08/01/2006 - Entering its second decade as a potent information technology, the internet is the subject of endless fascination, speculation and, at times, even consternation. In some scenarios, it is seen as the inexorable force that will render the printed page, the high-paid anchorperson, and the concept of an elite gatekeeper media obsolete. Yet at the same time, there are serious questions about whether online news can ever develop a business model that will enable it to support the kind of quality journalism that for now remains the near exclusive domain of the beleaguered old media.
A study of America's news consumption habits by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press helps put the web's role in the media landscape into sharper focus. And what the new survey of more than 3,200 US adults finds is that the so-called internet revolution should be more accurately characterized as an internet evolution.
In a fragmenting media environment, online news has very quickly become a major media player, with routine usage permeating American society and spreading significantly into every generation of news consumers - not simply the under 35 crowd that most eagerly adapted to it. Valued largely for its ease, convenience and speed, online news continues to grow at a time when other media platforms - from nightly news broadcasts to radio news to newspaper journalism - have been steadily losing viewers, readers and listeners. And the internet has played a role in cutting into those old media market shares.
At the same time, the internet - to this point at least - has not been a cataclysmic media innovation that has obliterated or even substantially supplanted its ancestors. While the struggles of once dominant mass media outlets are well documented, longstanding predictions about the demise of the network newscast have proved wrong and online versions of newspapers are now helping slow the overall erosion of newspaper readers. Despite the convenience of news via computer, the survey finds that 50 % of Americans say they use two or more news platforms in a typical day and those who go online for news still spend more time getting information from non-web sources.
Read Now in its Adolescence, the Internet Evolves into a Supplementary News Source on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.