Hitwise's US News and Media Report found news sites received 17 per cent more traffic from search engines this March than in the same month in 2006, meaning the likes of Google are increasingly the first port of call for readers seeking breaking news.
Specifically, web sites for printed news organs got 29.7 per cent more traffic from Google than last year, while those for TV and radio news sites received 35.9 per cent more. Google now makes up 14.9 per cent of all incoming links for print sites and 10.2 per cent for broadcast sites.
Last month, Telegraph editor Will Lewis argued his website's copyrighted stories needed to be "protected" from search engines. Google News copies a summary of every publisher's story in order to provide a reciprocal link, while stories can also be found through regular Google searches.
Plans revealed by Google in April to more tightly integrate those news stories into regular search results could yet bring newspapers even more search traffic.
Meanwhile, the Hitwise report found a massive increase in the amount of traffic news sites are sending to video sites. The number of people clicking through from news sites to those in the multimedia entertainment category that contains user-generated content portals increased by 196 per cent over the same year.
Video of Saddam Hussein's execution, of nature film maker Steve Irwin's death and of racial insults made by American politician George Allen were instances when news sites sent particularly high amounts of traffic in the direction of destinations like YouTube, illustrating the growing importance of off-site, rough-cut video.