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By Thomas Baekdal - November 2011

When News Sites Fail Spectacularly

Yesterday, Fairleigh Dickenson University came out with a study that every newspaper should think long and hard about. They found that people ended up knowing less about world events *after* following some news sites.

Sunday morning news shows do the most to help people learn about current events, while some outlets, especially Fox News, lead people to be even less informed than those who they don't watch any news at all.

Just take a second to let that one sink in.

People who watch Fox News are 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government than those who watch no news at all.
By contrast, some media sources have a positive effect on political knowledge. For example, people who report reading a national newspaper like The New York Times or USA Today are 12-points more likely to know that Egyptians have overthrown their government than those who have not looked at any news source. And those who listen to the non-profit NPR radio network are 11-points more likely to know the outcome of the revolt against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. However, the best informed respondents are those that watched Sunday morning news programs: leading to a 16-point increase in the likelihood of knowing what happened in Egypt and an 8-point increase in the likelihood of knowing what happened in Syria.

We no longer need basic news

The study did not find that people knew nothing at all. It found that people, without following any news sites, already know more about world events than what some news sites provides.

People already know!

As a news site you can no longer just be bringer of news. People's basic level of knowledge requires you to do more than just keep them informed.

Too many newspapers are just focusing on 250 words + a picture, like Fox News is doing on TV.

The basic level of required journalism is today much higher than what it was in the past. If all you do is to be "the bringer of news", you are actually making your readers dumber. That strategy might work in the short run, but as more and more people embrace the concept of social news, the knowledge people already have (from other sources) will quickly exceed the level of reporting that you provide.

...and when that happens, you go out of business.

We live of a trend of abundance. *More* is not the answer, because we already have *more*. You have to raise the bar.


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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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