NORWICH, England - An article in the Saturday, Aug. 10, 1776, edition of the Norwich Mercury details the denouncement of affiliation with England by the colony of Rhode Island.

As most Americans are taught in elementary school, the Declaration of Independence had been signed more than a month prior. During those times, centuries ago, news traveled at a much slower pace.

With today's modern technologies and the marvels of the internet, news is delivered faster than it ever has been in history. In the United States, online platforms have become ingrained in the business models of media companies across the country, including The Southern.

But in the rural areas of the East of England, a region with countless similarities to Southern Illinois, the Internet fanaticism hasn't quite yet hit a fever pitch.

"We're still at a point where we almost treat our websites as second-class citizens in a way," said Richard Willner, audience relations developer at Archant Press, the largest media company in the East Anglia region of England.

Archant publishes the Eastern Day Press, a regional paper; the Norwich Evening News, the city-focused edition; and several other publications, including weekly papers, magazines and niche products.

Part of Willner's job is to maintain the organization's Facebook and Twitter feeds, building online re-lationships with readers and other consumers in the digital realm.

While Facebook tends to be a more popular medium for friends and fans in Southern Illinois, Willner finds more success, and a larger following, on Twitter.

Paul Hill, who leads the Norwich business desk for Archant, has also begun using social media in his day-to-day duties. For him, sites like LinkedIn help reach the more direct audiences.

Hill and Willner both hold relatively new duties and responsibilities. While they've both been involved with Archant for years, the Internet-driven conversions led the organization to creating their new posts with an emphasis on online development.

The fruits of their labors have already begun paying off, as the organization's business sites alone have seen between 21 and 36 percent increase in web traffic.

In Great Yarmouth, a smaller city on the eastern coast of England, Anne Edwards serves as the editor of the Mercury, a weekly Archant paper.

Her staff is much smaller than the one in the Norwich headquarters; she has only four reporters compared to the dozens based in the county seat.

For her, the web has become a useful tool for keeping in touch with readers. For a newspaper the size of the Mercury, reader-driven content is the focus. Sixty percent of each Friday's edition is submitted by the public.

Whether it be in print or online, she remains focused on using the tools at her disposal to better con-nect with and serve that population.

"We're probably the only outlet for people to have their voice," she said. "I think a weekly paper is closer to the community than a daily paper, in the UK at least."

Through the East of England, too, newspapers remain the dominantly popular source of local news. The BBC has local affiliates for television and radio in many cities throughout the region, and some commercial stations exist as well, but most residents still seem to prefer picking up the paper in the morning.

And in the newspaper sector, Archant has what some describe as a monopoly on the media corner. The primary competition would likely come from the national news sources like The Telegraph.

The media industry has changed drastically in recent years, but while the United States and even a relatively isolated region like Southern Illinois have adapted to the rise of new technologies, people in other regions of the world haven't latched on yet.

Internet-based media truly has the capabilities of connecting the world, but with the constant output of new technology, one must wonder if countries will ever be on the same page or if digital disparities will continue to affect the way people receive and communicate news.




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