Online media is replacing newspapers and TV. Is that a bad thing?
How the new online media landscape is changing the way the public gets its news.
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Despite the media focus on blogs and the far left and right, top news sites on the Web in the new media world look a lot like the old media world. In March they were, according to The Nielsen Company rankings for most popular current events and global news sites, in order: Yahoo News websites, CNN digital network, MSNBC, AOL News, NYTimes.com, Fox News digital network, Tribune Newspapers, Huffington Post, ABCNews digital network, and Gannett Newspapers and Newspaper Division. Yahoo and AOL may be new-media names, but they have some deep old-media roots. Yahoo has some original content (its own set of blogs) and some real editors deciding what is news on its site, but much of what is there also comes from the legacy world. And while AOL has waded into local journalism with dozens of small "hyperlocal" newsrooms spread across 18 states that it calls "Patch," underneath are a lot of stories drawn from the Associated Press and Huffington Post. It could be argued that the only true "new media" entry on the list is Huffington Post, which wants to put more money into Patch and act more like a legacy outlet. The next 10 top sites, by the way, look much the same with the Los Angeles Times, CBS News, and the BBC in the fold. (The Monitor was 47th in March Nielsen rankings.)Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Is this the end of news?
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So the places where people get news are not astonishingly different.
What about the dangers of social media?
"I think it makes intuitive sense that the new media world, particularly social media, can create problems and change the way we learn about the world: the idea that you make your own echo chamber. But in a sense it has always been that way," says Michael Tippett, the Vancouver, British Columbia-based founder of the website NowPublic. "How much do you think Fox News carefully selects its stories? And we have always talked to friends about news."
Mr. Tippett is not exactly your average news consumer or a disinterested party. NowPublic is part of the new media environment, "a crowd-sourced, participatory news network that mobilizes an army of reporters to cover the events that define our world" is how it describes itself. But he raises an important point.
Now, instead of meeting your friend for coffee to talk about what he or she has been reading, watching, or listening to, you can just go by their Facebook wall or look at their Twitter feed. You can get straight into their heads without all that small talk.
"Oftentimes I go through my Twitter feeds and I am amazed by the diversity of what is there," says Tippett. "And I think, 'Wow, maybe my friends are more interesting than I think.' "
And there are other benefits to the new media consumption habits.
"Twitter has become a real-time link exchange, a short-form [freelance journalist] network," Tippett says. "Sometimes when my cable goes out at home I go to Twitter and search 'my city' and 'cable' to see what's there." If there are a bunch of entries saying that the cable is out, he knows that the outage is for the city or neighborhood; if not, he knows he needs to call the cable company.
It's also a zeitgeist detector, Tippett says, albeit one for the most wired news consumers. On April 24, the top trending items on Twitter in the US included "Savior," "Praise God" and "Felices Pascuas" (Spanish for Happy Easter). Certainly a reading of some kind of sentiment on a quiet Easter Sunday. This is the impact of social media on news, Tippett argues. It's really just old media-plus, and who could be against that?