People are reading them blogs. More than ever before, many probably don't even realize it.
Unique visitors to the blogs published by the top ten U.S. newspapers have more than tripled year-over-year (1.2 million in December '05, 3.8 in December '06), according to Nielsen/NetRatings, accounting for 13% of traffic to these sites.
Five years ago, very few people had heard the word blog. Today, it's a household term but many misconceptions still surround it (it's all dreary ramblings about lovelorn teens, or political hack rants, etc.). The flexibility and morph-ability of blogs is proven out by their steady integration into online mainstream media properties. "Professional-level" blogging means high quality writing, interesting stories, personal observations, unique coverage, and a friendly, engaging, and interactive style that was until recently sorely lacking in the mainstream media.
Taken historically, audiences have been bleeding away from the staid and stodgy network television broadcasts to the more colorful cable news stations for many years. For some time, print publications simply republishing online was good enough. But no more: there's simply too many ways to access a teeming galaxy of observations, opinions, spins, alleys, crannies, and nooks for traditional media companies to stand pat.
Steve Rubel at Micro Persuasion notes that Dave Winer predicted some time back that The New York Times would one day become "one big blog." This somewhat echoes my own observation that the future of mainstream media websites lies in embracing what I call hybrid social media platforms, a mixture of user-submitted content, editor-selected content from all over the Internet, and "original coverage" that encompasses straight news and news plus alike (more on this below).
This transformation is already happening, and that's a good thing for traditional media and the blogosphere both. "Straight news" reporting is essential and always will be, but the hunger is out there for what I call "news plus," which equates to all the vibrant, funky, diverse, and kaleidoscopic offerings that the blogosphere brings to the online table.
The biggest winners of all are news readers and consumers, who more than ever before are dictating the kinds of media they want and are getting it.