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Part 1: introduction

1.1 - introduction
The number of internet websites is growing every day. The internet is all about news and information - and news sites are part of the structure on which the net is built.

This case study / seminar report investigates a small fraction of what internet journalism is about, by evaluating various aspects of internet journalism related to the different types of sites.

1.2 - sources
When we had to hold the presentation for the class, my main task was to hold an induction to different internet news site structures. Unfortunately, there were no sources on this subject. Most of the speech and this report is therefore built on personal experience and discussions.

This report has been subject to scrutiny on www.everything2.com, and input from the users of that website has been most valuable. In particular I would like to thank Kidas, The Oolong Man and Nordicfrost and for their help and advice.

Part 2: Types of web pages

2.1 - Internet-only news sites

2.1.1 - Purpose
The purposes of internet-only news sites vary. Some of them (such as www.microsoft.com) might be mainly for information and commercial purposes. Others might be started on narrow user bases, such as having a news site about celebrities that wear red hats. A third type of web pages might be started where there is need in the market for another magazine or newspaper, but where no publisher wants to publish the magazine on paper.

2.1.2 - Production of news
Production of news happens on a different scale than in the two other types of news sites. Chances are that the journalists writing for these pages start of as and later, if the site starts generating money, they start being paid.

Often, people who know a lot about a particular topic will write the news on this type of pages.

2.1.3 - Price
This type of web page is cheapest to set up, as all it takes is space on a web server and an internet connection. In theory, both of these could be free, and the web page would cost nothing to produce and publish.

2.1.4 - Staff
Internet-only web sites might comprise of anything from one journalist, to a large group of editorial staff, including editors, photographers, technicians and journalists.

2.1.5 - Economy
Internet news sites are usually funded either privately (as a hobby) or a by advertising. They might also sell articles to other publications or web sites.

2.1.6 - Intermediation
Internet-only sites might lack proper intermediation, but this is not necessarily so. The only way to know this for sure is to see if the site writes about something you know a lot about, and then see if there are any deviations from what you know is correct. Even this approach might be misleading, as they might know a lot about your field of knowledge, but nothing about everything else

2.1.7 - Trustworthiness
Internet-only sites - just like any other media - cannot be trusted without a critical approach.

2.1.8 - Examples
www.indymedia.org - An independent news site
www.digitalkamera.no - The page I started about digital cameras
www.drudgereport.com - Matt Drudge's view of the news around the world
www.dpreview.com - Started off like Digitalkamera.no did, and is now the world's leading resource on digital photography. DPreview is now a commercially viable project.

2.2 - Web versions of regular newspapers

2.2.1 - Purpose
The purpose of this is usually to be able to publish news faster in case of important breaks in news stories and for emergencies. The web page usually serves as an extension of the newspaper, and tries to persuade people into buying the newspaper itself.

The 2.2 model of internet news is usually used by small local or regional newspapers that cannot / do not want to spend money and resources on the 2.3 model.

2.2.2 - Production of news
Usually, the news stories on these types of sites are shortened versions of the stories in the newspaper. Occasionally, the newspaper offer full versions of stories older than, say, a week.

2.2.3 - Price
This type of web page can be set up in different ways. If the newspaper does a large initial investment, they will probably not have to look at it again - updates can be done more or less automatically as the newspaper goes to press.

Another way of setting up this type of page requires less initial investment, but does mean that more staff have to do tedious work of updating the pages. Considering the cost of having people working in new media, this is probably a more expensive solution in the long run.

2.2.4 - Staff
The first solution mentioned under 2.1.3 makes extra staff more or less unnecessary - A technician would probably be required to tweak the servers and publishing system software.

In the second solution, depending on the size of the newspaper, a separate news desk might be needed to handle the internet pages. If this is the case, then the 2.2 model is probably a bad idea in the first place - and the pages would most likely be better off under model 2.3

2.2.5 - Economy
These type of news sites are usually financed in small part by advertising, but more on the sale of newspapers that they promote. The pages are seen as "extra value", and are a catalyst to creating more sales of the newspaper (or allowing people to subscribe) and thus generating money that way.

2.2.6 - Intermediation
Intermediation on these pages is usually no problem, as the main news desks of newspapers they are part of the intermediation process.

2.2.7 - Trustworthiness
The 2.2 type of websites are generally as trustworthy as the newspapers they represent.

2.2.8 - Examples
www.dt.no - Drammenst Tidende, a regional Norwegian paper.

2.3 - Enhanced web versions of regular newspapers

2.3.1 - Purpose
These types of internet newspapers are closely related to 2.2. They serve as extra value to their customers, but also as a database for its own journalists. This type of internet news sites usually belong to large newspapers.

2.3.2 - Production of news
The main difference between 2.2 and 2.3 is that the latter will have a separate news desk that works full time with creating the web page. The pages will contain the same as 2.2 (cut down versions of the newspaper stories) but in addition to this, they might contain stories that are not in the newspaper, because there is not enough space, or because the subject matter is aimed at a too narrow audience.

