It's fascinating to me that every time I turn on talk radio the host is discussing news and issues from from the internet. Bill Hobbs has written about blogs becoming journalism (and I've commented), and in a large way journalism is being shaped by the net as well. Internet news sites are far more mainstream than blogs -- of course -- and the fact that traditional media is starting to "link" back to the net is strongly indicative that we're in the last phase of the news revolution. Surveys show that in 2003 more Americans say the internet is an important source of information than say the same about television, radio, newspapers, or magazines.

Since radio is no longer the top-tier medium it once was, radio producers are less reluctant to credit internet sources than television producers seem to be. Television news shows will direct viewers to the network's website, but I've never seen a show mention the Drudge Report (for instance) except when they're doing a story about internet media itself. Likewise, I've never seen a sit-com mention a website as an offhand pop-cultural reference. Nevertheless, television is losing audience hours to the net at a dramatic rate.

Television executives have more to fear than a future filled with gross-out reality shows. The Internet is rapidly eroding television viewing hours and emerging as a powerful information medium in its own right, according to a study being released today by the University of California-Los Angeles.

In the same way that television eclipsed radio as the primary medium for entertainment and information, the Internet poses a major threat to television.

"The thing that's easy to prove is that Internet users watch less television," said Jeffrey I. Cole, director of UCLA Center for Communication Policy, which conducted the study. "What we've been trying to see is does their Internet time come out of television time? The early indications are pretty clear that it does." ...

Internet users watched about 4.8 fewer hours of television each week than non-users. And the decline in TV viewing hours grows more dramatic as Internet users gain experience. Internet veterans watch about 5.8 fewer hours of TV than non-users.

With the rise of streaming media and high-bandwidth connections in peoples' homes, it seems clear that the days of television as the Big Man on the media Campus are numbered. How will we know when we've reached the turning point? Television shows will start "linking" to websites they don't own, just as radio shows do.



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