World Wide Web Publishing: An Overview of WWW Newspapers from the United States

Naphtali Irene Tham <>
Foo Yueh Peng <>
Nanyang Technological University


In recent years, an increasing number of newspapers have plunged into electronic publishing on the World Wide Web (WWW) platform. This study gives an overview of WWW newspaper publishing from the United States.


Literature review

Interactivity, immediacy, and limitless space are some of the characteristics of the Internet (Erlindson, 1995). These characteristics render the Internet a suitable publishing ground if harnessed properly. There are many advantages in Web publishing, one of which, Erlindson mentions, is the low cost of setting up a Web site--as little as U.S. $5,000. He also says an absence of paper and delivery costs involved in electronic newspaper publishing is a benefit. Besides being limitless, space is three-dimensional in cyberspace. According to Erlindson, the Internet has also presented itself as an increasingly immense market and a large forum for the exchange of ideas worldwide. News can become immediate and timely if electronic newspapers are updated throughout the day, and international news can be transmitted with ease across geographical boundaries (Fulton, 1996). In addition, Fulton notes that electronic newspapers can incorporate multimedia elements, thus adding value to the product.

Counterarguments for some of these advantages are as follows: concise text captures more attention, even though there is limitless space, given the short concentration span of Internet users; forums create an environment where people entertain people, making the media a sideshow; feelings expressed in the forum could not be matched by journalistic interpretation and writing skills; and the online community is just a fad and lacks responsibility (Oppenheimer, 1996). Moreover, the Internet contains an untapped generation of nonreaders who will try everything, only once, which makes sourcing them out not worth the effort (Meyer, 1997).

Other myths concerning online publishing also need to be dispelled: rich audiovisual presentation is needed to meet online readers' demand, the more hits the better, and Web publishing demands greater technical skills than does print publishing (Meyer, 1997). In fact, according to Meyer, big Web site publishers, after conducting their own research, are talking about limiting their graphics instead of expanding them. Despite all that, electronic newspaper publishing is still gaining popularity.

There are still others who use the Internet newspaper edition as a promotional tool for their print products or commercial online services. An example is Newport News Daily Press that is both on the WWW and on America Online. Similarly, book publishers think that the Internet is a promotional tool. Jordan Gold, vice president and publisher of MacMillan On-Line, says that the Internet is a largely experimental tool where information about MacMillan's books is available (Tessitore, 1996).

Publishing something on the Web makes one a publisher, but the real challenge is making a business out of it (CJR, 1996). Books are normally financed by book sales, but Internet book sales now total less than one percent of overall book sales (Tessitore, 1996). Internet magazines, commonly referred to as "Webzines" or "e-zines" are customarily financed in the same way as print newspapers--through advertising. The usual method for e-zines is to charge advertisers for the number of times a page is accessed. For example, 80,000 accesses will cost U.S. $4,000 per month (CJR, 1996). For the WWW newspapers, the trend now is also toward advertising as the main source of revenue (Erlindson, 1995).

If WWW newspapers intend to rely on advertisements, readership will be an important draw. Except for multinational companies such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's, Erlindson says that advertising will have a local focus. According to Steve Outing, global reach is not relevant to advertisers (Erlindson, 1995). He says advertisers want local reach provided by the smaller, local newspapers' electronic edition, even though it is the national and metropolitan papers that can afford the research and development on their WWW papers. Moreover, the size of the Internet is not as important as its demographics, which consists mostly of affluent and better-educated males (Erlindson, 1995; Weber, 1996).

Although most things are free in the cyberworld, Steve Outing predicts that free news on the Web is probably going to be short lived because publishers are talking about charging in a year or so. Subscription charges vary. Some newspapers, such as the San Jose Mercury News, the New York Times, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times, give readers an appetizer, and, if the readers want the full course, they must to subscribe to the electronic version (Newsweek, 1996). The Wall Street Journal is the only paper to date that charges for access to any portion of its Web version (Peterson, 1997). The rest offers completely free access to their WWW newspapers.

