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"The Geography of News in Digital Times" is an article covering the evolution of news dissemination, as affected by the development of the internet. The article's main claim is that although the internet has certainly made the dissemination of news to be cheaper, it still hasn't had a significant impact on the spatial distribution of news. An analysis of the various regions in the world shows that the dissemination of news still adheres to the same regional statistics that existed before the advent of the internet.
The internet has converted news from being private goods into public goods. In so doing, published news now can reach a higher number of people without significant increases in costs. However, other factors like the interest of the readers, financial interest in certain parts of the world and the rate of infiltration of internet has limited the global spread of news. The affluent still have the highest access to news. And while news on the internet has become more interactive, it is still regionalized.
Seen in the wider context of the evolution of the print, the advent of online publication is but a further step that technology has brought forth. Online publication has acted out as more of a continuation of a historical process, than a totally revolutionary change. This is because since the introduction of the telegraph, the transmission of news by field reporters has always been at the speed of electronic transmission (Gasher, 2002). Admittedly, the internet has helped make this transmission more convenient, but the underlying structures are essentially a century old. It is from this premise that this discussion develops - that online journalism has built up on a concept that has been existence for a long time by giving it more a wider scope of application and possible assimilation.
There are a few facets on which online journalism is likely to have a fundamental effect. Traditional, printed media, for example, restricted the consumers to reading a particular newspaper or particular newspapers a day, since each paper had to be purchased. But online publication has evolved to a phase where news is available free of charge - at least for such papers as the New York Times. Additionally, navigating from one publication to another is made simple by the hyperlinks available. Due to this, the consumers are less loyal to a particular publication, and tend to skip from one to the next. In order to maintain the attention of the consumer, the publishing companies have been forced to be more aggressive in their reporting. Some have even resulted to a "breaking news" policy, where news on their sites keeps changing, even in the course of a single day (Gasher, 2002).
The aggressive journalism required in order to keep news items on the sites fresh and updated has had at least one negative impact. Pushed by deadlines, the reporters for online media may sometimes end up compromising on quality. Thus, the accuracy of the news becomes questionable. The overall values of journalism, as prescribed in traditional sceneries, has undergone radical re-evaluations, in the face of a highly interactive field where it is easy for one company to fish for news in the online databases of another one (State of the media, 2009).
As online news consumers increase, the number of people still loyal to traditional newspapers and televisions has continued to decline. For example, in the US, the number of people reading newspapers dropped from 58% in 1994 to 34% in 2008. Simultaneously, the proportion of people getting their news from the internet increased, such that in 2008, for the first time, they were the largest fraction. As online journalism develops, news companies are evolving into entities with a smaller, but more efficient, staff. The efficiency, in this case, is based on their capabilities to raise revenues, not necessarily deliver the news. On average, employment in the newsrooms has dropped by 15% as more effort has been put towards online publication (The Economist, 2009).
The drop in the sales of printed newspaper has brought the journalism business into a quandary. This is because, so far, online journalism still hasn't come up with a concrete way of getting revenues from all the readers. Initially, the websites for the newspapers used to be a lead to the printed editions. People accessing the sites would know what news were available in the printed editions, and would then proceed to purchase such. However, as more people turned towards the online media, this system became ineffective. And in order to retain the customer base, the online publications were forced to be more comprehensive in their news coverage. The present situation, hence, is a quagmire between maintaining the online customer base while still retaining the offline, traditional consumers (Tony, 2009).
The change from a private property into a public property has made online news to be easily made available to many people at low costs to the media company. This, in turn, has made it possible for many media companies to develop and disseminate their particular grade of news. In a sense, this signifies a kind of retrogress back in to the days when states in the US had several main papers and tabloids, and in which each publication had a unique agenda to disseminate. Then, as now, this multiplicity of publications made the news so reported to be either limited in subject scope, or to be biased and opinionated. The online publications that have "dedicated" subject scopes include those dealing exclusively with environmental matters, religion, and certain political affiliations (Rutherford, 2009).
At the frontiers of news reportage, there are nowadays online news feeds and news aggregators. The online news feeds require personal subscription to the sites so that specific news can be delivered to the subscriber's email. News aggregators, on the other hand, score for news in other online sources, put them together, and present a filtered body of news to the public. Some of the aggregators are automated, like Google news, which uses digital algorithms to search for related news and group them together. Others, however, are under the control of humans. They include Huffington Post, which, over a period of a mere four years, has shot up in reputation to become one of the most popular news channels online (Luscombe, 2009). News feeds and news aggregators represent the advanced level of interaction to which online journalism has developed amongst the online companies and between them and the consumer.
News aggregation has its own train of demerits. For example, although Google's algorithms have been specially designed to filter through other journalistic site in a non-biased manner, some companies are complaining that their content don't get represented well enough. Others have realized that the "click-through" rate from Google's aggregator is low - 10% - meaning that the papers end up losing revenue from all the advertisers whose content has not been viewed. Still other journalistic sites have accused Google of getting news from their sites without their acknowledgment. Overall, however, there are some merits that tend to overshadow these demerits. The most significant one is the fact that news aggregators ensure that readers do not stick to only one publication. Thus, even papers with initially low ratings can quickly build up a readership base from such aggregators (Heald, 2009). Ultimately, the aggregators end up leveling the journalistic field.
Overall hence, online journalism has continued an evolution that started way back - back when the telegraph was seen as a novel idea. Since then, new niches of exploration and exploitation have come up as the industry evolves. Online journalism represents a phase in which news, by themselves, are losing their monetary value - and instead gaining in their status as a source of traffic to certain sites, from which other companies can then advertise their products. This new kind of journalism also represents an opening up of some regions of the world previously secluded from global news consciousness. And hence, although there are still a lot of logistical hurdles still be conquered, the overall picture is bright. Certainly, online journalism is another feather in the hat of success that journalism, in general, has always worn.
LUSCOMBE, Belinda (2009) "Arianna Huffington: the web's new Oracle" Time, 19th March, 2009; Online at: http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1886214,00.html Consulted on 6th October 2009.
HEALD, Emma (2009) "Google news and newspapers publishers: allies or enemies?" Editors weblog, 11th March 2009; Online at: http://www.editorsweblog.org/analysis/2009/03/google_news_and_newspaper_publishers_all.php Consulted on 6th October 2009.
GASHER, Mike. "Paper Routes: The Geography of News in Digital Times", Evolution, Innovation, Communication, and the Future, November 2002, online at: http://www.er.uqam.ca/nobel/gricis/actes/panam/Gasher.pdf. Consulted on September 14, 2009.
STATE OF THE MEDIA (2009) "The future of journalism" Online at http://www.stateofthemedia.org/2009/narrative_survey_futureofjournalism.php?media=3&cat=1 consulted on 6th October 2009.
THE ECONOMIST (2009) "Tossed by a gale" The Economist, 14th May 2009; online at http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13642689 Consulted on 6th October 2009.
RUTHERFORD, Tony (2009) "Media Revolution" Huntington News, 23rd September 2009; Online at http://www.huntingtonnews.net/local/090923-rutherford-localmediarevolution.html Consulted on 6th October 2009.