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Readers’ response to online newspapers
The age of the internet has revolutionized the methods of communication and information exchange. A great deal has changed in the last decade with the information technology explosion. With more accessibility and economical port charges internet has made its presence felt in a number of avenues ranging from corporate desks to common households. This has enabled speedy communication procedures such as email, conferencing, instant messaging, web telephony, video conferencing and so on. Information that was hitherto difficult to access and obtain suddenly became available a click away. With increased usage and application of the internet and other virtual private networks (VPN), information was readily and easily available on the desktop. A user had little or practically no need to leave the confines of his home or work place to source material that was otherwise complex to access, store and retrieve.
Thus began the era of information explosion combined with internet liberalization. This has also promoted a great deal of news proliferation on the internet. Large newspapers such as the Washington Post, the Tribune and so on have hosted web sites that flash daily news papers from their publication stables. Thus began the culture of online newspaper readership that made ‘news reading on the go’ possible for internet users across the globe. This had a great impact on media and mass communication as the level of penetration of the internet was far superior in number and manner when compared to the daily newspaper.
With the liberalization and proliferation of the internet, the penetration of online newspapers has soared sky high. On May 2003, an independent media audit initiated by the website ‘townnews.com’ reported a huge growth in online newspaper readership. According to statistics released by the audit, the online readership seems to have gained more penetration that the printed newspaper signifying a possible outranking of the market share of conventional newspapers. It pegged the data at more than half of the printed newspaper circulation figures. It is estimated that with this kind of sky rocketing rise in the online news readership, the conventional newspaper would lose out its relevance and very existence in a very short period of time.
The alarming rate of online readership is attributed to the work patterns and the demandingly tight schedule of an average individual. With the passing day, there is a marathon collection of tasks that need to be accomplished by individuals within a very short span of time. This has indeed put a cap on the amount of time a person spends under the head of leisure. Mounting pressure has thus made the average working individual to club his daily routines at the ever buzzing workplace. This has given birth to online newspaper reading which can be done with the click of the mouse in the confines of the workplace.
Coincidentally, the Newspaper Association of America reported that “online newspapers ate the No. 1 source of local news and information online.” The open and alarming declaration is nothing more than a factual indication that more and more people rely on the internet for sourcing news whether it is related to business, politics, social aspects, stocks and shares, logistics, technology, classifieds and so on. Primary beliefs indicate that online newspapers are accessible at any time and at any place without any hassles whatsoever. Thus internet has become a broad medium for not mere exchange of data and communication but also a platform for sourcing up-to-date news related information.
Is it becoming increasingly easy and feasible to access newspapers and other news material on the internet without having to consider the otherwise nasty hindrances of time, place and most of all accessibility? The online newspaper industry is here to stay. It is a phenomenon that is well on its way to monopolize the method of sourcing real time information. It is also an avenue to ground breaking business ventures and needless to mention stiff and hard pitted competition among the various players involved in the industry. The ball has been set to roll and the operations of business are well on track. (Demosite: Townnews.com – Page I)
With the heavy penetration and the liberal usage of the internet, there have been a good number of milestones that have taken place worth being regarded as historic and highly significant. The growth of internet usage and the user base in itself is very significant and remarkable. Despite the burst of the dot com bubble, internet usage and user base across the world has surged upwards. In the year 2002 alone the estimated growth in user base was pegged at 241.4 million which is a whopping 18%. Furthermore usage itself has peaked a great deal. The spurt in online time and usage is a clear indication that net surfers across the world are accessing a wide range of information and media that include news reading and information sourcing.
A report published by Media Audit in May 2003 indicated that about eighty five large markets of the United States of America, newspapers reach one-third of their audience through online products. It is estimated that penetration of online newspapers is about 20% in those markets. Penetration of printed newspapers in those markets account for a clear 40-45%. This means that the penetration of online newspapers is tagged at half that of the penetration of printed newspapers. The internet has dealt a significant blow to the conventional newspapers’ cash cow of advertising.
