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1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
An online newspaper is the online version of a newspaper, either as a stand-alone publication or as the online version of a printed periodical. Going online created more opportunities for newspapers, such as competing with broadcast journalism in presenting breaking news in a more timely manner. The credibility and strong brand recognition of well-established newspapers, and the close relationships they have with advertisers, are also seen by many in the newspaper industry as strengthening their chances of survival Newman, & Levy, (2013). The movement away from the printing process can also help decrease costs.
The movable printing press invented by Gutenberg around 1439 gave the printed word a leading role as a medium for mass communication and as an offshoot of the printing press, and the only medium for mass communication then, the newspaper monopolized the mass media industry for centuries until the dawn of radio and television and currently the Internet, (Okonofua, 2010).
Print media news can be said to be one of the most important forms of communication in the conduct of human activities. Today, different types of newspapers exist, with varied interest aimed at definite audiences.
According to Jason (2005), the continuous increase in the number of newspapers available on the stands and, consequently, competition, has pushed papers to increase the diversity of their contents and the diversity of the views captured in their contents. Newspapers are now looking for new and grey areas to gain advantage over other titles and capture a larger market share, and the online media has presented them this platform. The new media has offered these papers the opportunity to reach a wider range of readers through online newspapers without any demographic or distribution problems.
The numerous advantages of the online media both in terms of supply and demand have brought about a veritable revolution in modern journalism. The changes brought about as a result of the emergence of online services and the explosive growth of the Internet has been massive. Now, one can be a publisher and electronically transmit information around the world by spending less, with virtually no capital expenditures and spread the information at close to zero marginal costs. Clearly, Information Technology has completely changed from a network of oral and print mechanisms to one that is largely visual and computer-generated, “and the speed with which one can get information has been reduced from months and days to nano-seconds” (Adeya, 2001).
The scenario where the cost of conventional elements such as paper and ink once dominated newspapers have been eliminated by the internet which also makes news delivery timely and this has prompted newspaper publishers to harness the potentials of the Internet by establishing online versions of their newspapers to further expand their readership base and reach to capture the fast rising online audience members (Egan, 2008).
Research shows that printed newspapers improve their readers’ knowledge of what is going on around them (see e.g., Guo and Moy, 1998; McLeod et al., 1999; Schulz, 2003). In general, newspaper reading raises awareness of a greater number of public-affairs topics as compared to using other information channels, like for example television (Culbertson et al., 1994; Peter and de Vreese, 2003). Participation in social life, integration into one’s community and ultimately democracy are said to profit from this (e.g., Rothenbuhler et al., 1996; McLeod et al., 1999; Schoenbach et al., 1999; Norris, 2001).
But what if the slow but steady decline of printed newspapers in western countries continues (e.g., Lauf, 2001; Crosbie, 2004)? Some, particularly in the newspaper industry, hope that online newspapers will replace printed dailies, especially among young people not particularly attracted to the printed version (e.g., Morris and Ogan, 1996; Jankowski and van Selm, 2000). Indeed, the prospects for online papers look good: virtually all newspapers in western developed countries have an online edition. And there are some advantages of online newspapers for their users: online papers are still mostly free of charge, often updated throughout the day, easily accessible for everyone with an Internet connection; and they can be visited while working at one’s PC. No surprise, then, that as early as 2002, 23 percent of US web users also visited newspapers online at least once a week (Runett, 2002).
An online newspaper, also known as a web newspaper, is a newspaper that exists on the World Wide Web (WWW) or Internet, either separately or as an online version of a printed periodical. The first online newspapers appeared only about fourteen years ago in 1994 with few newspapers operating then. Today, according to Giwa (2006:1):
Over 80% of all hard copy publications have online and digital versions. Ten years from now, that percentage may rise to 100. All traditional publishing activities will be supplemented by digital versions, which will be promoted more favourably.
There seems to be little doubt that online newspapers have the potential to be an important development, widely adopted by newspaper publishers and readers. Wilkerson (2008), states that: “the newspaper industry has contended that online readership has expanded its total audience.” Egan (2008) corroborates this statement by asserting that; “online newspapers have increased the readership of some newspapers ten-fold.”
When taking a closer look at journalism as it is presently, we notice a dramatic change during recent years. Media is no longer dependent on time and space. New technology makes it possible to consume up-to-date media contents at all times. The consumer also plays an increasingly important role in choosing his or her own media content. “The growth among newspaper websites demonstrates that these entities offer unique incentives to visitors,” said Gerry Davison, senior media analyst, Nielsen/NetRatings. “Most, if not all of the top newspaper sites offer interactivity such as blogs, podcasts and streaming video/audio. These interactive features, combined with Internet users’ thirst for up-to-date information, make newspaper websites an increasingly appealing choice for news.”
