Influence of Internet on Newspaper Readership a Comparative Study of Online and Hard Copy Newspaper Readership
The advent of Internet has brought together those near and far, transcending boundary barriers, in time and space worldwide and this has been made possible via computer. Thus, the latest effect of computer bothers on the use of it to propagate journalism worldwide via the Internet. The timely update of on-line newspaper, its universality, easy accessibility, easy navigation, interactivity features and other unique features of it have brought popularity to Internet newspaper. Due to its unique features readers’ taste is already moving towards on-line newspaper. Though the effect is relatively small as at now, this research tries to explore the influence of Internet on newspaper readership looking at both on-line and hard-copy; with the aim of finding-out who on-line readers are, to know how often newspaper readers visit the Internet and to find out if on-line will replace hard-copy newspaper.
Survey method was adopted to generate data from respondents in order to arrive at the research findings. The findings reveal that younger ages read on-line copies more than the older ones though; hard-copy still thrives beyond reasonable doubt. However, print media has on-line competitor. Recommendations were made based on the findings.
Influence of Internet on Newspaper Readership a Comparative Study of Online and Hard Copy Newspaper Readership
- 1 Background to the Study
Our present forms of popular text-based news media – hardcopy and computer-mediated presentation – are historically separated by a gulf some two centuries wide, but in current cultural practice they coexist. The Internet is the fastest growing medium in history. The digitalisations, convergence of computer and telephony technologies, which are the linchpin of the Internet, have greatly influenced the way news and information are produced and disseminated. Given the increasing use of the Internet technology, the development of on-line newspapers as a new way of publishing has introduced a new, efficient and fast way of disseminating and accessing news (Khan, 1999).
On-line newspapers were considered a revolution in mass media in the 1990s (Thie1, 1998). Their characteristics of hypertext, interactivity, and multimedia necessitated a new model of journalism and reading behaviour (Massey & Levy 1999: 138-151). The new model created design challenges, such as, how should content be organized in the on-line environment, what should the on-line version provide that the printed version has not? Which parts of a newspaper’s traditional format could be carried over to an on-line newspaper and what parts must be let go; in short, how much should an on-line newspaper resemble the print product are some of the challenges of new technology.
There are various areas of research in print media but readership studies will be considered here; it serves to determine who reads a publication, what items are read, and what gratifications the readers get from their choices. Magazine and newspaper research began in 1920s and for much of its early existence was qualitative in nature (Wimmer & Dominick, 2003: 306) while quantitative research however started in 1950s. Since the late 90s growth in development and readership has been dramatic with most large and medium newspapers in Nigeria now having an on-line presence.
According to Nielsen Net-Ratings Survey, cited in Donatello (2002), one in four web users in 2000 read news on-line with many reading it daily or weekly such that it became an important news channel. Their popularity survived the dotcom crash of 2001/2002 and readership increased during Iraq war when desire for as-it-happens news created demand for supplements to television and print media news, particularly among at-work readers and the younger generation (Palser 2003). Despite the dramatic growth, or perhaps because of it, factors affecting the quality of on-line newspapers remain partially understood.
Quality issues surrounding website design, in general, have been studied: issues addressed include website usability and effectiveness (Palmer, 2002; Nielsen, 1999; Nielsen & Tahir (2001), information or content quality (Smith 1997: 70-95), visual and multimedia design (Johnson & Nemetz 1998 cited in Abdulla et al 2002), and website quality dimensions (Zhang & Dran 2000: 1253-1268). In this work the researcher adopts a holistic view comparing print and on-line newspapers – if on-line will replace hard-copy newspaper: defining it as meeting the needs of users, incorporating content quality, multimedia use and interactivity since the ultimate aim of newspaper website quality is to attract and retain readers.
The Internet and World Wide Web have changed the world and this has not exempted the mass media since the Net and the Web sit at the centre of virtually all the media convergence hence the prediction of Marshall McLuhan’s expression of the global village has come to reality. The life-wire of human co-existence is communication – through which we share meanings, exchange ideas, goods and services feelings, and thoughts, in short, expressions are exchanged and these have gone beyond manual to electronic or appropriately called digital level. In the same vein, Okwechime (2007: 351) views modern communication to have been hinged on the use of technology-driven in the mass media like newspapers, magazines, periodicals, the radio, television, cinema and the Internet – all being powered by the ever- evolving information and communication technologies (ICTs).
