April 19, 2005

White Smoke and the Pope Blog

Despite the rapturous speed with which the news of the newly elected Pope disseminated in digital bits and bytes throughout the world today, the source that first announced the breaking story was the same brick-and-mortar reporter we’ve relied on for more than a century: a stovepipe chimney that emits white smoke.

Once the smoke signal appeared, it immediately assumed digital velocity as it spread across radio, television and the internet, through a profusion of live video feeds, news articles and blog commentary. Among the earliest reports was a frequently-updated play-by-play available on the Pope Blog.

If our past research is any indication, today’s events likely drove significant spikes in online news consumption. Events like these might motivate new users in search of real-time coverage at work or in-depth background information to seek internet news that complements their traditional news consumption. Once the smoke settles, many of these new online news seekers will remain converts, but few will disavow traditional news media altogether. As reported in “The Internet and Democratic Debate” report, 90% of those who get news online on an average day will also get news from a newspaper or TV.