A major casualty
of the growing dominance of the Internet in the U.S. is the local newspaper. This
is the finding of new study released by the John F. Kennedy School of Government
at Harvard University.
the exception of big national newspapers like The New York Times, The Washington
Post, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, regional papers are stagnant
or losing ground.
to the study, large-city newspapers are "poor cousins to their brand-name
counterparts. Their site traffic averages 1.2 million unique individuals a month
- only about one-seventh of that of brand-name newspaper sites." Mid-sized-city
newspaper sites are attracting "substantially fewer unique visitors in April
2007 than they did in April 2006." And the sites of small-city dailies are
smaller papers are also losing eyeballs to news aggregator sites like Google Reader,
Yahoo News and digg.com.
to MediaLife about the findings of the study, Thomas E. Patterson, Bradlee
Professor of Government and the Press at the School of Government, attributes
the phenomenon to the fact that "the internet is not a great respecter of
geography." The real history of American media is the history of local media,
and TV to some degree diminished the influence of geography, he says. "The
internet is doing it even more. When someone in Wichita thinks news, they think
local paper or local stations, but they may also think of CNN.com or NYTimes.com."
points out that newspapers are very expensive operations. "You can''t do it
on the cheap, so they''re making cuts, and I think that will affect the quality
of their local coverage. If they start to diminish the quality of what''s your
comparative advantage, I think some local papers will go out of business."
also feels the web poses a greater threat to local news organizations than national
ones because the internet''s a "really remarkable medium" and adds "To
have tens of millions of places to go when you sit down at your computer - TV
has some of that now with cable, but not quite. A lot of people still surf channels,
but you don''t really surf the web in the same way."
is not lost. The Harvard study concluded that local newspaper sites still have
several advantages, if they can capitalize on them. Among the advantages:
- Local news organizations
are brand names within their communities.
offline reach can also be used to drive traffic to their sites.
still have a local monopoly on the basic news product that few other news organizations
can presently challenge.