In 2001, John Pavlik (as cited in Ndangam, 2008: 586) compared Internet news to the equivalent of a library that carries more than 4925 daily newspapers from around the world. In the rapidly changing operation of web versions of their hard-copy, more people with access to networked computers turn to the Internet for news. For instance, the number of newspapers in Italy has gone on-line as a means of attracting young and adult audiences who refuse to spend money on the hard-copy. This research work explores the motive of the on-line readers in Nigeria in spite of the fact that this technology is available to minority of 140 million Nigerians.
The use of Internet in communication has revolutionized the whole business of mass communication; though, no new medium can send the old one packing but advancement in technology has definitely and will continue to alter the functions of each medium. Hence, the use of Internet through its dynamism and interactivity is rapidly changing the media industry and the practices of mass communication in Nigeria viz-a-viz its effects on hard-copy. On-line news media distinguish themselves from traditional media in a number of ways: they are interactive; they offer convenience, which embodies easy access, searchable features and the ability to cross-reference through hyper-linking; and they provide multimedia features. According to King (1999: 26), interactivity reflects two essentially unrelated characteristics of on-line media:
In one sense, “interactivity” is used to describe the process of empowering users with additional control over the sequence in which information is presented to them. This definition relates to increased interactivity with content. But the term also refers to an increase in the interaction news consumers can have with news producers, a definition relating to increased feedback.
On-line news is convenient news medium. As an important feature of on-line communication, the ability to search stories allows newspapers to become an information databank (Peng et al., 1999: 52-63). Hyperlinks, however, change the newspaper from a single source of information into the hub of an information network, which allows readers to go beyond daily news to other information sites and makes newspaper reading non-linear (Lee and So, 2000: 126-134). Unlike printed newspapers, on-line media can deliver breaking news and timely news updates around the clock. Multimedia has always been touted as a key feature of the Internet. Presenting information with text, animated graphics, video and sound, multimedia generally indicates a rich sensory interface between humans and computers or computer-like devices – an interface which, in most cases, gives the user control over the pace and sequence of the information (Flynn and Tetzlaff, 1998: 165-176).
Oyero, (2007: 169) explains that various facilities on the net-mail, Usenet, World Wide Web, and other multi-media of the Internet have allowed men to send, receive and store messages with ease across the globe. However, the unique feature of each medium is fast disappearing due to media convergence created by the Internet – thus, altering all aspects of newspaper industry and its relationship with it readers. On-line newspapers and webzines (on-line magazines) are also emerging in Nigeria such as the Punch, Guardian, THISDAY, Sun, Vanguard, Champion, New Nigerian etc, all of them can be accessed 24 hours a day.
Nwosu (cited in Chukwu 2007: 360) defined Internet as a vast connectivity of global network linking several other networks and electronically associating millions of people and computer users worldwide. This interconnectivity makes it possible for every computer user to access any kind of information from another computer as long as the two computer sets are linked to the World Wide Web. Through the blue-tooth device, various computer systems can access information available to each other – this is very close to the passing-along reading form of the traditional newspaper. McQuail, (2005: 39) recognizes the claim of the Internet to be considered as a medium in its own right on the grounds of its now extensive diffusion which emerged as a non-commercial means of intercommunications hence, agrees its relevance to the field of mass communication. Advancement in technology has made its diversity to be a profitable means of communication at both local and international levels.
The Internet was born out of an experimental collaboration of the US Defence Department and US academia (Vaknin, 1999 and Mowlana, 1997: 102). It grew exponentially as users all over the world discovered the advantages of linking their computers together in order to share software, exchange electronic mail, and discuss complicated scientific problems (Mowlana, 1997: 102, European Commission, 1997). Today, many forces promoting the Internet as a global communications network are dominated by individuals and organisations in rich countries (Slevin, 2000: 198). It is a fast-growing trans-national network that connects millions of computer hosts in a global network of networks (Tehranian, 1999: 47).
