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Online – Intro

Intro

By the Project for Excellence in Journalism

After a decade of high hopes, there are increasing concerns about the Web’s ability to meet the news industry’s financial challenges.

The number of people going online for news on a regular basis is rising.

The audience for major news sites is also continuing to grow.

For many of these bigger players, the watchwords increasingly appear to be assimilation, acquisition and partnership. In 2007, among other examples, MSNBC purchased community news aggregator Newsvine and ABC News allied with Facebook, just as Google had earlier bought YouTube, and News Corp. acquired MySpace.

But there are also nuances and growing concerns. There has been little evidence that these new acquisitions and alliances have added much to the bottom line or justified their expense.

More significant, as a category, news Web sites appear to be falling behind financially. They are not growing in advertising revenue as quickly as other kinds of Internet destinations. And these figures do not include the most important revenue source, search, where news is a relatively small player.

The most promising element heading into 2008 may be innovation. The news industry now appears to be taking to new technology in earnest. Sites are evolving quickly and, in a new development, the mainstream media are now among the more experimental players.

More media sites are taking the reader away from the “walled garden” – their own content – linking to once-taboo outside sources or even inviting in third-party content, allowing hunting-and-gathering consumers to act more directly on their preferences rather than being led to them.

Citizen media are also growing in ways unmistakable and engaging . Web sites run by citizen journalists are multiplying – rapidly approaching 1,500 heading into 2008 – offering stories, blogs and videos. And that trend is considered a healthy one by professional journalists, who call on citizens more frequently to inform their reporting.

The journalism of the future increasingly appears to be a hybrid that takes advantage of the technology rather than fights it. But the questions of who will pay and how they will do it seem more pressing than ever.