The hidden threat to online news audiences

Here’s some good news: news is the most frequently used category of web site at work. Now the bad news: perhaps a third of companies that use web filtering software block news sites, and that number may increase.
“Initially we saw the most abuse in pornography and gambling sites, now we are seeing more time spent on shopping and news sites,” said Harold Kester, Chief Technology Officer of Websense, the Web filtering company which conducted the survey. Important findings:

  • 23 percent of those workers surveyed said they considered news the most addictive Web content, compared with 18 percent who reported pornography, eight percent for gambling and six percent online auctions.
  • Overall news came in a very close second to online shopping, which 24 percent of those surveyed said they considered addictive.
  • 67 percent of workers surveyed said they were allowed them to use their office Internet connections to read news.

Already, a third of sites that employ filters are blocking news, and the filtering companies are clearly saying that employees reading news at work is costing companies money. “I think a lot of companies to react to the current vogue, and now a lot of their concerns center on pornography and gambling sites,” said SurfControl Chief Executive Officer Steve Purdham. “But (concern about) news sites is starting to grow, especially sports news and financial news.”
According to Nielsen Net Ratings, the number of Americans accessing the Internet at work grew 17 percent in the last year.
Web filtering at work may be set to wipe out one of the largest and most desireable audiences for news on the Web.