Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Researching online journalism's future

The future for web journalism is brightening up, with several studies revealing an upswing in internet usage and revenues.The New York Times has gone from making a US$7.5 million loss on its web site in 2001 to an US$8 million profit in 2002. Asia Times Online's readers have risen from 26,000 per day in January to 65,000 in April this year. Slate magazine, despite still not making much profit, has more than 5 million unique readers - more than any traditional newspaper in the United States (US). In March this year, the San Francisco Chronicle's web site recorded its highest-ever profit. The Washington Post's site non-classified advertising was also up 80 per cent by the end of 2001.

In the UK, FT.com has seen its subscriber base rise from 17,000 last July to 53,000 in April, while the site's regular readership has risen to 3.5 million.Several recent surveys by online research group emarketer have also shown that, in the US, the web has overtaken traditional media in popularity with younger news consumers.According to John Berthelsen, writing for Asia Times Online, the growth of broadband connections and advances in technology that enable more interactive and 'embedded' advertising are responsible for this growth. He offers the new Porsche advert as an example: "By clicking on www.porschecayenne.com, the reader can zoom on to a test track with full-dimension sound. Travel advertisers can give virtual tours of resorts and show off hotel rooms... nor can television match this kind of advertising, which can be viewed at the viewer's leisure.

"Web news viewers are more affluent, more adventurous, better-educated and younger than newspaper readers," he says. "While studies primarily deal with the US, their implications are, if anything, even more encouraging for Asia. For instance, their figures for the growing ubiquity of high-speed broadband connections, crucial to fast delivery of attractive advertising, show that Asia is growing faster than any other region."Europe's online readers are growing rapidly, too. According to emarketer, there will be more than 190 million Internet users across the continent this year. Mr Berthelsen writes: "After the bubble years in which internet publications burned through a phenomenal amount of other people's money, web journalism is starting to take off. It may hold ominous implications for newspapers globally, but it could well save journalism itself."


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