Subscription fees have worked in the past with commercial online service providers, and that seems to be the reason for publishers' decision to charge (Erlindson, 1995). Erlindson says that these commercial online service providers have a ready market, and their information is well managed and timely, which reflects their established reputations. But will subscriptions work on the Internet, given its culture of free information? Jon Katz, media critic for New York Magazine, thinks that content has to improve first in the paper product in order to attract audiences (Erlindson, 1995). He argues that if the information is not important enough to be printed on paper, the readers have no reason to pay to retrieve it online. Katz also says that the filtering of worthwhile information is an important function to be fulfilled by the newspaper. In another words, the basics of journalism have to be present in both the print and the electronic versions.

Other than content, the presentation structure and design of the WWW newspaper is altogether another piece of art, and it is different from that of the print newspaper. In print, the design is fixed and only the content changes, whereas in the online environment both content and design are fluid (McAdams, 1997). Besides making the Web site easy to navigate and fast to download, the publisher of a successful Web site, McAdams says, has to ensure that this flexible-structure feature is fully exploited because redesigning is part and parcel of electronic publishing.

In her special report "Tabloids, Talk Radio and the Future of News," Ellen Hume believes that the journalist's challenge is not the medium but the message, as opposed to what Marshall McLuhan believed to be true (Fulton, 1996). Many authors have stressed again and again that content is king. Hence, Fulton (1996) says that winning new audiences and holding on to old ones will require more than using a new medium to do the same things. She says it is important to understand the way technological and economic environment shape and change journalistic conventions.

Since content is king, the online product cannot be a print replica (Erlindson 1995). To make the electronic edition different and interesting, he suggests some value-added services such as sidebars, extensive background pieces not in the paper, photographs, graphics, sound, video, archival links, links to other resources or other online papers, and interactivity found in e-mail and e-conference to be made available on the WWW newspaper.

The use of hyperlinks is purely a WWW feature. As opposed to the "contained model" of publishing illustrated by the print newspaper, electronic publishing is a "distributed model" that contains links within the document to outside of itself (Fillmore, 1993). These hyperlinks make the document interactive and allow the user to customize it--which cannot be done with the printed book or newspaper. Fillmore (1993) says that this "distributed model" of publishing offers dynamic content because the links found are always changing and evolving as online staff updates the information. Furthermore, links allow users to choose what they want by following their own thought paths and interests "within a well-defined structure provided by the publisher," thus allowing users to follow a nonlinear reading path.

Regarding the relationship between the print and WWW versions, Steve Outing from Editor & Publisher thinks that electronic newspapers are supplemental services with little in common with print newspapers and they would not replace the print (Erlindson, 1995). Fillmore (1996) reiterates the same point. She thinks that the question is not an issue of replacement, but how effective the electronic newspaper complements the print newspaper.

There are of course many "historians" who feel strongly for the print newspaper. Many people regard it as a cultural document that provides a real, tangible link to history and "an aesthetic experience of time" whereas the computer is more of a device to help people find things (The Associated Press, 1996). The newspaper is portable and easier to read, but the online connection process can be tedious and often produces encounters of "e-error" messages and slow loading (The Economist, 1996). Many people still prefer the feel and touch of the tangible and portable newspapers delivered to their doorstep everyday.

Nostalgia lingers, but there is no denying the power of the electronic medium as Anderson (1995) states, "As a new medium with almost no distribution costs, the Internet has the potential to reshape the media world, letting new competitors in and forcing established giants to evolve or die."

Exploring a new area involves risks. Although it is always safe to remain as a sideline witness to online publishing, Fillmore (1993) mentions that it is important to start using the machine "to turn the threat to our conventional way of doing things into opportunities." She also says that there is a need to change the centralized organization of selling tangible things into a distributed network of self-perpetuating communication selling access to information. The newspapers industry has started doing this, resulting in the birth of the WWW newspapers.

Research questions

The lack of research studies on WWW newspaper publishing gives rise to diverse opinions about its future and the survival of the print version. So far, the literature review has covered only qualitative interviews and opinions of some newspaper editors and publishers on this topic. No quantitative studies have been done on WWW newspaper publishing and certainly no strong conclusion has yet been made on the roles between the print and Web newspaper.

This research study offers some insights into WWW newspaper publishing as it explores the following questions:

  1. What are the reasons for WWW publishing?
  2. How many online readers do these WWW newspapers have?
  3. What are the starting and maintenance costs, and how does the WWW newspaper finance itself?
  4. What kind of presentation styles are WWW newspapers adopting?
  5. What kind of content and services are WWW newspapers offering?
  6. How different is the WWW newspaper from its print version?
  7. What roles are WWW and print newspapers playing, and what is the future of both versions?