The European Commission maintains that the Internet is a network of networks interconnected on an open basis using Internet Protocol (IP), which enables the Internet to route and transport all the elements of a multimedia service such as text, image, motion video and sound. The IP usually runs over transmission links leased from telecommunication operator. Although sending messages between people was not an important motivation for a network of scientific computers rather, it was initially made for research institutions to use the processing power of other institutions’ computers when they had large calculations to do that required more power, or when someone else’s facility might do the job better (Peter, 2007).
Another useful application of the Internet to the field of journalism is the World Wide Web (WWW). The World Wide Web was designed originally as an interactive world of shared information through which people could communicate with each other and with machines. Since its inception in 1989 it has grown initially as a medium for the broadcast of read-only material from heavily loaded corporate servers to the mass of Internet connected consumers.
The web is simply defined as the universe of global network-accessible information. It is an abstracted space with which people interact, and it is currently chiefly populated by interlinked pages of text, images and animations, with occasional sounds, three dimensional worlds and videos. Its existence marks the end of an era of frustrating and debilitating incompatibilities between computer systems. The commercial potential in the system has driven a rapid pace of development of new features making the maintenance of the global inter-operability which the web brought a continuous task for all concerned. Journalists easily surf the net for interesting topics and build on them while Internet users access the news easily anywhere in the world as long as they are connected.
For more than 200 years, matters of local and national significance have been conveyed in newsprint – from revolutions and politics to fashion to local weather or high school football scores. Around the globe, it has been estimated that there are billions of news pages containing every story ever written. The first on-line newspapers, magazines and news-lines appeared in the second half of the 1990s and originally had a rather limited circle of readers. With few exceptions, the traditional media were the last to move on-line while New York Times and the Washington Post have been credited to be the first newspapers on-line towards the end of last century.
Information Communication Technology (ICT) thrives in the 21st century and Nigeria cannot afford to be left out so newspapers in Nigeria have joined the rest of the world to celebrate news on-line. Mega Fortunes Business Network, the publisher of Dateline has been credited to be the Nigeria’s first fully Internet-based newsmagazine, a marriage of Internet’s multimedia global reach world and the power of journalism. It is aimed at promoting the Internet culture in Nigeria and affording Nigerians, at home and abroad, and others interested in the country an opportunity to get fresh authoritative and multi-faceted news about the country at all times, though it started as web designer.
Newspapers on-line and newsprint editions aren’t Siamese twins. The newsprint editions can exist without the on-line editions – but on-line editions can’t exist without newsprint editions. The Internet is the fastest growing medium in history. In that heady era, many new media pioneers, scholars and pundits actually believed that on-line publishing could supersede print publishing by now or at least by then would have reversed 40 years of declines in most newspapers’ circulations and readerships. On-line newspaper publishing certainly hasn’t supplanted print publishing, newsprint editions are still by far the most popular way by which people read newspapers in Nigeria although many daily newspapers have attracted large numbers of monthly on-line readers. Those numbers – except in rarely cases, are a fraction of the numbers of people who read the equivalent daily newsprint editions in Nigeria while same is applicable in some other parts of the world. According to two major firms that measure Internet usage in USA, Nielsen Net-Ratings and CoScore Media Metrix, the average on-line edition reader reads much less frequently and far fewer pages than the average newsprint edition reader (Nielsen, 2001).
The urge to inform the public of official developments and pronouncements has been a characteristic of most autocratic rulers. This urge was fulfilled in ancient Rome by the Acta Diurna (Daily Events), a daily gazette dating from 59 BC and attributed in origin to Julius Caesar. The first attempt to publish newspaper in Nigeria came in 1859 with the Iwe Iroyin being authored by Rev. Henry Townsend, a missionary sojourner in Abeokuta. Today, there are numerous newspapers both daily and weekly nationwide.
The word newspaper, as now employed, covers so wide a field that it is difficult, if not impossible, to give it a precise definition. By the English Newspaper Libel and Registration Act of 1881, it is defined as “Any paper containing public news, intelligence or occurrences, or any remarks or observations therein printed for sale, and published periodically or in parts or numbers at intervals not exceeding twenty-six days”. Also, the British Post Office defines a newspaper as any publication to summarize the wording – printed and published in numbers at intervals of not more than seven days, consisting wholly or in part of political or other news, or critical relating thereto or to other current topics, with or without advertisements.
