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The Middleman, Eliminated

Since no research has been done this week about why people like sex, there was another study worth filing under "Stating the Obvious": Internet news is making it hard on newspapers, particularly smaller ones. According to, thankyouverymuch, Harvard University's Shorenstein Center:
News audiences are ditching television and newspapers and using the Internet as their main source of information, in a trend that could eventually see the demise of local papers, according to a new study Wednesday.

"As online use has increased, the audiences of older media have declined," Harvard University professor Thomas Patterson said in a report on the year-long study issued by Harvard's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.

This study hammers home the point that, sure, the media are changing and diversifying. We get that. The alternative media are opening up new doors through streaming video like YouTube (and it's Ned Flanders-esque rival GodTube), the Blogosphere, podcasts, etc.

But at the same time, a different report out this week shows the websites representing the traditional newspaper "brands" – like the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal – are gaining larger and larger audiences. It's the smaller newspapers that are feeling the squeeze, as the Harvard study points out:

But newspapers in medium-sized to small cities saw either a drop in or no change to the numbers of visitors to their websites, which have already taken readers from hard-copy editions.

The authors of the study predict that many small newspapers could have difficulty holding on to even their web audience, and counsel that they include "national and international news in the mix."

It's beginning to feel like even though we're experiencing the media equivalent of "The Big Bang," the audience is either coalescing around the largest planets in the area (, or just running scattershot through the universe (insert your favorite blogs here) – and the mid-size objects are losing all their pull ... to really torture the analogy.

The Harvard researchers suggest mid-size and small papers push 'national and international' news; different media outlets inside MediaLand, meanwhile, are experimenting with "Hyperlocal" news coverage to differentiate themselves from the big names. So, which is it? Newspapers like the Lewiston Tribune and Independence Examiner need to know. Now.

The battle between cutting-edge personalized media and traditional media powerhouses should go on for a long while. But it's the media organs in between them that are absorbing the immediate losses now.

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