The United States is chosen because their WWW newspapers represent 56 percent of all the WWW newspapers in the world (Editor & Publisher Interactive, 1997). The United States particularly the Silicon Valley in California, also takes the lead in the advent of technologies that enable the Internet to take off (Lam, 1997). Moreover, the Internet is an "English-speaking" medium (Anderson, 1995).

A survey via electronic mail (e-mail) and a content analysis of the WWW newspapers are employed to answer the research questions. The publications examined are from the list compiled by American Journalism Review (AJR) of U.S. WWW dailies.

For the survey, questionnaires were e-mailed to the publishers or online editors of the dailies on the list compiled by AJR. Altogether, 247 newspapers (73 nationals or metropolitans and 174 local) were contacted via e-mail in early January, 1997. One-quarter of the WWW newspapers responded, out of which 15 are nationals or metropolitans and 52 are local dailies (see Appendix A for the survey questionnaire).

For the content analysis, a sample of 80 papers was selected including 6 national newspapers; 28 metropolitan newspapers, representing various regions; and 46 local dailies, each from a different state. Four remaining local papers were not analyzed because of various technical problems. The content analysis was conducted in mid January, 1997. (See Appendix B for the content analysis coding sheet).

These two methodologies are best suited to answer the research questions because this study requires a combination of quantitative and qualitative information.

Findings and evaluation

I. Reasons for Web publishing

Reasons for publishing a WWW version of the print newspaper

Figure 1 shows the most important reason(s) for publishing a WWW version. The options are not mutually exclusive. Respondents can choose more than one first-priority reason because some reasons might be considered equally as important as others.

In general, reaching more readers is the most popular reason, followed by generating more revenue through online advertising, and then using the WWW newspaper as a promotional tool.

Reaching more readers is the most popular first-priority reason because for all mass media success is measured by audience size. This in turn affects the ability to generate advertising revenue. Suitably so, the next popular reason is generating income through advertisements. According to Erlindson (1995), most publishers adopt the 'sponsorship' or 'broadcast model' where readers are allowed to browse for free and the publishers make money by selling advertisement banner space on their servers. The bottom line still matters in this new and experimental medium since the newspaper business is profit oriented.

The third reason in popularity is using the WWW version as a promotional tool to lure readers to subscribe to the print product. It is not as popular as the first two reasons because many of the papers (especially the national or metropolitan papers) already have a considerable print circulation. Another possibility could be that the majority of the papers are local dailies (52 out of 67) that provide localized content, thus they have a local appeal. Since most of the readers are local people, they know the paper already and the local dailies do not need the promotion of the Internet unless they are thinking of expanding their coverage to gain more readership outside their local area.

Twice as many national or metropolitan papers (47 percent) as the local dailies (27 percent) think that generating revenue through online advertising is most important. This is because with their prestige, they are more likely to secure more advertisements from bigger advertisers. Conversely, two times as many local dailies (24 percent) compared to national or metropolitan papers (13 percent) are more inclined to use their WWW versions as a promotional tool to gain readers or subscribers for the print. This trend could be attributed to the fact that the local dailies have a smaller print circulation size (owing to the area they serve) and would like to increase their reach. Moreover, since they are not as well known as, for example, The Washington Post, then presumably putting up a Web version could act as an marketing strategy for their publications nationwide, if not worldwide.

It also possible that priorities are progressive as a newspaper grows to be more influential. For example, for a small paper, the main priority is to promote itself. As it becomes a bigger paper, it changes its first priority to that of reaching more readers. Reaching more readers would not be possible if the paper were not promoted in the first place. Given the newspaper's popularity and readership, generating more advertising revenue would be the first priority. This typology can be used to explain why national or metropolitan papers and local dailies rank the reasons differently, as shown in figure 1.

Reasons for choosing the Web platform

Overall, the availability of a large number of readers worldwide is the most popular first-priority reason (by 57 percent of the papers surveyed) for choosing the WWW over other electronic publishing platforms. This reaffirms the importance of sizable readership, especially if it means having a greater potential of drawing advertisers to the newspaper Web site. The ease of publishing falls into a distant second position, followed by superior graphical presentation.

