites of non-traditional news providers is a threat to traditional news organizations, the latter do have strengths they can leverage on the Web. Local news organizations are .brand names. within their communities, which can be used to their advantage. Their offline audience reach can also be used effectively to drive traffic to their sites. Most importantly, they have a product.the news.that is in public demand. Ironically, some news organizations do not feature the day.s news prominently on their websites, forgoing their natural advantage.

The research was funded by a generous grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, for the consideration of the Carnegie-Knight Task Force on the Future of Journalism Education. The Carnegie-Knight Initiative was launched in 2005 and focuses on curriculum reform at graduate schools of journalism, an innovative student internship program called News21, research, and creating a platform for educators to speak on journalism policy and education issues. All of these efforts grew out of a partnership involving the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the following member institutions: Annenberg School of Communication, University of Southern California; College of Communication, University of Texas at Austin; Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University; Graduate School of Journalism, University of California at Berkeley; Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, Harvard University; Medill School of J!
ournalism, Northwestern University; Missouri School of Journalism, University of Missouri-Columbia; Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland; and the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication, Syracuse University.

The report was prepared by Thomas E. Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and is available at


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