Kiwis turn to overseas sites for war news

War may be hell, but it's good news for news websites around the world, although New Zealand sites seem to be bypassed in favour of more 'authoritive' overseas sources.

War may be hell, but it's good news for news websites around the world, although New Zealand sites seem to be bypassed in favour of more "authoritive" overseas sources.

In the US, record numbers of Americans are turning to the internet as a primary source of Iraq war coverage, according to a study released by Pew Internet and American Life Project, part of the Pew Research Centre.

But Red Sheriff figures for the New Zealand market show a minor jump for most news sites except for XtraMSN. In an average week, XtraMSN will receive up to 30,000 users, while during the first week of the campaign, that number jumped to as high as 77,000.

New Zealand media commentator Russell Brown, a former editor of IDGNet, says New Zealanders won't be viewing New Zealand news sites as authoritative news sources for this kind of news event.

"The [New Zealand] Herald got a lot more traffic for the America's Cup, for instance, because it was perceived to be an expert on the event."

Red Sheriff also reports an increase in offshore visitors coming to New Zealand sites looking for news during the America's Cup period.

Brown reports a lift in visitors to his news blog Public Address reaching almost 10,000 unique users a month. "That's nothing compared with Scoop, which is getting 50,000 visits a day, and a lot of those are from offshore."

According to the Pew study, 77% of online Americans have used the internet in connection with the war. One in five of those say the internet has shaped their views of the conflict, and 6% say something they learned online has changed their opinion about the war.

According to the study variety and timeliness is drawing them online - 66% of those surveyed say the ability to get news from a variety of sources is important.

Brown says Americans are flocking to the web in droves, looking for different points of view.

"It's not so much timeliness but finding that alternative view that's important to them. From that side of things the Guardian has been the big winner in the non-US media."

The jump in interest in the internet as a news source has been most pronounced since the September 11 attacks in the US. Seventeen percent of online Americans are getting most of their news about the war from the internet. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks only 3% of online Americans turned to the web for information.

"This is a dramatic increase in online news reliance," says Lee Rainie, director of Pew Internet and American Life. "The internet will likely never surpass television, but it's clear that the internet is growing in importance."

The study, The Internet and the Iraq War, finds that 87% of internet users rely primarily on television for war news. That is followed by 21% turning primarily to newspapers, 22% to radio, and 17% to the internet (respondents were allowed two answers to this question). The study surveyed 1600 adults during the six days preceding the start of the war.

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