One-quarter of the respondents pick ease of publishing as the first-priority reason. According to Meyer (1997), Web publishing does not require a lot more skills and expertise. This apparent ease of publishing is not a sought-after reason for the choice of publishing on the WWW platform as professional skills can be learned and mastered after some time. This is partly because newspapers, being experienced in print publishing, would consider print publishing as easy too. Hence, the ease of publishing is not the main issue here.

Superior graphical presentation of the WWW in comparison to other electronic platforms is the least popular reason, as only 15 percent of the respondents cite this as the first-priority reason for choosing the WWW. Improvements in graphical display made over the years in response to falling readership in the 18-24 age group are mere "cosmetic changes," according to Barnhurst and Wartella (1991). Content matters more than style and this is true for the WWW newspapers as well.

More national or metropolitan papers (73 percent) than local dailies (52 percent) choose the WWW because of worldwide readers. They are now targeting a worldwide audience even though they are already well known in the nation. As Hachten (1996) says, most major organizations of news communication have become increasingly internationalized, therefore national or metropolitan papers are also internationalizing their stake.

On the other hand, more local dailies (17 percent) than national or metropolitan papers (7 percent) consider the WWW's superior graphical presentation as the first-priority reason for choosing the Web. This finding also supports Meyer's argument that big players who have been publishing on the WWW long enough are thinking of limiting their graphics (Meyer, 1997).

II. Readership

Gaining more readers is shown to be the first-priority reason for WWW newspaper publishing and the choice of the WWW platform. As much as publishers want to find out the number of online readers they have, the Internet does not offer an accurate measurement, unlike the print product which goes safely by the number of street sales and subscriptions.

One-quarter of the respondents did not reveal readership figures. Some respondents (30 percent) replied in terms of hits. The use of hits as a form of measurement has been criticized as being inaccurate and nonstandardized (Brandin, 1996). The remaining respondents (45 percent) measured readership in terms of individual usage.

Hits per day vary from a high end of over 140,000 to a low end of just 19. Similarly, online readers per day range from 15 to 50,000.

Figure 2 shows that the national or metropolitan papers have a much higher daily readership in terms of hits and users than local dailies. This result can probably be explained in terms of a spill-over effect brought about by the large readership size as well as the prestige of the national or metropolitan papers.

Due to the lack of an accurate and standardized readership measurement, any discussion on readership is limited to the accuracy the measurement allows. There is also no conclusion for readership information of the national or metropolitan papers as compared to the local dailies because of the low response rate. In spite of these limitations, it will be assumed that the national or metropolitan papers have more readers than the local dailies on the WWW.

III. Financial aspects of Web publishing

Figure 3 shows the various sources of income--advertisements, subscription fees, archival access charge, and Internet-related services--newspapers use to cover their Web publishing costs.

Advertisements and classified ads

Overall, three-quarter of the respondents carry advertisements on their WWW newspapers. Slightly more national or metropolitan papers (87 percent) than local dailies (73 percent) carry advertisements. The prestige and the larger circulation size of the national or metropolitan papers contribute to a high percentage of them carrying advertisements. Nonetheless, a high percentage of local dailies also carry advertisements. This finding supports Steve Outing's view that advertisers prefer the local reach provided by the electronic edition of smaller, local newspapers (Erlindson, 1995). Figure 3 shows that advertising is the most important source of revenue for the WWW newspapers.

One WWW newspaper is fully covered by advertisements. Many papers' publishing cost are covered from 10 to 50 percent. This result supports Forrester Research's finding that most Web sites cover about 30 percent of their electronic publishing cost with advertising (Peterson, 1997).

Subscription fees

On the whole, charging subscription fees on the WWW edition is uncommon as fewer than one-tenth respondents do so currently. Although online subscription is not yet popular on the Web, all the respondents put up subscription forms for their print versions. The act of putting up a subscription form for the print paper in their Web versions shows that Web papers might be using the Internet as a promotional tool for their publications. However, national or metropolitan papers are 10 times more likely to charge subscription fees than local dailies. At this juncture, it should be noted that there are varying degrees of subscription. For some Web papers, certain materials on their Web sites might be free while other services are available only through subscription-based access.

