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Online news sources explained

OnlineNewspapersVOnlineMagazines.KMMAs the digital landscape continues to grow, it has become trickier discerning the differences between online news sources. Even the online manifestations of print media, such as magazines and newspapers, can be confusing to distinguish in an increasingly diverse cyber landscape. To dispel any confusion, inVocus asked its own resident magazine and newspaper experts to supply some guidelines differentiating the two mediums when in their online form.

Online Magazines

It’s actually relatively easy to identify an online magazine, noted Rebecca Bredholt, managing editor of magazine content at Vocus Media Research Group. “Recognizing an online magazine is just like looking at the constellations. Once someone points out Orion’s Belt to you in the night sky, you’ll be able to find it on your own,” she said.

Here are several indicators to tell if it’s an online magazine according to Bredholt:

  1. An online magazine is made up of a curated collection of content in one package.
  2. A date indicates a starting and stopping point for each issue, or indicates when the content “expires.”
  3. The layout mocks a printed page design, for example, text will overlay onto an image much like it would in a print magazine.
  4. Content is all original, not aggregated.
  5. It provides editorial content and is not just a vehicle for sales or marketing.

A good example of a magazine that fits this criteria is Covet Garden magazine, a digital-only home decorating and interior design magazine. Much like in print, an online magazine captures a moment in time, noted Bredholt. “A magazine represents what was important to that industry or that consumer group during that period – or forecasting a future period – and then it’s gone. The moment is then replaced by the next capture,” she said.

Online Newspapers

Similar to sites like, which mimic a community newspaper, an online newspaper usually updates its news regularly and organizes its content based on a specific set of departments noted David Coates, managing editor of newspaper content at Vocus Media Research Group. This includes local news, features/entertainment, sports, community, editorial, calendar, etc.

Here are the top five characteristics of an online newspaper according to Coates:

  1. Timely
  2. Informative
  3. Sectioned
  4. Linear design similar to a print newspaper
  5. Interactive

“Unlike the printed version of a newspaper, an online newspaper provides more interaction for the reader,” he said. It is most similar to a printed paper, however, because both share sectioned departments and of course the nature of the news.

He Said/She Said

Ultimately, the differences can be easy to spot once you know what you’re looking for. In Coates’ opinion, magazines have always been more focused on the art side of content. “There is an entertainment aspect involved in magazines where newspapers are more focused on informing. Magazines are looking for that WOW factor and online gives them an even better medium in which to WOW readers,” he said.

Bredholt’s analysis expressed a similar sentiment. Newspapers cover hard news, breaking news and serve a community usually based on geography. “Magazines, even news magazines, tend to serve a more targeted audience through a specific genre like cars, fashion, or technology,” she said. Another identifying factor is frequency. While newspapers usually update daily, online magazines usually do not.

Websites v. Online Magazines and Newspapers

Despite the differences characteristics between an online magazine and newspaper, Coates noted that it’s become difficult to tell the difference between some news sites and websites. For example, USA Today online and, which is considered a website as opposed to an online newspaper, provide a similar reading format. “Why is it difficult to tell the difference? Well all websites are trying to be interactive to give the reader a pleasurable experience,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bredholt believes that magazines will always be easy to differentiate from websites because as interactive as online magazines may be, the content is stagnant. “Websites, the ones that are successful, will be dynamic, moving, flowing at the pace of real time,” she said. “Old information on websites will vanish but old magazine issues will be archived.”

Although the number of online news sources may be vastly similar, traditional print media continues to live on in cyberspace by remaining true to its foundations, while also embracing the interactivity of the Web.

–Katrina M. Mendolera

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