Study says online readers turn to sports, arts

As technology sticks its massive nose into seemingly every part of Americana, an increased number of college students are reading Internet news sites rather than print versions as their primary news information sources, according to a recent survey.

Couple that with the notion that Internet newsreaders are more concerned about sports and entertainment than content-based news stories, and a serious problem arises for the exclusively print media.

Professors at the University of Illinois recently completed a study that found college students who read The New York Times online are less likely to read about national, international or political news than students who read the actual newspaper.

The study surveyed college students who read The New York Times for 30-60 minutes for five straight days. Three groups were set up for the study, one each for online and print news reading, while the third group only answered questions.

The purpose of the study was to find if print newspaper readers read more hard news stories than do online newsreaders. The Illinois study found that hypothesis to be convincingly true, a result of the medium’s visual attractiveness according to College of Communication professor Jonathan Klarfeld.

“People tend to fall in love with technology and unless we are looking for a particular item, people get seduced by the whistles and bells of the Internet,” Klarfeld said.

The study’s finding that online readers tend to head straight for sports and entertainment didn’t surprise Klarfield, and though he said he can’t support it with any specific examples, he said “people who get their news online are people who don’t really care about the news.”

College of General Studies freshman Steve Sousa agreed. “People who get their news online are more likely to be people who spend most of their time surfing the Internet,” he said. “They probably don’t care about the news as much as people who read the actual newspaper.”

Klarfeld continued his support of print media, saying online news organizations tend to be disadvantaged.

“They are not as effective at disseminating the news as newspapers, [and] online websites often offer wrong or incomplete news,” he said. He pointed to the recent shut downs of “highly touted news organizations” that boasted quick Web speed, but bad news savvy.

The two Illinois professors who teamed to do the study both went as far as to deem newspapers “inefficient” and said online news is more reader-friendly in the fact that it allows the reader to quickly access stories of interest.

“That can be good,” said CGS freshman Michael Cleary. “I like to look at headlines to tell whether I want to read a story. In that sense, I don’t like getting news online because it’s not all right in front of me for me to judge.”

“I read the newspaper everyday, but I go online for most of my sports information,” said College or Arts and Sciences junior Jeremy Hollander. “That might explain why students head right for the sports section of online newspapers. I usually read sports first and when time is limited I miss most of the hard national news.”

The survey questioned whether or not newspaper formats influence readers by placing “hard” news in the front sections. The study claimed that during one day of testing, only 41 percent of the online Times readers were interested in front section articles, while almost two-thirds of the stories read by the print readers were in the first section of the paper.

“I only search online for news if I want secondary or supplemental information,” said College of Communication freshman Lily Ladd. “I read the actual newspaper if I want real news on any subject.”

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