The phenomenal growth of online newspapers

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The term online journalism implies the use of the Internet for transmitting news whereby Internet sources replace the functions of traditional print journalism and other media.Given the rapidly growing dependence of the mass population around the world on the Internet for their news, it cannot be doubted that online-journalism is indeed the next step in the evolution of print and of the primary functions of media. A study conducted by the Newspaper Association of America in 2002 (NAA, 2002) stated online newspapers as the primary source of daily news and information on the web. The phenomenal growth of online newspapers and its readership has 'sparked an extraordinary revolution in communication across time and distance truly unimaginable in the past' ( Li, 2006) , to the extent that today an ever increasing number of the world's estimated 359 million users of the Internet get their news from this source (Pavlik, 2001).

This increase in readership has resulted from the several advantages that are not viable with print journalism. Audiences rely on newspapers on the web because they are instantly available, constantly updated and more interactive in terms of content. For instance, almost all online newspapers have slideshows of images, attractive texts and sounds making them far more interesting to read than their print counterparts. Readers have options to post their feedback and join groups that share similar interests. They also offer services like electronic mail alerts for any breaking news or severe weather notices. Basically these newspapersreap the benefits ofhypermedia and hypertext . All these advantages put together are attracting readers who would previously not even be interested in printed news because now it is available to them at no additional cost of buying the printed version. It all comes at a very low cost of internet access.But we must also consider the fact that a part of the population, namely the elite, political and business oriented or even sports fans are ready to pay subscription fees for these online publications. 'The Wall Street Journal', 'The Financial Times' and 'New York Times' are some publications that have previously charged a subscription fee or put a limit on the number of articles that can be viewed for free. Nevertheless demand for them online has always been increasing.

Given all the above qualities, online journalism is undoubtedly the new evolutionary phase of media. Online newspapers became a part of the mainstream medium even before many of us had the opportunity to learn about the medium (Li,2006). This fact is also supported by various statistics. More than 3,400 U.S. newspapers were online by June 2001 (Poynter, 2004). However, in recent years the number is much higher.According to "The State of News Media 2009" an annual report by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, 'The number of Americans who regularly go online for news, by one survey, jumped 19% in the last two years, to nearly four in ten Americans(37%); in 2008 alone traffic to the top 50 news sites rose 27%.'. On the other hand 'comScore Plan Metrix' states, 'the overall readership of print newspapers is down 11 percent in the past year, from 86.4 million in April 2008 to 76.7 million in April 2009 but the total number of visitors to the online newspapers category is up 5 percent during that same period.' It is clear from this statistic that the decline in patrons reading print newspapers if higher than the increase in those reading online versions. But at the same time another statistic from the same report says that 'the number of readers of news content online has increased by 8.6 million people'. This indicates that people are not only turning to new sites for information but also to blogs and journal databases available online which are adding to the growth of personal journalism.

Taking this into consideration and the ever growing readership, the content of online newspapers are becoming more specific and serious. There has been a large growth in the amount of original news used by these publications. Typically they were just a duplication of their printed versions but now they tend to be faster in the dissemination of news. They are as good as the print version in terms of in depth analysis and also allow readers to consult all previous records pertaining to the subject of discussion by storing them in archives that are available on the new website itself.

However, with the increase in readership comes the pressing need to meet expectation and in doing so many if not all online newspapers compromise when it comes to quality news publishing. A few newspapers like the New York Times uphold very high journalistic standard but the lesser known ones tend to deviate in reporting. This is the reason patrons tend to consult a few sources before authenticating the news. It is beneficial to online newspapers because it adds to the revenue of each of the one consulted but over time people shift to the more accurate source.

With all this development in the online journalism field we are left to wonder if print journalism is becoming obsolete. Researches look at it not as a decline rather as the tendency of the media to embrace change and take new forms. Communication developed from papyrus, to telegraph, to newspapers, to online newspapers and blogs. The fact that so many newspapers have taken the initiative and adapted to the new wave in online journalism justifies this evolutionary process. Therefore, it is '..common for new media to complement and benefit existing outlets'(Samoriski,2002)(Bidgoli,2004).

In conclusion, we can say that online journalism has not only eliminated the weaknesses of print journalism rather has given a new mobility and dimension to news. With its gain in readership each year we can deem that the changes it has brought are permanent and not temporary in nature. 'The magnitude of media proliferation on the internet has been unprecedented' (Li, 2006) and today the manner in which news is being transmitted has completely replaced the traditional functions of news and media. Hence, online journalism is undoubtedly the next evolutionary step in media and is part of an evolutionary process that started way back and will continue to refine itself with the passage of time.