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Abstract

The research project “Online – the future of newspapers?” examined the producers, their products and the users of German online newspapers. The study on online editorial boards was carried out in the form of a standardized mail survey of all 81 daily newspapers with a WWW presence in May 1997 (return quote: 78%). A questionnaire for the users was placed in the Web, where it could be accessed via links to the homepage of 27 online papers (2524 respondents). In addition five individual websites of newspapers were examined (semi-structured oral interviews with the heads of the editorial boards, content analysis). Almost half of the staff in online editorial boards have journalistic duties. Technical duties are of growing importance. The majority of online editorial boards surveyed depend on the editorial decisions of the print editors. The news sections in online papers consist mainly of duplicates of the printed “parent” paper. Articles for the online version are rarely edited. Very few external links and no graphic or sound effects were added. About two-thirds of users would have chosen the print newspaper and just under a third would have preferred the online version if only one of the versions had been available. The case studies show that online publishers and users base their activities and/or expectations on the print newspaper and use or design their product accordingly.