Twenty-one percent of U.S. consumers are “news junkies” who turn to the web to find the latest news, according to a recent report from ExactTarget. Now, evidence from the 2010 USC Annenberg Digital Future Study indicates internet users are not necessarily looking to digital newspapers to get the inside scoop – and marketers should consider optimizing their sites to attract the growing number of online news readers.

American internet usage is reaching new heights with 82 percent of U.S. consumers now online, according to the study. These consumers are increasingly looking for breaking industry news, and 78 percent say the internet is their most valuable source of information – outranking newspapers, which were the preferred resource for just half of respondents (56 percent).

Regularly updating content on websites to frequently attract these online readers is a valuable way to generate clicks and boost trust in a brand. About half respondents said the information online is reliable, but trust jumped to 78 percent for information posted on sites consumers visit regularly. Notably, as trust in online information is increasing, so too are online sales – the report demonstrates that 65 percent of adult internet users now buy online.

Marketers looking to convert the growing number of online news readers into customers should invest in content development. A report from the Bloom Group shows that companies that have established themselves as thought leaders generate more than 30 leads per month; they invest twice as much of their budgets in researched content as firms who generate less than 10 leads per month.