July 1997

Root Page of Article: The Web and the Paradigm of the Front Page, by Flora J. Garcia

Technology Expansion and Use

As in other categories on the Web, the number of online newspaper sites is growing. The NewsLink site listed 326 sites by daily papers in the United States as of May 1997. In April 1995, NewsLink recorded 172 links to newspapers, only 28 of them professional dailies that were updated regularly. In addition, The New York Times' venture onto the Web in January 1996 signaled that even an old gray lady can be made into bits. The Times' site uses "classical" elements of Web design and reflects a traditional and conservative presentation.

Newspaper sites on the Web vary in size and in association, offering a variety of services, from real estate listings to personals, classifieds, shopping services, and links in addition to the content of their paper products. But in these, the halcyon days of Web news, traditional newspapers need to make several decisions--independently, not as an industry, chain, or collective--about who they want their "hitters" to be and what they want those people to take away from their site.

Many reasons have been offered for investment in Internet technologies generally and Web technologies specifically. Publishers and corporate executives prod their competitors to jump into the electronic mix. But the commercial benefits from online news delivery are yet to be realized. When venturing onto the Web, newspapers should be evaluating their reasons for and goals in establishing their presence. Issues of audience and the attraction of future readers must be addressed.

The dedicated online news reader of the future is the college student and young adult of today--someone who has had Internet access for at least a couple of years. The reader is likely to be impatient, less rooted to community, and more interested in customized news in specific categories. The reader has always had computers as research tools and is likely to have been exposed to a full-text retrieval system. --

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