In ordinary practice, the newspaper, as distinguished from other periodicals means the daily or (at most) weekly publications which are principally concerned with reporting and commenting upon general current event. Sec.22 of the 1999 Constitution of The Federal Republic of Nigeria recognizes the role of the press as an agent of development hence, the assignment given to it thus: “the press, radio, television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this Chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people”.
Newspapers have the unique capacity of transmitting enormous amounts of information over long distances and are very responsive to cultural changes. Newspapers look to the future. They have over the centuries afforded consumers longevity, durability, historical evidence, and opportunity for record keeping and referencing. Newspapers have however been fraught with challenges; “one of the biggest challenges that print faces is a lack of accountability and transparency for claimed circulation” (Abplanalp, 2005: 14).
So, in the one hundred-fifty (150) years of newspaper existence in Nigeria it has come of age to the extent that it now keeps pace with modern technology (digital world). In this research The Sun, Nation and Vanguard newspapers will be examined in relation to both their on-line and hard-copy assessment by readers. Looking at the sample papers, they are all dailies and have common feature of being present in all the major cities nationwide. The papers also are all tabloids in size and each of them publishes a Sunday edition. Though they are privately-owned newspapers, there is no government newspaper as at present that is nationwide read, published or even demonstrate the characteristics of the well defined national newspaper. Their short history as enumerated by Udoakah & Nnadi (2007: 434-452) will be briefly looked at.
Vanguard Newspaper with its headquarters located in Apapa Lagos surfaced in 1984 with the orientation of impacting positively on readers and society by providing high quality, reliable and affordable media products for promoting knowledge, political stability and economic prosperity. It has the aim of offering the best platform for serious discourse on national issues. It dwells much on political reporting, energy, hi-tech and computer, maritime, health etc.
The Sun Newspaper a daily tabloid newspaper published in Lagos joined the swelling ranks of the Nigerian press on Saturday January 18, 2003 as a weekly and June 16, 2003 as a daily being published by The Sun Publishing Limited incorporated on March 29, 2001. It constantly reminds its readers of its mission to practice journalism in the classical tabloid newspaper tradition of presenting the news and features in an exciting style, with impact, objectivity and appeal that generate returns to all stakeholders: the society, the investors and the practitioners. The masthead of the newspaper is typical of the British newspaper, The Sun of London as well as its front page along its heavy type-faced banner headlines (Duyile, 2007: 371).
The paper looks at news – whatever the subject of the news-largely from the human angle. It captures the unpredictable and unexpected rhythms of life and existence, the daily heartbeat of humanity in lucid and crisp prose. It reflects life from all nuances politics, economy, crime, religion, sports, arts, and culture, fashion and lifestyle, the rich, the poor, the stars and the ordinary, the sinners and the saints, wart and all. It mirrors the totality of people’s actions or inactions in bold and dramatic language hence, it is sensational. It has a daily print-run of 130,000 copies and 135,000 for weekend titles and sells an average of 80 percent (www.sunonline.com) while it has pass-on rate in the industry estimated at 1:10.
Private Limited Liability Company of Sam Omatseye Victor Ifijeh et al started the publication of The Nation in 2006. The paper which has its headquarters in Marina Lagos came with the aim of capturing national audience for news, features, reviews, insight, analysis, comment and wholesome entertainment from Nigeria and the world at large.
1.2 Statement of Problem
Uncertainty of what happens when a newspaper decides to establish a World Wide Web site and is no longer confined to its hard-copy circulation area is a major concern. What happens when this newspaper could, potentially, expand its geography to take advantage of the Internet’s vast transmission capacity? Would the newspaper seek an on-line readership distinct from its hard-copy edition? Would its sense of its community expand, would it become more extroverted? Would its news package change accordingly to fill up this space? Would it increase its international news coverage? Hence who are on- line readers? And according to Gasher & Reisa (2008: 193-211) mapping the geography of on-line news is unknown therefore, all these call for a critical research since increasing competition from traditional and on-line media have made readership research an important area of study.
