Where Did You Get Your Election News?
Finally, Election 2008 is over, and we can get on with our lives. But while you were in the throes of the American political season, how were you keeping up to date? Sure, maybe you turned on the TV and browsed your local newspaper. But most likely, interactive maps, YouTube videos, Twitter tweets and your Facebook friends were providing you with the majority of what you needed to know on a minute-by-minute basis. This year, more than ever before, the Internet was a primary source of news.
The Internet has both collected and influenced political opinion as never before. A Gizmodo article has dubbed 2008 "The First Real Internet Election."
Media outlets are devoting an ever-increasing amount of their resources to putting the news online, and have then found themselves competing with a rising tide of citizen journalists. How successful have professional efforts been to remain relevant?
Along with other online news sources of that time, such as The New York Times Web site, the CNN.com of 2000 was living in the moment, the now of the Web, following the dot-com crash, reporting it with zeal and scrutiny. There was little of the rush for multimedia, vast archiving (whether paid or free), or the numerous op-ed blog residencies that networks and newspapers have fostered in the past two or three years.
The top ten news sources from this survey, which tracked unique visitors for the month of April 2007, include networks and newspaper giants: CNN, CBS, The New York Times, MSNBC, Fox, and AOL. And it was essentially in 2007 that many of these sites and their competitors began ratcheting up the quality of their sites—design, diversity, clarity, accessibility—as well as the quantity. For example, The New York Times began offering a substantially larger proportion of its archives for free.
But is it working? The goal of these sites is to keep visitors on them for longer than a couple of minutes or page views, as well as to break and develop news stories faster. In early 2006, several “newspaper pros” discussed the numerous site redesigns of 2005 and 2006 and made some recommendations. Not surprisingly, one of their first mantras is, “Customize, customize, customize.” Says one critic, “Make the user feel like they are part of the experience; they know what they want and how they want it.”
Statistics on print newspaper readership from the Newspaper Association of America indicate that newspaper circulation has been in decline for years—long before the Internet became a mainstream source for news. But with Nielsen//NetRatings as its source, the blog ReadWriteWeb tells us, “The traffic to newspaper websites continues to rise.” Furthermore, it’s those innovative new buckets of content that are doing the trick: “Interestingly, the area of newspaper websites that has experienced the most growth is blogs, perhaps proving that new media formats are beginning to usurp old media in earnest.”