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'Net Gains.

ANY LINGERING DOUBTS OF the tremendous growth of the Internet and its impact on our way of life and its opportunities was quickly laid to rest with the results of a recent poll.

One of the biggest changes is taking place in the news business. A third of the public, according to the poll on media trends, now goes online for news at least once a week; 15 percent now get daily reports from the Internet -- almost three times the number two years ago.

The poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press shows it's the younger and better-educated Americans, and those seeking financial information, who are accessing the Internet.

Although not surprising, it's still remarkable that almost half of active traders, 45 percent, say the Internet is their main source for stock market quotes and investment advice. That leaves newspapers, magazines and television -- the traditional means of gathering that kind of information -- scrambling.

Slightly more than half, 54 percent access the Internet or use e-mail sometimes -- more than double the number four years ago.

Troubling, however, is the declining interest in news overall -- whether on or off the Internet. Those who say they follow news closely fell to 45 percent, from 53 percent six years ago.

Even more disturbing is that more than two in three young adults say they do not even care to keep up with the news. Those regularly watching network evening news programs have dropped to three out of 10, from four out of 10 three years ago. Another 30 percent said they watch these programs only sometimes.

There's obviously a lot of people out there who don't have a clue to what's happening around them--and in a democratic society, that's scary.

For those folks abandoning TV news, most are going to the Internet -- where the credibility among news sources varies widely. Interestingly, the news sites on the Internet with the highest ratings are the networks, cable outlets and national newspapers.

What does it all mean?

Simply that Americans are more active than ever. And those activities mean they can't sit down at a particular time to watch the news. They want the news when it's convenient to them, not the networks.

"Increasingly, news organizations that are going to be successful have to offer news on a 24-hour basis," said Barbara Cochran, president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association.
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Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jun 19, 2000
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