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Pew Research Survey: Online Journalists Concerned About Future of News Business

Filed at 11:50 a.m. EST on Mar. 30, 2009

A majority of online journalists (54%) think that that the news business is headed in the wrong direction, but most of them (83%) think there is still a business there.

Journalists reporting online have what the Pew Research Center calls an "uneasy optimism" about the future of Web journalism. Optimism because that 54% is still less than the 62% of legacy journalists for a separate study that said the business was going in the wrong direction. And that was last year, before the economic meltdown.

That's according to a new survey of members of the Online News Association (ONA) from PEW's Project for Excellence In Journalism and ONA.

Part of that guarded optimism stems from the fact that 60% said their online news sites were turning a profit, though they also said they were pinning their economic hopes on an ad-based model, which another PEW study on the state of journalism recently pointed out has flattened and shows signs of further declining. Pew has recommended a dual revenue model, like cable's, may be the answer.

Few of the sites cited are having to carry their own weight, according to the survey respondents. Two thirds are still subsidized by legacy outlets like print or broadcast. But unlike their legacy parents, most report their sites are adding staffers.

They see potential in the online medium, but also have concerns about how the Web is changing journalism. One of their biggest concerns is looser standards (45% are concerned), more voices from outside the institutional news gathering organizations (31%) and the need for speed (25%). Over half said they thought the Web was fundamentally changing the business.

On the upside, they cite the diversity of voices (30%) and half say the more ideological bent of some sites is a positive trend.

The study was of 300 ONA members.