e-belarus.ORG has recently conducted a survey of Belarusian online news sources. The survey was carried out within the month period (January 6 - February 6, 2006). 10 websites have been selected to represent various styles and approaches to online strategies, as well as different political attitudes. The major quantitative criterion was the average number of visitors per day.
To understand users' perceptions and evaluations of online media, e-belarus.ORG organized focus group discussions. The group consisted of 10 participants, representing the core of Internet audience: individuals with a university degree, aged from 20 to 35, living in Minsk or in a regional center with a monthly income of more than USD 100.
According to the information provided by the Ministry of information, there are 8 press agencies, 1148 print media (748 newspapers (136 regional), 400 magazines), 54 TV programmes and 154 radio programmes registered in Belarus [www.mininform.gov.by/main/massmedia/publishing].
e-belarus.org survey reveals that only 6% of them have their online avatars: 6 agencies (64%), 58 print media (5%) (11% national and 12% regional ) and 23 TV and radio radio programmes (11%). Tut.by front page is the most popular news site with approximately 60 000 daily visitors. The other five top sites are date.by, naviny. by, charter97.org, bdg.by, svaboda.org. 4% of the total number of media are purely online projects.
Two major Belarusian catalogues have registered 52 online projects providing news, including 21 national sites and portals, 8 regional, 19 specialized resources, 2 internet radio projects and 2 news syndication sites. Belarusian indymedia project http://belarus.indymedia.org/ launched in 2005 should be added to the list.
The analysis of 10 online news resources conducted by e-belarus.org (tut.by; naviny.by; charter 97; eauramost.org; bdg.online; open.by; kraina.by; date.by; Belaruski partisan; telegraph.by) revealed that 58% of total number of news are taken form national online and offline resources, 37% - from foreign sources. 5% of news are presented without mentioning their sources. This is especially characteristic for the information about PACE and OCSE activities in Belarus, when no references to press-services of these bodies are given. National press agencies provide 34% of news, 38% news are collected from foreign news sources (27% - from Russian, 8% from press - departments of other foreign media), 8% of news these sites borrow news from each other, while only 5% of the total number of news are editorial.
The major sources for Belarusian online media are national press agencies Belapan and Belta, Russian lenta.ru, Interfax and Belarusian service of Radio Free Europe website.
In spite of the new possibilities opened up by online tools and technologies, Belarusian online media seem to have based their strategies on traditional journalism techniques. The number and quality of Belarusian media online initiatives shows them to be in the period of infancy. The overwhelming majority of them fall within the category of news sites with very limited editorial news and some form of participatory communication. The demand for value added online media remains unanswered.
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