Online doesn’t compete with newspapers

by Mathew on July 31, 2006 · 2 comments

I think the latest Pew study on newspaper and online news readership is worth paying some attention to, and I say that knowing full well that by the time I’m done I will wind up agreeing (again) with Nick “the Voice of Doom” Carr, and God knows I hate to do that (David Newberger has a good overview of the report here). One of the important points is in the second paragraph:

“For the most part, online news has evolved as a supplemental source that is used along with traditional news media outlets. It is valued most for headlines and convenience, not detailed, in-depth reporting.”

As Nick notes in his post: “The upshot is that online news appears to be not a replacement for traditional media but a supplement to it. The people who tend to use online sources are the same people who read newspapers and watch news shows on TV. They take a quick look at headlines online, but they continue to rely on traditional news sources for the details.”

It’s true that this might weaken the “Internet will kill newspapers” argument, but then I’m not sure anyone actually believes that, even Jeff Jarvis. The fact is that the two serve very different purposes — and those different purposes are likely to continue to widen, as news moves online and newspapers focus on analysis and local coverage (if they’re smart, that is).

Does that mean newspapers are home free? Not really. They still have to worry about getting the mix right and beefing up their online operations, because younger news readers are not moving to print. As Greg Sterling notes:

“Younger Americans are not adopting the habit of reading the newspaper in print. Just 22% of those under age 30 report reading the newspaper in print on the previous day, down from 29% a decade ago. Newspaper websites make up for much of this loss. In fact, the very youngest adults surveyed ­ those ages 18 to 24 ­ were slightly more likely to have read a newspaper this year than a decade ago, due in large part to their increasing use of online newspapers.”

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  • Alex Beamish

    We probably heard the same arguments about radio affecting newspaper sales or VHS recorders affecting movie attendance. Online news actually complements newsprint reporting. That’s it. On-line should not try to do in-depth reports, and hard copy shouldn’t try to be up-to-the-latest-minute.

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