Since the only phenomenon that is constant is change hence, newspaper readers also change with the reading habit vis-à-vis the changing nature of print media which is being shaped by the new media. Before the advent of Internet people read hard-copy to get their information. But with the invention of Internet it is now difficult to know the readership situation of hard-copy as different from the on-line newspapers.
While existing research has been useful in outlining some trends in on-line journalism and publishing, a significant number of these results are limited largely to western media contexts, where computer ownership and connectivity to the Internet is relatively higher. Owing to the specific research questions addressed, most of these studies do not account for the dynamics of on-line news publishing in developing countries in general, Africa in particular, and Nigeria to be specific where weak telecommunications infrastructures, inadequate financial resources and comparatively low levels of computer literacy impair access to, and use of, the Internet.
The need to extend the same gesture to Nigeria situation has stimulated this research work. Notwithstanding, despite the new media (Internet) readers in Nigeria especially in Port-Harcourt metropolis still read the print version and this has made it difficult to ascertain who really are on-line readers. This can be described as what Howard Gold ( as cited in Baran 2009: 118), called crisis of confidence as combined with technological revolution and structural economic change to create what can only be described as a perfect storm.
In view of this, it has been viewed as a problem in Nigeria seeking what could probably be the influence of Internet on newspaper readership. What are the economic impact on both the print media (traditional print media) and the on-line readers? As a matter of fact will news on-line be still be represented as “news print”; and will on-line news replace the traditional media? All these call for concern.
Influence of Internet on Newspaper Readership a Comparative Study of Online and Hard Copy Newspaper Readership
1.3 Objectives of the Study
Since on-line newspaper readership is a novelty in Nigeria this paper will tend to know who targeted readers and actual readers are in comparison with the print version. Also, it will want to know the level at which on-line readership thrives, the motive behind it and the effects on hard-copy. Hence the following objectives are meant to be achieved.
- To ascertain on-line
- To find out how often people visit
- To find out the length of time readers spend reading
- To find out if on-line newspaper will replace print version
1.4 Research Questions
- Who are on-line readers?
- How often do people visit Internet?
- What is the length of time readers spend reading newspaper?
- Will on-line newspaper replace print version?
1.5 Significance of the Study
The research work will be of great significance to the media industries in the sense that it will vividly reveal the result of their labour towards on-line production whether as a plus or a waste of effort. It will also inform them on how best to fashion out their on-line print version. It will further shed more light on ways to better make print version available to the readers.
Another significance of this paper is that it will help advertisers to know the demographic range of on-line news readers and hard-copy readers in order to know which product to advertise on-line for cost effectiveness and which one goes for hard-copy. Since Internet is only available to few minorities the paper will reveal if on-line publication is relevant to Nigeria society. The study will also serve as a reference material for researchers who will like to advance on this topic.
1.6 Scope of the Study
The study will cover readership habit of on-line newspaper readers and the reasons behind the changing habit. Since on-line newspapers bother on Internet, discussions will also touch some relevant literatures on Internet services. The work will cover the holistic view of meeting the needs of users, and incorporating content quality of multimedia use and interactivity. This study focuses on the study of on- line and hard-copy readership in Port-Harcourt metropolis.
1.7 Theoretical Frame Work
According to Wimmer & Dominick (2003: 467), “Theory is a set of related propositions that presents a systematic view of phenomena by specifying relationships among concepts”. So, theory helps researchers to wisely organize, analyze, and interpret data. It gives clear explanation of realities based on objective and sustained observation. Based on the nature of this research work, diffusion of innovation theory will be adopted.
Diffusion of Innovation
Everett Roger’s diffusion of Innovation theory offers a useful perspective to understanding the process of adopting on-line publishing and the on-line news model assumed by individual newspapers.
Focusing on analysis of how innovations or new ideas spread, diffusion theorists argue that the proliferation of technological innovations and their adaptation by different individuals or societies is assessed by how the “innovation is diffused to and adopted by the intended audience” (Rogers, 1962: 2).