More national or metropolitan papers charge subscription fees because they are reputable enough to receive enough subscriptions and yet, at the same time, this move is not likely to jeopardize their share of the readers' market. According to Peterson (1997), of all the Web papers, only the Wall Street Journal "charges for access to any part of its on-line daily." He says that most newspapers would like to charge but until they see a large and loyal audience emerging, they are not willing to accept the decline in readership that comes with subscription charges. To prove this point, Peterson says that the Wall Street Journal provided a classical case of losing 90 percent of its subscribers immediately after a 30-day free trail period.

Since only four WWW newspapers charge subscription fees, this study cannot provide accurate information on how subscriptions cover the cost of electronic publishing. Among the four responses, subscription fees cover 15 to 50 percent of the cost of electronic publishing. Three of the WWW newspapers that charge subscription fees are national or metropolitan papers.

Other ways to generate revenue

A common way of generating other revenue is by providing Internet-related services. Typical services include providing Internet access, creative Web design, and page setup and hosting services. Slightly more than one-third of the respondents generate income by providing Internet-related services. Since many of the newspaper companies already have the hardware (such as servers and computers) and the software for Web publishing and many of them are Internet Service Providers (ISPs), they can use this equipment again to help others who wants to get onto the Internet--with a fee. This venture thus becomes their alternative source of revenue.

More local dailies (38 percent) offer Internet-related services than national or metropolitan papers (27 percent) because they are also less likely to bring in revenue through advertisements and subscriptions--the two traditional income spinners for print newspapers. In the face of stiff competition, providing Internet-related services is an innovative way for local dailies to support themselves.

Another way of generating revenue, though less common, is charging for access to archives. Only 10 percent of respondents do so. This would not be a profitable way of generating revenue for most WWW newspapers unless they are renown for their print newspaper product. Thus, the reputation of the print does affect the WWW product since those selling their archives already have a market and an established reputation reflective of the print product (Erlindson, 1995). Some examples are the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. The findings show it is true that more national or metropolitan papers charge for archives than local dailies.

Starting and maintenance costs

Nine out of 10 respondents did not reveal the initial investments needed for setting up the WWW newspaper. Most cited "proprietary information" as a reason for nondisclosure. For those that responded, the starting cost ranged from as little as U.S. $300 to as much as U.S. $50,000. Due to lack of responses, a conclusive analysis cannot be reached. However, it is important to note that the starting point for WWW publishing may not be equal for both national or metropolitan papers and local dailies due to their prior electronic publishing investments. It is assumed that national or metropolitan papers have previously invested more in technology and thus a progressive step toward WWW publishing does not require much monetary investments. The higher average starting costs for local dailies (U.S. $1,600) compared to national or metropolitan papers (U.S. $500) has confirmed the assumption that local dailies will have to pay more to start the WWW newspaper.

One-third mentioned maintenance costs, which vary from U.S. $20 to over U.S. $140,000 per month. Nonetheless, national or metropolitan papers tend to spend more (U.S. $24,000 per month) on maintaining their Web papers than local dailies (U.S. $1,300 per month). Having both financial strength and expertise, they are more willing to spend and are more serious about this investment.

IV. Presentation styles of the WWW newspapers

Figures 4 and 5 show how national or metropolitan and local dailies present themselves in any one of the four methods of presentation. Six out of 10 national or metropolitan papers present their papers in the traditional newspaper format, which is made up of headline(s), text, and graphics (Harrower, 1995). In contrast, a majority of local dailies choose "directories only" for presentation.

Results show that the national or metropolitan papers and the local papers have different styles of WWW presentation. National or metropolitan papers rely on and reflect the established reputation and prestige of their print versions by designing their Web products to be similar to their print versions. Displaying high-quality graphics, especially news photographs, requires more expertise in technical skills, for example, in Adobe Photoshop. It is common knowledge that U.S. newspapers are managed by large media conglomerates and these conglomerates are willing to invest in their national or metropolitan papers (Bjorner, 1995). Some examples include Gannett's USA Today and Knight-Ridder's San Jose Mercury News, which follow the print's method of presenting information on the Web. By presenting the WWW newspaper in the traditional print manner, news is presented according to what the editors think important. This is similar to the front-page layout of the print newspaper where the most important stories are found.

