boston.com Arts and Entertainment your connection to The Boston Globe

Online news consumers become their own editors

NEW YORK -- J.D. Lasica used to visit 20 to 30 websites for his daily fix of news. Now, he's down to three -- yet he consumes more news online than ever.

Lasica is among a growing breed of information consumers who use the latest Internet technologies to completely bypass the home pages of news sites and jump directly to articles that interest them. He can scan 200 Web journals and traditional news sites -- all without actually going out and visiting them.

Online news consumers are increasingly taking charge, getting their news a la carte from a variety of outlets. Rarely do they depend on a single news organization's vision of the day's top stories.

''The old idea of surfers coming to your website and coming to your front door, that's going away," said Lasica, a former editor at The Sacramento Bee. ''People are going to come in through the side window, through the basement, through the attic, anyway they want to."

Some websites are already responding.

''When we all started this 10 years ago, we wanted to be the one and only place people come to," said Jim Brady, executive editor of The Washington Post's website.

These days, he said, the Post is happy simply to be one of many sources checked daily. He sees his home page as a starting point, and during the July 7 bombings in London, the Post even linked to the BBC, something unfathomable a few years ago.

The Post and Knight Ridder Digital, meanwhile, are redesigning websites to spread elements previously found only on home pages. And in a case of ''if you can't beat them, join them," Knight Ridder Inc., Gannett Co., and Tribune Co. collectively bought three-quarters of Topix.net, a start-up that provides tools for readers to bypass news home pages. The New York Times has been paying an undisclosed amount to have its headlines featured there.

Topix provides direct links to stories it collects and sorts from more than 10,000 sources, and it slices story by category as well as region, down to the ZIP code.

A news aggregation service from Google Inc. scans more than 4,500 English sources and uses software to rank and display stories to which it links, while America Online Inc. and Yahoo Inc. offer services that rely more on humans.

Yahoo News, rather than trying to keep readers from leaving, provides easy access to articles elsewhere using Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, a technology that immediately notifies users of new entries on their favorite news sites and Web journals.

''In this world where people are looking for multiple points of view, if all you're giving them is your view . . . they are going to leave anyway and maybe be less likely to come back," said Neil Budde, general manager for Yahoo News.

Many news organizations have tried to render online a packaged product in the mold of the traditional newspaper or broadcast. That mentality is changing, but slowly, Budde said.

News outlets are starting to add tools to untether readers from home pages. The Associated Press, Reuters, and others, for example, are adding RSS support so readers can use tools like Yahoo's to display summaries and access stories.

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES
 
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives