The Internet and the news business

New report sobering reading for newspaper employees

The business of news was generally predictable and could generate large fortunes for centuries after the printing press was perfected. But the last few decades have not been as easy. A series of technological developments have had major impacts on the news business. The Internet, the latest of the series, threatens to do a better job at disruption than any of the previous ones.

There was only one type of news business that provided information to normal citizens from the late 1400s until well into the 20th century and that was the printed page. Apart from an occasional town crier, books, pamphlets, broadsides and newspapers where one went for news. Radio did not seem to have that big an impact on the news business -- you got news quickly through radio but had to go to a newspaper for the details. The first big technology hit came in the 1960s when broadcast TV started nightly news broadcasts -- this basically wiped out the afternoon newspapers.

Now, as I've written before, more and more people are getting their news via the Internet. The impact of this fact has been made clearer by a new report on "Creative Destruction: An Exploratory Look at News on the Internet" from the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard JFK School of Government. (see the press release or the full report)

If you are in the newspaper business this report will be sobering reading.

The report basically says that Web sites with high brand recognition (like The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC) are doing well and getting better. It also notes some specialty sites like digg.com are growing rapidly. But, life is harder and will get still harder for less well known sites.

The report does not explore many reasons for the lackluster attraction of many news sites but it seems to me that many of these sites can blame themselves for at least some of their problems. While many newspapers were early to the news-on-Web sites game, many do a very poor job of making the user want to visit the site. The Boston Globe Web site illustrates one type of problem.

This site is a static representation of today's paper. If you want to know what is happening now you are directed to a different site. The New York Times understands that a news site needs to be updated during the day since news happens all the time. Other news organizations seem not to want to attract readers. They hide behind requirements for readers to register or try to block news aggregators such as Google News.

As for myself, I keep the top part of the CNN Web site on my second screen most of the time. I like to be able to glance over to see what's going on and like the highlighted news flashes. When I want to actually take the time to catch up I go first to The New York Times then to Google News. I do not use either of them like I do the CNN site because they do not have a compact summary of top stories that can be on the screen at all times.

The report makes an attempt to peer into the future of the news business and makes many good points, but I find it hard to imagine a future that is not mostly driven by a few national brand names (I guess that a place at that table is what Rupert Murdoch thinks he is buying with his US$5.6B bid for The Wall Street Journal), by a few big news aggregators, and a gaggle of small local or specialty news sites. The first will hurt the diversity of news but the second may help overcome that.

Disclaimer: Some prognosticators have worried that higher education will also become a battle of brand names. But Harvard, with a rather good brand, has not expressed an opinion on that or this topic.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Scott Bradner

Network World
Show Comments

Brand Post

PC World Evaluation Team Review - MSI GT75 TITAN

"I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it."

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?