Local dailies defy the newspaper tradition by providing only directories. They are in fact offering readers a nonlinear approach to reading. According to Fillmore (1993), links found in the directories allow users to choose what they want by following their own interests within a well-defined structure set up by the newspapers. Designing directories does not need as much money and time as designing columns, graphics, and text-wrap. The possible reasons could be that local dailies do not have enough funds to employ full-time Web staff. They could not afford to spend too much money or time in designing their Web product. It is also possible that the local dailies are testing out new presentation styles best suited for the medium. They might be churning out a totally different product from the print.

The least popular method of presentation for both national or metropolitan and local dailies is using just "headlines." Only slightly more than five percent of the respondents choose this presentation method. The possible reason why "headlines" is not a popular presentation method is that there are no sections displayed to ease navigation topic by topic and no text to explain what the headline is about. The page is thus not reader friendly. Besides, this format is not aesthetically pleasing.

V. Types of online services available

Figure 6 shows that a higher percentage of national or metropolitan papers provide forums and chat facilities, archives, and search engines for both classified advertisements and archives on their Web versions.

Archives and search engine

The cliche 'old news is no news' is not really true in this Information Age as newspaper publishers are putting up their database of past news for sale, and if not for sale then as an added bonus for readers.

More than two-thirds of the respondents provide access to archives on their Web sites. However, more national or metropolitan papers (80 percent) than local dailies (60 percent) provide this service. It will be more convenient for the national or metropolitan papers to put their archives online (so that people throughout the nation, or even worldwide, will be able to access them) than to have the old issues physically delivered from one area to another. Local dailies presumably serve a smaller audience thus, making it easier for local readers to access the archives physically.

Newspapers with archival search engines would also provide readers with access to their archives. Of all the national or metropolitan papers with archives, three-quarters also provide search engines. However, less than half of the local dailies with archives provide search engines. Installing a search engine on a Web site would incur more cost and would require more effort in the programming of the search software. Therefore, more national or metropolitan papers could afford to provide such a search facility for their readers than the local dailies.

Classified ads and search engine

On the whole, three-quarters of the total sample contain classified ads. Once again, national or metropolitan papers take the lead in offering this service. By serving a smaller geographical area, local dailies are less likely to obtain classified ads. In addition, all national or metropolitan papers providing classified ads also provide search engines for their classified ads. This finding is contrasted with that of the local dailies of which only half provide search engines for their classified ads service.

It is observed that a higher percentage of WWW newspapers provide search engines for classified ads than for archives. Without a doubt, the money factor is the cause of the discrepancy. Classified ads are more likely to generate revenue than archives. Thus, an investment in this area (classified ads) is rationalized as necessary to facilitate readers' access to classified ads information.

Hyperlinks to other Web sites (news and non-news)

Almost all WWW newspapers provide hyperlinks to non-news Web sites. Web sites of advertisements are also included in this description. WWW newspapers are providing a value-added service to their advertisers by hyperlinking their advertisers' Web sites. The WWW newspapers may not view their Web site as an ending point for surfers and thus choose to provide hyperlinks to other Web sites. In this way, the WWW newspapers are serving as centers of information through such links. According to Fillmore (1993), the presence of hyperlinks means that content has become dynamic and publishing has become nontraditional because it is nonlinear. However, less than half of all WWW newspapers provide hyperlinks to news sites. It is speculated that they pride themselves as comprehensive news sources and thus do not need to connect readers to other news sources that might be competitors.


The level of interactivity is measured by e-mail and electronic bulletin board chat forums (Bjorner, 1995). Forums differ from "letters to editors" in that comments are not subjected to alteration by the newspaper before publication unless they offend the paper's code of ethics.

Forums and chat facilities

One-third of the respondents offer their readers interactivity with other readers and the staff in a forum or live-chat environment. This low percentage could be explained by the fact that newspapers view themselves as information providers, not as hosts to a telephone chatting session. This view agrees with Oppenheimer's (1996) argument that forums create an environment where people entertain people, making the media a sideshow. Moreover, as Oppenheimer has mentioned, feelings expressed in the forum could not be matched by journalistic interpretation and writing skills. Thus the forum is regarded as just a fad. More national or metropolitan newspapers carry these facilities than local dailies because such facilities incur additional expenses and maintenance labor in terms of the periodical monitoring of the conversation process to ensure order and decorum.

