Of the 146 online news sites identified in this report, 121 responded to a survey about what they do, how many people work on the effort and how they fund their operations.
Sites most frequently describe themselves as blogs, followed next by niche news sites. Of the 121 sites in the survey, 48, or 40%, described themselves as blogs and 44 (36%) described themselves as niche news sites.
Blogging is a potentially confounding category: it describes a platform for publishing content as well as a particular style of writing and engagement and often, a topical focus. In this year’s survey, blogs include ones by nonprofit organizations that do other things, such as the Metropolitan Planning Council, community news sites such as Live Here Oak Park, the Vocalo blogging network that includes former Sun-Times writers Robert Feder and Jim DeRogatis, and online news site Gapers Block.
Not surprisingly, 19 (16%) of the sites described themselves as both niche news and blogs in the survey.
In a change from last year’s survey, Community Media Workshop recruited publishers of online sites by traditional or legacy newspapers, TV and radio organizations to participate in the survey.
Eight, or 7%, of sites are part of traditional/mainstream news organizations such as the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, WGN-AM and myfoxchicago.com. In addition, several of the blogs that participated in the survey are part of the ChicagoNow blog network run by the Chicago Tribune.
The 26 mostly or all online news sites covered a broad spectrum of online content, including aggregators such as Windy Citizen, community news sites such as Austin Talks, sites focused on arts and culture such as Art Pilsen and Music Box Online, and sites that also create news content for print or broadcast, such as chicagotribune.com and wbez.org.
“Your Categories Stink!”
One of the survey choices is “Your categories stink! Here’s a better description of what we do.” Almost one in four sites (28 sites) chose this option. The most common theme to emerge is that site publishers support more than one distinctive news activity on their sites, such as reporting the news and aggregating other content, or reporting and publishing news on the Web and online.
Video, podcasting and photo sharing
Many websites reported using video, audio or photo-sharing, with YouTube video being the most popular multimedia feature. Thirty percent (36 sites) report publishing YouTube videos on their site. Twenty-one percent (25 sites) report publishing podcasts or posting photos to Flickr feeds.
Survey sites’ use of multimedia aligns roughly with the popularity of these activities among Internet users, according to data gathered by the Pew Internet and American Life project. According to Pew, 69% of American Internet users watch YouTube or other online video, and between 2007 and 2009, the percent of adult Internet users who have watched online news videos has increased from 37 percent (in 2007) to 43 percent (in 2009).
(Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, The State of Online Video http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/State-of-Online-Video.aspx?r=1 , and What Kind of Video are Online Adults Watching? http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/State-of-Online-Video/Part-1/What-Kinds-of-Video-Are-Online-Adults-Watching.aspx?r=1  accessed June 28, 2010).
Sharing and distributing content
Just more than one in four survey sites (30 sites, 25%) report some type of partnership or means other than Real Simple Syndication to share or distribute content. Some of these partnerships include online-print partnerships at a neighborhood or community level. For example, Austin Talks partners with the weekly Austin Weekly News to publish content, and TribLocal’s publishing web content in 21 regional weeklies.
Others include sharing content among websites or between Web and partner print organizations. The New York Times’ publishes Chicago News Cooperative stories on Fridays, and Lake Effect News content appears on several other sites, including ChicagoTalks.org  and IllinoisStatehouseNews.org .
Fifty-one percent of sites (62 sites) report using RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feeds to make it easy for people to find out about new content updates. (To learn more about RSS, view Commoncraft’s RSS in Plain English video: http://www.commoncraft.com/rss_plain_english )
Survey sites most frequently reported serving a city-wide population. Fifty-two sites (43%) reported serving the entire city of Chicago. While a few neighborhoods seemed to be populated with local news sites (such as Uptown, whom 12 sites claimed as a neighborhood they covered, and Rogers Park, claimed by 11 sites), each neighborhood in Chicago is covered by between three and eight sites, according to the survey data. Yet when three sites that reported serving each of Chicago’s neighborhoods are excluded, 16 of 77 Chicago neighborhoods were not represented by neighborhood coverage area in the survey . When looking at counties covered by sites in the survey, Cook County was the coverage area reported most frequently, by 22 sites. DuPage county was next, claimed by 13 sites. Eleven sites claimed to cover one or more of the other suburban Chicago counties (Lake, Kane, McHenry and Will). Forty-five sites cover Illinois, and 30 sites cover national issues or stories.
Seventy-six percent (92 sites) reported that they serve a general audience with no particular racial or ethnic focus. Twelve sites in the survey reported serving Latinos (10%), while seven (6%) reported serving African Americans. Sites this year included a few with extensive Spanish language content, including vivelohoy.com , Hoy’s website, the arts and culture website Contratiempo (revistacontratiempo.com ) and the English and Spanish publishing Pilsen Portal (pilsenportal.org ).
Four sites (3%) report serving gay, lesbian bisexual and transgendered populations. The same number (four sites, 3%) report serving people with disabilities.
Thirty-eight sites (31%) reported serving all adults. One site reported serving children 6-12, and five sites reported serving teen-agers (12-18 age group). Five sites also report serving seniors.
Most online news sites (71 or 59%) concentrate on general news or cover a little bit of everything. Of specific topics, community development—including real estate, urban planning and policy, neighborhood safety/crime, community news— was reported most frequently (44 sites), followed by arts and culture (40), education (30), community leadership development, such as stories about local neighborhood groups that feature voices of volunteers, grassroots leaders (28), and peace and social justice (20).
Staffing and benefits
Most frequently, survey sites report having one person (or no one) who works full-time on the publication: 41 sites (34%) report no full-time people, and another 37 (31%) report one full-time person.
Part-time contributions seem to play a large role in online news: one in five sites, or 24 (20%) say one person works part-time on the site; 28 respondents (23%) report two or three people work part-time on the online site, and another 26% (31 sites) report they rely upon more than three people working part time on the site.
Online news sites frequently are unpaid efforts for writers and editors: 49 sites (40%) report that no writers or editors gets paid for their online efforts, and 18 (15%) sites report that one person is paid.
Even more so, online news does not usually provide health insurance: 76 sites (63%) report that no one receives health insurance from their online news outlet. Seven percent (8 sites) report that one person receives health benefits through the online site, and another seven percent (8 sites) report that two or three people receive health insurance benefits through online news. Three respondents apiece report that the online news endeavor pays for health insurance for four to six people or seven to 10 people (2%), and eight respondents (7%) report paying for health insurance for more than 10 people.
Advertising is the most common funding source for online news, reported by 45 sites (37 percent). Running closely behind, with 38 responses (31%), was “Funding? Do coins from my piggy bank count?” Thirty-one sites reported they were part of a for-profit company, and 21 reported they were part of a nonprofit. Other funding sources including sales of goods or services (19), donations (19), subscriptions (8) and venture capital (3). No LC3s participated in the survey.
When comparing to last year, funding sources remained similar except for advertising, which was not included in last year’s total.
News and original reporting top the list of content sites report: 100 sites (83%) report providing “news” and 91 (75%) say they provide “original reporting.” Opinion is the third most popular choice: 87 sites (72%) report providing opinion.
Fifty-seven sites (47%) report an events calendar, and 44 sites (36%) report providing user-generated content in some form.
Seven sites (6%) report that they aggregate content and do not produce original content.
Content sites provide in 2010, according to the survey, is roughly similar to what they provided in 2009.
For information about survey methods and limitations, please see the Methods page 
If you would like to conduct your own analysis of the quantitative data from the survey, please contact Community Media Workshop at 312-369-6400.