Another advantage of the 2.3 sites is a higher degree of interaction than for 2.2 sites. Users can normally contact the journalists directly through email, and systems for polls and discussion forums are available.

2.3.3 - Price
Usually, 2.3 websites are set up using an advanced publishing system. For larger newspapers, this is usually a proprietary system written specifically for the web site. Because of this - and because the system is likely to need constant revision and updating - programmers have to be part of the staff. Along with programmers you would probably need designers / layout editors. In addition to all this, you'd need content.

Some of the content is lifted from the newspaper and from the paper desk, saving money. The unique part about 2.3 websites is that they take the regular news one step further, by including hyperlinks to other resources.

2.3.4 - Staff
This type of websites needs quite some staff to be able to operate. Of course, they have the advantage of being able to draw experience and resources from the paper version of the paper.

2.3.5 - Economy
There are several ways that these types of web sites are financed. Primarily the money comes from the paper versions, but also by advertising.

Another way of generating money is from the database of news stories: Some of the internet sites give short versions of all the news stories, and access to full versions is granted only to subscribers.

2.3.6 - Intermediation
Intermediation on 2.3 websites is usually not a problem - news stories are generally filtered through an editor's desk.

2.3.7 - Trustworthiness
The 2.3 type of websites are generally as trustworthy as the newspapers they represent.

2.3.8 - Examples
www.thetimes.co.uk - The Times online
www.guardian.co.uk - The Guardian online
www.vg.no - Verdens Gang, Norway's largest newspaper online.

2.4 - User submitted news sites

2.4.1 - Purpose
These websites are phenomena in their own right - To describe them as news sites is probably incorrect. A type 2.4 website is usually more of an internet community that shares its news among the users

2.4.2 - Production of news
The users of the page can submit news at will.

2.4.3 - Price
Depending on the size and traffic, it would be possible to set up one of these sites on your average home computer. As the site gets bigger and receives more readers, however, the need for computer processing power grows exponentially.

A site like Slashdot - see 2.4.8 - needs 10 expensive computer servers and other advanced network equipment to run - the hardware Slashdot uses costs roughly £ 50,000. In addition to this comes costs for internet traffic and server storage etc.

2.4.4 - Staff
This obviously depends on how large the site is, and how it is set up. However, one of the largest and most famous sites, Slashdot, serves 30 million pages per month. They only have ***two*** full-time employees, along with all the volunteers working for the page.

*** - is two correct???

2.4.5 - Economy
This type of web sites rely completely on advertising or private funding. Smaller sites (such as Everything2) might be such a tight community that people decide they want to volunteer a certain amount of money to help the site continue its existence. Larger sites (such as Slashdot) can live fairly well off of advertising. Buying all the ad space on Slashdot for a month, for example, would set you back about £ 60,000.

2.4.6 - Intermediation
On 2.4 pages, intermediation becomes a serious issue - anyone can post anything, and if you want to, you could even post it anonymously. Several models have been invented to prevent erroneous material to be posted.

On Everything2, a site that has roughly ***1000*** active participants, more experienced users can vote on articles that are posted. If an article is voted down a lot, an editor or a god will remove the write-up. A similar system is in use on Slashdot.

This intermediation system works because many users know many things - and if a user would write something that is blatantly incorrect, it would be removed from the database within minutes.

*** Is my estimate here correct?

2.4.7 - Trustworthiness
The trustworthiness of 2.4 websites is difficult to evaluate. In theory, they are not trustworthy at all. In practice, however, experience shows that bad write-ups are removed quickly, and people who repeatedly post bad write-ups lose their credibility - When posting something to the site later, their write-ups will be subject of close scrutiny.

2.4.8 - Examples
www.slashdot.org - The largest page on computer technology in the world
www.everything2.com - An ongoing project to encompass all information in the world

Part 3: Conclusions

3.1 - conclusion
I think this report can best be summed up by the words of Kidas:

"The impact of new technology on journalism is to turn all of us into journalists at one level or another. The availability of information on the web makes it easier for individuals to build stories to suit their own agenda and needs. Instead of relying on journalists who might have a political agenda, or fail to check facts or fail to understand the intricacies of a subject, readers are now able to do their own research, identifying the key aspects of a story and distilling the essence of it" (Shaw, 2001)

Of course, this makes news a more active process than ever before - the result is that you cannot sit back and be fed news anymore - you have to actively go out and search for the news that interests you, checking sources and being critical of things as you go…

… But maybe that is a good thing?

Part 4: Sources

4.1 - Quoted sources
Shaw, D (2001) Journalism and Technology.
- Accessed December 14th, 2001

4.2 - Consulted sources
Slashdot (2000) Comments and Moderation: How does moderation work?
http://slashdot.org/faq/com-mod.shtml - Accessed December 14th, 2001

Slashdot (2001) Tech: What kind of hardware does Slashdot run on?
http://slashdot.org/faq/tech.shtml - Accessed December 14th, 2001

This is still work in progress - I have not checked all the facts yet, but I would *REALLY* like input on the ideas, example sites etc. Please /msg me if you have short comments, or if you have longer things, please email me (hajejan@kamps.org).

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