The advent of online newspapers has made access to news available to anyone who has access to the Internet with just a click of the mouse. The burden posed by the circulation of newspapers to their potential readers is no longer an issue because readers can have access to the news when they want and at their own expediency because news is constantly accessible on the website of the newspaper.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The advent of online newspapers has made access to news available to anyone who has access to the internet with just a click of the mouse. The burden posed by the circulation of newspapers to their potential readers is no longer an issue because readers can have access to the news when they want and at their own expediency because news is constantly accessible on the website of the newspaper.
From the foregoing discourse, it is obvious that the internet has opened a new landscape for newspapers as it has given the print a platform to conquer its limitations, a platform where audience members are active participants in the news making process and are able to shape the news to meet their needs. While, the number of online newspaper readers continues to improve in many developed and even developing countries, can same be said about online newspaper readers in Nigeria particularly in Uyo Metropolis.
According to Afolabi (2008) in Okonofua, (2013), posits that “online newspapers only reach a fraction of the population in Nigeria due to low computer literacy level and high cost of internet subscription. It is uncertain therefore, whether there is a high readership of online newspapers in Uyo metropolis.
So, in all, online newspapers encourage their users to follow their own path much more than their offline counterparts. Is this something to worry about? This should decrease the chance of online users being confronted with topics of public life they are either not interested in beforehand (Sunstein, 2002) or that are not immediately of great news value. Instead, online papers lend themselves to use as a “research” (Schoenbach and Lauf, 2004) or pull medium for updated or in-depth information for those who are motivated to process it (Jankowski and van Selm, 2000). In addition, online newspapers may be useful as an “alarm medium,” for learning about breaking news at one quick glance throughout the day. In contrast, print newspapers may be better at surprising their audience with topics beyond their particular interests. Their “display” (Schoenbach and Lauf, 2004) or push character should make it easier to come across a variety of events and topics without much effort.
Therefore, making sure that breaking news reaches its audience as quickly as possible; ThisDay has been a pioneer in media technology and remains the first newspaper from Sub-Saharan African using satellite enabled networks to provide news to some of the remotest villages, real-time. Its URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is www.thisdayonline.com and it is an example of a state of the art Nigerian online newspaper. The Sun published by The Sun Publishing Limited is another Nigerian newspaper operating an online edition. Its URL www.sunnewsonline.com is the most visited newspaper site in Nigeria. It posted a record figure of 24 million visits in the 3rd quarter of 2008. The print edition also has the highest percentage of national readership. With the use of cutting edge technology, layout design and graphics, Guardian Newspaper - www.ngrguardiannews.com has also been able to take online newspapering in Nigeria a step further. The use of comic pictures for their headlines on the online version has made the paper even more appealing to readers.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The objectives of this study are to find out the following:
1. To find out whether readers in Uyo residence aware of the existence of online newspapers.
2. To determine the level of exposure of internet subscribers to online newspapers.
3. To ascertain whether online newspapers satisfy the news demands of its readers.
4. To ascertain whether online newspaper readers also read the printed newspaper.
5. To find out the motivations for readership of online newspapers.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1. Are newspaper readers in Uyo residence aware of the existence of online newspapers?
2. Do internet subscribers regularly expose themselves to online newspapers?
3. Do online newspapers satisfy the news demands of its readers?
4. Do online newspaper readers also read printed newspapers?
5. What motivates readers to read newspapers online?
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
H0: Newspaper readers in Uyo residence are not aware of the existence of online newspapers.
H1: Newspaper readers in Uyo residence are aware of the existence of online newspapers.
H0: Internet subscribers do not regularly expose themselves to online newspapers.
H1: Internet subscribers do regularly expose themselves to online newspapers.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study is significance in the sense that it will provide relevant information to the online print newspapers version and the readers of online newspapers. The study will in serve as a raw material for researchers who may wish to carry out research in the areas covered by this study on access to online news and readership of print version of national dailies in Nigeria particularly in Uyo.
Also, this study will be of immense benefits to all the printed local newspaper industries in Uyo, radio and television stations in Uyo as it will make them more competitively and suggestions or recommendations made by the researcher in this study regarding online news and readership of print media will serve as a valuable guide.
1.7 SCOPE/LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
This study is concerns about access the online news and readership of print version of national dailies by Uyo residence using selected cyber cafes in Uyo. The study covers other areas like theoretical framework, conceptual framework and empirical review and online news readership and print version of national dailies.
Besides, the limitation to the study was inability of readers of newspapers in Uyo metropolis to divulge certain information which they consider sensitive and fear of publication which might be detrimental to their operation.
Distance and its attendance cost of travel in order to obtain information which to write this study was also a major limitation. Another limitation to the study is short time factor which did not give time for thorough research work, hence gathering adequ
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