Content provision on the internet is
anyone’s game – despite the seeming dominance of existing media players. That’s the conclusion of Sandra Hanchard, Asia
Pacific analyst for the internet market research company Hitwise, which compiles
some of the most reliable information available on how people are using the
net.

Her work shows that the
seeming domination of traditional media players on the internet is only part of
the story, because people often don’t go straight to those sites. They use
search engines first. People in search of news and information look far and
wide, and the dominant media players are only one port of call.

Hitwise’s data shows that for
the week ending 18 March, 9.7% of website visits were to search
engines, compared to just 5.4% to news and media websites, and 5.4% to
portals. “The fact that search engines are dominant, the first port of
call online, indicates that content provision is anyone’s game”, says
Hanchard.

But where do users go once they have conducted their searches?
Shopping, very largely, and to networking and entertainment sites. When they
go looking for information, the traditional media sites are only one of
a number
of sources. Wikipedia is right up there at number 17 in the top 20 of
the most
popular sites visited by Australians. Meanwhile the top “news and
media” site
was the Bureau of Meteorology – beating Ninemsn and The Age and Sydney Morning
Herald
online.

Hanchard reports that some
new players are gaining a following, particularly Digg, a
technology website where community members choose the stories, and Newsvine
where users
read, write and discuss news. Digg has increased its share of the News and
Media category by 433.2% in the last five months. These sites are both
getting a following in Australia despite being based in the United States and having limited Australian content.

This may change. A quick click
around Newsvine shows that there are
a handful of active Australian “seeders” of news. Meanwhile visits to blogs and personal websites
increased by 178% over the last twelve months.

Hanchard concludes: “It will
be interesting to watch how big media companies in Australia adopt international trends in combining consumer with traditional
media to provide quality journalism.”

Peter Fray

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