E-mail accounts

With the exception of one local daily, all newspapers have at least one e-mail account displayed on the Web paper. Half of national or metropolitan papers have 11 or more e-mail accounts while half of the local dailies have e-mail accounts ranging from one to five. The size of the newspaper's operation does affect the number of e-mail accounts displayed. Having more accounts incurs higher costs. Smaller papers do not have those kind of resources.

The national or metropolitan newspapers have larger operational sizes and thus have more staff e-mail accounts than local dailies. By providing readers with more e-mail accounts to choose from, despite the higher cost involved, the WWW newspaper can be more personal because the desired department(s) or person(s) can be contacted directly.

VI. Differences between WWW and print versions

Besides the common services listed earlier, other differences exist between the WWW and print products. Some of the respondents were right when they mentioned that content and services must reflect the nature of the media involved.

The respondents have also provided two obvious and extremely different approaches to Web publishing. One approach is to give a lot of content whereas the other limits the number and length of stories displayed. For every two respondents that give an expanded indepth coverage because of the Internet's limitless space, three would do the opposite. According to Oppenheimer (1996), Internet users are restless and have a limited attention span; thus content should be summarized and terse, even though the Internet has infinite storage area. This approach is similar to that of the television, which only gives concise news where the action occurs, but the print takes a different approach--providing news coverage in detail, within the constraints of limited news holes.

Although the approach of limiting content seems to be more popular, providing an expanded coverage does not fall far behind in popularity. The WWW papers that are using this approach might have a different mentality. They might think that readers are hungry for news, and they want to satisfy this hunger for information by making use of the limitless space they do not have on the print newspaper. Anyway, the presence of hyperlinks means that readers can choose what they want to read. Hence, the presence of ample content is not stretching the attention span of the readers since they do not have to read everything. Still the issue may not be the length, but the quality of the content. As mentioned in the literature review, if the content is not worthy to be put on print, it is also not worthy to be placed on the Web (Fillmore, 1993).

On the WWW, some of the respondents update their newspapers more than once a day while another equal number update only once a day. Both the print and the WWW paper are similar in that both contain breaking news and features. Yet the difference lies in the fact the breaking news can be put up immediately on the Web, whereas print requires a lapse of one day for the next production schedule. Even though immediacy is present on the Web, not many newspapers are making use of it, as they are afraid of being scooped by their competitors. According to Zukerman (1997), many papers would rather wait and display their prized products one day later in print.

VII. Role between WWW and print newspapers and the future for the newspapers industry

The last issue provides an insight to the respondents' opinions to what will most likely happen to the print newspaper and its WWW version in the future. The survey respondents have also provided some clues to the relationship between the print and WWW newspapers. Once again, the options are not mutually exclusive.

Nine out of 10 respondents agree that the print newspaper will not be replaced by the electronic newspaper. This result corresponds with the viewpoints of the editors and publishers expressed in the literature review. Twice as many respondents believe that electronic newspapers will be supplementary to the print product as view that print will be supplementary to the electronic papers. From this revelation, it can be inferred that the print newspaper is more important than the electronic version.

Half the respondents believe that both print and WWW newspapers will flourish together. Three-quarters of the national or metropolitan papers believe that the print and its WWW version would flourish together. Less than half of the local dailies also think likewise. The national or metropolitan papers are more optimistic about the future of the print and its Web version than the local dailies, partly because they have a higher readership and are making more money than the local dailies.

One respondent philosophically says that whichever information outlet (newspapers, magazines, radio, television, or the Internet) does the best job at disseminating information will flourish while others will flounder. Thus, the medium does not matter, especially in the age where lines separating media are blurring and "media convergence" is taking place.

Any future prediction is based on present technologies. Since technology is ever improving and the Internet is ever progressing, no one really knows what will happen in the future. According to McAdams (1997), the online environment is fluid and is not fixed. Predicting a fluid environment in a fixed moment is only accurate for that moment in time. The moment the second hand moves on to the next second, the prediction no longer holds.

Summary and conclusion

Reaching more readers is the most important reason for going online. Yet newspaper publishers have not been successful in getting online readership information. Since online subscriptions have not materialized yet, WWW publishing is currently dependent on revenues brought in by advertising and Internet-related services. Charging for archives may be the next potential income source.

The Internet, being a new medium, allows newspaper publishers to be creative in presenting their WWW newspapers. The WWW paper also offers such new services as archives, search engines, and forums and chat facilities, making the Web version unlike the print. The newspaper industry, nevertheless, remains optimistic about the future of both the print and the WWW newspapers.