The Newspaper Association of America (NAA) quoted that the drop in employment advertising in the first quarter of the year 2003 was extremely severe, tagged at 38.4%, that it tremendously upset gains in all other newspaper classified categories. According the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), Auto classifieds went up by 4.7%, real estate classifieds zoomed up by 2.8% and all other classifieds were up by 6.6%. The overall classified category however, was down by a hefty 13.6% owing to the downfall in the employment figures. Several experts do agree that a great deal of the employment advertising decline was caused due to the Internet.
Real estate advertising is another area that is soon to be monopolized by the internet. In truth, this was an avenue which has been a long standing source of revenue to the conventional newspaper market. In a private study conducted and released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to its members, it has been quoted that “the Internet has caught up with newspapers as a preferred method of searching for homes by homebuyers.” An independent news reporting agency, the Reality Times in its review quoted that “Forty-one percent of homebuyers used the Internet as an information source, neck and neck with newspapers for the first time in history. Eight percent of homebuyers first learned about the home they purchased using the Internet, while seven percent found the home they purchased through newspapers.” This not only indicates the usage of the internet as a commercial medium, it drives home the fact that the internet is becoming a rapid pacing competition that is a force to reckon with. (Demosite: Townnews.com – Page II) survey indicates that as of May 1, 2002, more than 1300 online newspapers were launched. The figure total of the world is staggering. Globally, there are more than 5000 daily, weekly and other newspapers online. It is estimated that 62% of users who look for local news items and articles use the internet to locate them. It has also been pointed out that online newspapers attract more visitors than any other local media site in the United States of America. An independent survey indicates that those net users who access online newspaper sites are more likely to have high speed internet connections and use the net twice as much as any average net users. More than half of these users access the internet from home on a daily basis. It is also estimated that more than 50% of online newspaper readers access the internet five days in a week during their work hours as compared to 24% of general internet users.
When compared to general internet audience, online newspaper readers are younger, more affluent and better educated. A notable fact here is that nearly eight out of every ten online newspaper readers purchased material from the net compared to about half of the general internet users online. This indicates the popularity of those sites and the dominant presence of online newspapers on the internet as an all encompassing solution to sourcing quicker and better information at any time from any place merely by a few clicks. Another independent study indicated that Sixty-five percent of local and national marketers mentioned newspaper Web sites as being well-organized and resourceful at meeting marketing goals and objectives more than any other local online choice.
Seventy-five percent of advertisers in general believed that the online newspaper websites’ advertising was as good as or better than many other Internet-based classifieds sites. As per a study conducted by the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), print and online newspapers are the two leading sources of local advertising information for online newspaper users, often beating out the television, radio, shoppers and Yellow Pages. [Source: Online Customer Study 2002 – NAA, The Media Audit based on surveys in 85 U.S. Markets, Forrester Research – April 2001 & Burrell Associates; “What Advertisers want from online newspapers – 2002”] (Facts about newspapers – 2002 / Page I)
In order to facilitate better and easier understanding of the distribution of online newspaper readership a series of graphs have been presented hereunder;
Graph # 1: Percentage of Online newspaper users / readers.
The above mentioned graph displays a clear picture of the distribution pattern of online newspaper readers. To make easy and efficient understanding there are two different color markings; blue and grey. The blue marking indicates online newspapers users while the grey marking highlights general net users. The ratio between men and women using online newspapers is equally pitched at 50%. A distribution with regards to age pattern indicates that 43% of people using online newspapers fall below the age of 35. 47% of online newspapers readers fall in the age group 35-54 and only 9% of online newspaper readers fall in the age bracket of above 55%. [Source: NAA 2002]
The graph given below indicates where users visit so as to source local news and other information.
Graph # 2: Where do you go online for local news?
The above graph is a clear detail as to where online newspaper readers visit online to source local news and other related information. Ranking among the highest are online newspapers followed by websites such as Yahoo and AOL America Online. [Source NAA 2002] (Facts about newspapers – 2002 / U.S. Online newspaper readership.)
Online usage has undoubted been regarded as highly detrimental to the printed form of newspapers and other conventional news items. This is because the usage of the internet and thereby online newspaper sites has drastically reduced the circulation of printed newspapers and other materials. Accessibility to online newspapers has also increased considering the sweeping and everyday usage of the internet both at the workplace and at homes. Every year the internet usage base is on the rise. Along with this, the advent of high speed connections has made accessibility easier and longer owing to the sharp decline in usage prices that are being offered as wooing goodies by many Internet Services Providers (ISPs).
