Friday, April 06, 2007

Speaking the same language through a different screen with different rules

The Newspaper Association of America reports that newspaper Web sites averaged 57.3 million visits a month during the latter half of 2006. According to Nielsen//Net Ratings, that covers roughly a third of all internet users, representing a 15 percent increase from the year before, when newspaper Web sites were averaging 49.8 million visits a month. Data from Scarborough Research also showed newspaper Web sites responsible for a 13.7 percent increase in total newspaper audience for the age 25-34 demographic and a 9.2 percent increase for the 18-24 bracket.

With media companies scrambling to boost newspaper circulation and television news, these numbers further solidifies the internet's growing presence in the changing news market. However, while the medium is changing, plenty of things have not.

It's worth noting that the eight most popular news sites on the web (according to comScore Media Metrix) were founded or co-founded by major newspaper and broadcast companies predating the internet as we know it. The two main exceptions are AOL News and Yahoo! News, and both cull a majority of their news from other established media outlets, from CNN to the New York Times.

I'm not sure how many producers would prefer to do news stories that most people will see in a window smaller than a wallet, but at this point, resistance may be useless.

But then again, why would you want to resist? During our first Chicago Broadcast lecture, Prof. Bennett talked about the differences between television broadcasts and web broadcasts, and time and time again, she mentioned different expectations. You work in television, there's a formula to follow, there are conventions that few want or at least try to break; it's a very conservative medium.

With web broadcasts, it's much freer, so much that professionals are being outperformed by amateurs and even professional outlets like local television stations allow the web portion of their broadcasts to look casual in comparison. However, this has more to do with the medium's age than anything inherent in it.

I'm not suggesting or even implying we should all drop out of broadcast and join new media, because like I said, most news coverage on the web is essentially broadcast. It may not be seen on a TV, but the tools are the same; even better, one doesn't have to deal with the same, conservative expectations of television broadcasts.

Broadcast companies are definitely exploring the potential; on Monday, Emily Steel reported in the Wall Street Journal that MSNBC is following CNN's lead in developing more original video and reporting for its website.


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