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Appendix A: Survey questionnaire

Dear Sir/Madam:

We are two undergraduates doing a survey on the current development of electronic newspapers on the WWW. This project is undertaken by the School of Communication Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, for possible presentation at the INET'97 conference. We appreciate if you can help us by answering the questionnaire below. We will send you a copy of our findings after we complete the survey. If you wish to view our abstract, you can visit this URL: <>

(Please type an "x" in the appropriate bracket)

1. Name of your online newspaper:

2. What is the circulation size of your print newspaper?

( ) under 10,000

( ) 10,001 to 25,000

( ) 25,001 to 50,000

( ) 50,001 to 75,000

( ) 75,001 to 100,000

( ) above 100,000

3. What are your reasons for publishing the WWW newspaper?

[1=most important reason, 5=least important reason]

( ) to generate more revenue through online advertising

( ) to advertise the publication itself in this electronic medium

( ) to reduce printing and distribution cost

( ) to reach more readers

( ) other reasons--please specify:

4. Why do you choose the WWW and not other electronic publishing methods (e.g., online services and BBS) to publish your online newspaper?

[1=most important reason, 4=least important reason]

( ) ease of publishing

( ) better graphic presentation

( ) availability of a large number of readers worldwide

( ) other reasons--please specify:

5. Does your WWW paper carry advertisements?

( ) Yes

( ) No [Skip to Q8]

6. What are the advertisement rates? Please give details.

7. What percentage of your electronic publishing cost is covered by the online advertising revenue?

8. How many online readers do you have now?

9. Do you charge subscription fees from your online readers?

( ) Yes, specify: $( ) per month.

( ) No [Skip to Q11]

10. What percentage of your electronic publishing cost is covered by the subscription charges?

11. Can your online readers access your archives?

( ) Yes

( ) No

12. Do you have other ways to generate revenue on the WWW besides advertising and charging subscription fees?

( ) Yes, specify:

( ) No

13. How much money do you spend to start and maintain the WWW paper?

14. In what way(s) does your WWW paper differ from the print version?

15. What do you think will most likely happen in future?

( ) print newspaper will be replaced by electronic newspapers

( ) print and electronic papers will flourish together

( ) electronic newspaper will be a supplement to print newspaper

( ) print newspaper will be a supplement to electronic newspaper

( ) others, please specify:

Appendix B: Content analysis coding sheet


The purpose of this study is to examine the services and layout of the U.S. online newspapers. Population: A compiled list of all daily online newspapers in the U.S. from the American Journalism Review.

Sample: A census of all national papers; and, a sample of one metropolitan and one local WWW daily from each state.

Sample size: 6 nationals + 28 metropolitans + 46 local dailies = 80 WWW newspapers

Date of coding: __________

Date of online publication at that time: __________


1. Method of presentation

1) headlines + text + graphics

2) headlines + text

3) headlines

4) categories/section directories only

(headline: title of the story; text: words that reflect the story content;

graphics: photos, illustrations belonging to the story.)

2. Presence of news photographs 1) yes 2) no

3. Presence of any hyperlinks within text 1) yes 2) no

4. Presence of advertisement banners/buttons 1) yes 2) no

5. No o f advertisers

1) 0 2) 1 3) 2 4) 3 or more

6. Presence of a counter (hits/visitors) 1) yes 2) no

7. Presence of inauguration date/year 1) yes: ___ 2) no

8. Subscription charges upon access 1) yes: ___ 2) no


9. Duration of archives: ______ *weeks/months/years (*delete where necessary)

10. Fees for retrieval of archives 1) yes 2) no

11. Presence of search engine(s) for archives 1) yes 2) no

12. Presence of classified ads 1) yes 2) no

13. Presence of search engine(s) for the classified ads 1) yes 2) no

14. No. of e-mail accounts

1) 0 2) 1-5 3)6-10 4) 11 or more

15. Demographics/psychographics survey on readers 1) yes 2) no

16. Other forms of interactivity

1) none 2) forum 3) IRC 4) both forum and IRC

(IRC: Inter-Relay Chat)

17. Presence of hyperlinks to other Web sites 1) yes 2) no

18. Presence of hyperlink to other newspapers/news sources 1) yes 2) no