How Traditional Media Can Thrive Online

It is well known that the newspaper industry is struggling. Subscriptions are down and advertising revenue has decreased drastically while at the same time the costs of maintaining a news organization have continued to increase.

A major player in the collapse of the traditional newspaper is the Internet. In December of 2008, the Pew Research Center for People and the Press published a study showing that the Internet had overtaken newspapers as a news outlet. At the time, 40% of those surveyed said they received most of their news about national and international issues from the Internet -- a substantial increase from 24% in September 2007. Importantly, this was the first time a Pew survey found that more people relied more on the Internet for news than on newspapers.

The Internet’s rise as a purveyor of news came about because it increased the amount of information available and gives users the ability to learn about breaking news when it happens, without having to wait for the morning paper. Sites like the Huffington Post and the Drudge Report are two of the most trafficked sites on the Internet today because they provide the latest news -- ahead of the traditional news cycle.

In short, the Internet provides more content than traditional media, and provides it faster than traditional media. The trick for newspapers and other traditional media outlets now is to find a way to effectively harness the power yielded by the Internet and direct media to bring back older readers and amass a strong following of readers from younger generations who spend a majority of their time online.

Similar to its power in the political world, direct media is also highly influential in the online news world. Internet users want content to come to them -- which is why they are increasingly looking to Twitter and Facebook for the latest news. In fact, a recent study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism found that “75% of online news consumers say they get news forwarded through email or posts on social networking sites and 52% say they share links to news with others via those means.” Online news organizations should take advantage of this by using direct media, including email, Facebook, and Twitter, to deliver news to consumers -- just like they would leave a newspaper on a doorstep.

A great example of this is Mike Allen’s Politico Playbook. This daily email pulls out the most important nuggets of information from many different news sources and compiles them into one easy-to-read morning email. So rather than scouring twenty different news sites, users can depend on Mike Allen at the Politico to deliver the most important information of the day. This allows the news site to reach its target audience -- Washington insiders and others who care about the latest news from Capitol Hill -- with a product that is highly relevant.