Predictably, there isn't much comfort for newspapers in the latest Pew study of Americans' news habits. The Internet is said to be the third most popular news platform, behing local television news and national television news. Of course, much of what's consumed on the Internet comes from newspapers, but we still haven't found a way of making money on it.
But the study does provide a hint that worries about people turning away from the news may have been overstated:
Pew says that 37 percent of Internet users are commenting, tweeting, facebooking and otherwise integrating news sharing into their daily lives. "People use their social networks and social networking technology to filter, assess, and react to news," the Pew report says. A full 75 percent of online news consumers get news stories delivered via e-mail or social networking, and 52 percent of those people will share news stories with others online. Even more intriguing is that "72% of American news consumers say they follow the news because they enjoy talking with others about what is happening in the world."
There will continue to be plenty of work for journalists. They'll just have to be comfortable on many platforms and flexible enough to keep changing when the platforms do. One of the interesting things the survey underscored was that people have no brand loyalty now -- they're just interested in the information, and they put no particular stock in where it came from.
I think the Internet is having this effect in other areas, too. Years ago, an acquaintance from my high school days tried to interest me in a great Web opportunity he was promoting. For a small fee, this company would provide me with a "portal" to which people would come and buy all these products the company was distributing. I instinctively knew this was a fool's dream. People even then didn't tend to go to specific places for specific products on the Web. If you want a digital camera or a TV or a washing maching or whatever, you just go online and find the one you want at the price you want, regardless of what retailer is pushing it. Names such as "Sears" and "Best Buy" mean less and less every day.