A web-based study conducted by the Content Intelligence Group of Lyra Research, a market research firm in Newtonville, showed a dramatic preference for the Internet as an information source for both personal and special interests and business information needs. For personal and special interest information needs, 63% of survey respondents chose the Internet compared with just 18% who chose magazines. With regards to work-related information, 48% selected the Web as their favorite source while only 7% preferred magazines. This is an indication of the high and continuously aggressive use of the internet for not mere newspaper readership but also a host of commercial activities. The Scarborough Research of New York also found huge and marked decline in the usage of traditional media particularly with regards to the usage of television.
According to its national Internet survey, almost a quarter (23%) of online consumers indicated that they viewed television less often ever since they began using the Internet as a medium for communication, shopping and online newspaper reading. Almost similar declines have also been reported in magazine reading, newspaper readership and radio listening which are pegged at 20%, 15% and 9% respectively. The regular and rather loyal users of conventional media are very less in number. An independent survey conducted with reference to online newspaper readership has indicated that more than two out of five Internet users (pegged at 45%) have read an online newspaper.
The study also indicates that more than half of online newspaper readers (pegged at 55%) have logged on to a national newspaper Web site including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today. Online readers tend to be younger. 41% of them are between the ages of 18-34 which is much lesser than the average age of traditional daily newspaper readers. 23% of online newspaper readers are between the ages of 18-34. This difference indicates that the general target audience possibility for newspapers with online editions is a new younger generation. (The Buzz: Sharpermedia.com) & (Online Publishing News)
Given below is a table indicating the circulation of printed newspapers in the United States of America
Table #1: U.S. Daily newspaper circulation by category.
Number of Daily Newspaper Circulation
Dailies over 50,000
Year Total Under 50,000 50,001-1,00,000 1,00,001-2,50,000 Over 2,50,000 Number Percentage of Total 1950 1774 1571 82-84 35-201 11.3 1955 1760 1548 94-82 36-212 12.0 1960 1763 1540 96-83 44-223 12.6 1965 1751 1510 111 88-42 241 13.8 1970 1748 1491 127 92-38 257 14.7 1975 1756 1504 135 81-36 252 14.4 1980 1745 1479 145 86-35 266 15.2 1985 1676 1418 141 82-35 258 15.4 1990 1611 1343 143 82-43 268 16.6 1991 1586 1336 129 78-43 250 15.5 1992 1570 1323 132 72-43 247 15.7 1993 1556 1317 127 68-44 239 15.4 1994 1548 1308 129 70-41 240 15.5 1995 1533 1300 125 66-42 233 15.2 1996 1520 1289 126 64-41 231 15.2 1997 1509 1269 134 64-42 240 15.9 1998 1489 1258 128 64-39 234 16.1 1999 1483 1244 134 65-40 239 16.1 2000 1480 1257 118 67-38 223 15.1 2001 1468 1250 113 65-40 218 14.9 [Source: Editor and Publisher] (Facts about newspapers – 2002 / U.S. Daily Newspaper circulation by category)
Online newspapers have gained widespread publicity and prominence among many sections of the society especially among the working class and professionals. Frontline newspaper organizations such the Washington Post, the Charlotte Observer, the Hartford Courant, the Omaha World Herald, the San-Antonio Express news and so on have a very dominant presence on the World Wide Web. Companies claim a high degree of penetration and readership particularly among the young adult working class who have shown little reluctance in gladly embracing the changing technological revolution. Online news portals not only allow a fair degree of news readership and information sourcing but also enable subscriber convenience to a very high degree.
Newspaper readers online can subscribe to parts of online newspapers therefore focusing upon certain core areas of their interest and occupation. The advent of mobile technology such as Third Generation (3G) and Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) have created a more convenient method to access news from online newspaper sites via mobile phones and other hand held devices thus making the possibility of quicker and fun filled news access. Online newspaper sites also enable customer transaction, shopping for merchandise, online ticketing, online banking, weather forecast details, stock and share trading and a range of business applications that suit the customer.
