- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bloggers could be the salvation of newspapers, according to a trends analysis by J.D. Power and Associates, a research group associated with publisher McGraw-Hill.

Almost 40 percent of bloggers are willing to “pay for news content,” rather than sample it for free online, the analysis found.

“The most commonly cited reasons include the fact that they find value in professional journalism and that they don’t want the quality of news to decline,” the report said.

This revelation could cheer news executives faced with falling advertising revenues and the closures, consolidations and bankruptcies of several newspapers in recent months.

Should the bloggers’ good intentions be monetized, the financial potential could be huge.

Neilsen Online, which tracks blog growth and content, currently estimates that there are 105 million blogs, with 45,000 new blogs created each day. Technorati, another blog tracker, places the number at 133 million, while marketing giant Universal McCann puts the figure at 184 million blogs - and 346 million bloggers globally.

Among social-networking communities, Facebook has 175 million users, while MySpace has 125 million. Twitter - the micro-blogging site - grew 1,382 percent in the last year and now boasts an estimated 4 million members.

There are, however, mixed feelings out there. The J.D. Power report also found that 17 percent of bloggers say news information should always be free, vowing to “find a way to get news without paying.”

Approximately 45 percent of bloggers are still undecided about whether they’re willing to pay for news. Still, some suggested that the public should help support struggling newspapers “as a public service” or to keep democratic ideals alive.

“We’re catching this conversation at its genesis,” said Janet Eden-Harris, who led the research. “It hasn’t quite hit mainstream, because the general public isn’t confronted with a true pay-for-news-or-lose-it decision.”

The report was based on an analysis of blog and message-board postings between December 2008 and last month, gauging current trends in thought and attitude. The researchers found that a significant number of the bloggers cited a Feb. 23 Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, which chastised news outlets that gave away their content for nothing.

“Newspapers need to act like they’re worth something,” the editorial advised.

The “2009 State of the News Media Report,” released March 16 by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, also had advice.

“The problem facing American journalism is not fundamentally an audience problem or a credibility problem. It is a revenue problem - the decoupling of advertising from news,” the report said.

“Reinvention does not usually come from managers prudently charting course. It tends to come from risk-takers trying the unreasonable, seeing what others cannot, imagining what is not there and creating it.”

And while newspapers hone their Web presence - some abandoning their print editions altogether - one old-fashioned factor may not change: Even bloggers like the idea of a traditional, all-in-one subscription.

“Many mention preferring a subscription service,” Ms. Eden-Harris said. “Monthly or yearly subscriptions to content appeal to bloggers more than paying by the article. News articles are more transient and lose value quickly.”

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