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Newspapers Take To The Internet

The Internet has accelerated a long-established cultural trend: more and more people are getting their news from electronic sources rather than the newspaper. Television and radio have made steady inroads; the trend really accelerated with as cable TV crept into a majority of American households and all those specialty channels became available to the populace. The noisiest, if not most successful cable channels are the news feeds that can be found in multiple formats and languages. Now, the Internet has made further incursions into what was once the kingdom of Hearst, Wrigley and the Big Apple's Grey Lady: The New York Times. The once mighty Times is down to a quarter of a million in daily circulation and most of that is in the suburbs. It is also true that the Times is changin' however, as are most dailies and many community newspapers.

Some papers, like the New York Times, have developed a number of features that are designed to maximize the internet's ability to target. The NY Times and the Washington Post are two prominent examples of papers that publish daily online versions of their papers, which are updated several times daily. Moreover, they produce specialty sections that the online reader can select from a menu and have delivered daily via email. The Post will provide you with a section on technology or one on the arts, for example; each email is delivered daily with minimal graphics and perhaps half a dozen in-depth articles on the selected topic. Most papers have similar "newsfeeds" that are provided based on selected areas of interest.

Some papers also have developed blogging sections that solicit feedback on articles, attempting to retain "viewer" interest. And as online newspapers have grown more sophisticated in presenting information, they have also developed higher quality graphics that include lots of quality digital photographs - and increasingly, video. The New York Times has taken to using video in its obit section. Their editors are sending camera crews to interview prominent and aging individuals so that they have video footage "in the can" for use upon the demise of the subject personality. The video is augmented with a voice-over or talking head delivering the standard obituary fare detailing the deceased's life, accomplishments, and surviving loved ones. The Washington Post has inaugurated an online feature that is a series of interviews with interesting people and/or people with interesting careers. These are simply feature pieces that would once have been long written pieces in the features section accompanied by a set of photos. Now, they are video presentations of the individual talking into a camera about the facets of their lives that make them newsworthy. The pieces are edited so that they are not interviews, but rather singular presentations by the person who is being highlighted. The San Jose Mercury News takes advantage of its hometown industrial base to turn out a regular online feature focused on the Silicon Valley: its businesses, trials and tribulations.

While the Merc delivers this regular feature for free, the San Jose Business Journal wants a subscription fee. That is also true of all the business journals operated by the parent company - which produces business weeklies for perhaps thirty of the nation's largest cities. It is increasingly true of specialty periodicals such as Business Week, which offers its online product for a fee. Specialty news services are finding that the subscription model can work just as well online as on the news rack.


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