It is little wonder therefore that the working class in all its fervor and zeal throng to access newspaper sites online thereby making it a very acceptable and routine part of their lives both professional and personal. Even though online news paper sites are making headlines themselves in terms of accessibility and convenience, there is a flip side too. The lack of frequency among customers and online newspaper readers has been notable a fact that cannot be ignored. A research study conducted by the Forrester online survey group came up with a number of interesting findings that have been graphically represented hereunder.
Graph # 3: Newspaper and magazine sites lack reach and frequency; Newspaper Web Site
The survey conducted by Forrester Research determined that a massive 49% of people never accessed a newspaper website. Yet another 23% accessed a newspaper website once a week. Only 28% of users maintained a regular access rate.
Graph # 4: Access to websites of Magazines
In the case of magazine websites too, the study determined that 67% of internet users had never before accessed a website of any magazine. 23% of users accessed these websites on a weekly basis and about 10% of the user base maintained a regular access rate. [Source: Forrester Research Inc.] (Welcome to the digital edge)
With the rapid advance of technology and the easy availability of the internet medium to exchange information, the trend of online newspaper reading has been on the rise. More and more people across the globe use the internet to access information and articles from online newspaper sites. The issue of accessibility has long been solved owing to the increased and ever present use of internet both at homes and in the work places. People who are engrossed in work look for more avenues to access news online. This helps in saving time and saves the average user to go through a painful process of browsing manually on a conventional newspaper that may not always contain the information that is being sourced. Users across the globe who access newspapers online are more likely to have a high speed internet connection either in the form of satellite (VSAT) and broadband connections. This reduces the time taken to retrieve and effectively access a website.
On the whole it makes browsing on the internet a very pleasant and resourceful experience when compared to the conventional dial-up access that could be a harrowing occurrence. Online newspapers not only support mere news portals, they also allow access to merchandise shopping, online transactions, online ticketing, online banking and a host of web related activities. Classifieds and advertising have also made a huge presence on the World Wide Web. The classifieds section of many newspaper have slumped owing to the wider and easier access of classifieds and advertising protocols on the Internet.
The web has thus become a very thriving pool for the advertising industry. Owing to the reach that the internet has attributed to itself, advertising and classifieds industries have to worry a very little about their advertisements being viewed by people across the globe. Very little has to be spent in terms of money and resources to achieve a great deal of publicity over the internet. All said and done, there is a flip side too that highlights the lack of frequency and seriousness towards online newspaper websites. People accessing one website at a given time may not always use it as a chief source for information. Nevertheless, the popularity of online newspapers is on the rise and more than anything, this is a trend that is here to stay. It could well be the buzzword of the booming information technology fashion among working professionals and the young, affluent and well educated populace.
Demosite: Townnews.com – Page I’ Retrieved at http://demosite.townnews.com/articles/2004/03/10/news/news57.txt. Accessed on March 17, 2004
Demosite: Townnews.com – Page II’ Retrieved at http://demosite.townnews.com/articles/2004/01/14/news/wsubs/sports/news57.txt Accessed on March 17, 2004
Facts about newspapers – 2002 / Page I’ Retrieved at http://www.naa.org/info/facts02/20_facts2002.html. Accessed on March 20, 2004
Facts about newspapers – 2002 / U.S. Online newspaper readership’ Retrieved at http://www.naa.org/info/facts02/21_facts2002.html. Accessed on March 20, 2004
Facts about newspapers – 2002 / U.S. Daily newspaper circulation by category’ Retrieved at http://www.naa.org/info/facts02/15_facts2002.html. Accessed on March 20, 2004
The Buzz: Sharpermedia.com’ Retrieved at http://www.sharpermedia.com/buzzarchive/buzz05_21_2001.htm. Accessed on March 20, 2004
Online Publishing News’ Retrieved at http://www.onlinepublishingnews.com/htm/n20010521.048040.htm. Accessed on March 20, 2004
Welcome to the digital edge’ Retrieved at http://www.digitaledge.org/DigArtPage.cfm?aid=4332&CFID=9840168&CFTOKEN=46088321Accessed on March 20, 2004
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