30 April 2009

Readership Is Up. That's the Good News ...

U.S. readership of online newspapers rose significantly in 2008. But nearly a quarter of internet users said they stopped their subscription to a printed newspaper or magazine because they could get the same information online.

Those are among the findings of the 2009 Digital Future Report, released this week by the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication.

Internet users spent an average of 53 minutes a week reading online newspapers in 2008, up from 41 minutes in 2007.

`We're clearly now seeing a path to the end of the printed daily newspapers -- a trend that is escalating much faster than we had anticipated,' said Center director Jeffrey I. Cole. 'The decline of newspapers is happening at a pace they never could have anticipated. Their cushion is gone, and only those papers that can move decisively to the Web will survive.'

However, he highlighted tremendous opportunities for newspapers as they establish themselves online, including their ability to get `back in the breaking news business.' He also cited strong brand loyalty among readers; the study found that 61 percent of those surveyed said they would miss the print edition if it were no longer available, up from 56 percent the previous year.

Other findings:

* A large majority of people with residential broadband connections keep them on all the time while they are at home.

* Users are publishing more and more of their own material online; 44 percent said they post photos online, and around a quarter keep a personal blog. Both figures are up sharply from earlier years.

* More than half the internet users said the medium is important in helping them maintain social relationships.

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