Equally important to the diffusion process are the characteristics of an innovation, its desirability within a particular socio-cultural and economic context and the group relationships of potential adopters. These varyingly mediate and determine the rate of adoption or diffusion of an innovation. Thus, the perceived benefits of an innovation do not necessarily lead to its acceptance, diffusion and adoption. Consequently, there are bound to be disparities between an innovation and its mass adoption and differences in application between adopters. Indeed, the term “digital divide” has been used to characterize various disparities in access to and adoption of information and communication technologies by individuals and groups in society.
As new technology advances, such as the Internet emerges in the marketplace, newspaper organisations continually have to assess the technology and determine how those innovations will fit into their organizations (Pittman, 2006). Many organizations struggle when faced with adopting new technological innovations. Innovation in an organization is recognized as a significant problem to organization managers, according to Rogers (2003), a leading scholar in the area of diffusion of innovations. So, adopting on-line newspaper publishing has not been easy with print managers.
The adoption of new innovations by organizations is an area of study that has grown in recent years as the widespread introduction of new communication technologies has increased (Rogers, 2003). In her study on convergence, Lawson-Borders (2003: 94) said adoption of innovation is more than a concept, but it is a “process in which organizations must manage in order to integrate content across platforms”. She argues that media companies must develop a set of “best practices” to successfully merge new and old media. In this case, adopting the on-line to complement hard-copy for wider coverage can not be compromised. However, Saksena and Hollifield (2002: 75-84) found that few newspaper managers used the processes identified by innovation management research that would help guide their organizations in the successful adoption of emerging technology.
Rogers’s model of innovation in organizations is the most appropriate theory for this study. This theory explains how organizations adopt technology and then manage its implementation and use in the organization. The Internet has transformed the newspaper business and to keep up with readers’ ever- changing habits many newspapers have launched electronic editions. Worldwide, there are more than 5,000 daily, weekly and other newspapers on-line (National Newspaper Association [NNA], 2005).
Though no medium can send another one packing, diffusion of technological innovation will continue to shape how we as individuals in a society think, feel, act, and how society operates as we move from one technological age to another. McLuhan in his The Gutenberg Galaxy: the making of typographic men (1962) explains that we learn, feel and think the way we do because of the message we receive through the current technology that is available. From his argument, the radio requires us to only listen and develop our sense of hearing.
On the other hand, print medium appeals to our visual sense while television engages both our hearing and visual senses. We then transfer those developed senses into our everyday lives and we want to use them again. The medium is then our messages. McQuail (2005: 127) in the same vein upholds McLuhan’s theory and supports that each new medium transcends the boundaries of experiences reached by earlier media and contributes to further change. McLuhan correctly saw different media working together, while perhaps less plausibly he predicted the attainment of a global village in which information and experience would freely available for all to share (McQuail, 2005: 127).
1.8 Limitations of the Study
The researcher was constrained by the limit of materials available at his disposal. However this work was meant to carry out empirical findings on the Influence of Internet on Newspaper Readership: A Comparative Study of On-line and Hard-copy Newspaper Readership in Port-Harcourt Metropolis. Hence, the research work was limited to those who read newspaper in Port-Harcourt only. Also the current economic meltdown which had been a global phenomenon had not exempted the researcher because he would have loved to cover more areas in Nigeria if not for economic constrain.
1.9 Definition of Terms
- On-line Newspaper: This has been considered a revolution in mass media due to their characteristics of hypertext, interactivity, and multimedia which necessitated a new model of journalism and reading behaviour. On-line newspaper is the on-line version or otherwise called electronic version of the printed newspaper version (McAdams, 1995: 64-90).
- On-line Readers: On-line readers are the newspaper readers that read the electronic version of the printed copy on-line via the However, on-line readers must have the knowledge of information communication technology (ICT) and be connected to the Internet before they can read newspaper on-line.
- Computer: A computer is a device that accepts information (in the form of digitalized data) and manipulates it for some result based on a programme or sequence of instructions on how the data is to be processed. Complex computers also include the means for storing data (including the programme, which is also a form of data) for some necessary duration. A programme may be invariable and built into the computer (and called logic circuitry as it is on microprocessors) or difference programmes may be provided to the computer (loaded into its storage and then started by an administrator or user).