AR; Is internet news replacing newspapers?

…and how about TV and radio? According to Benjamin Gaskins and Jennifer Jerit, replacement is an existing phenomenon – but it is not (yet) so widespread as sometimes thought. Their findings are based on a US national sample, representative of the whole adult population.

Replacement is most apparent in the case of newspapers, which 45% of respondents claimed to read less frequently after having started to use the internet as a source of news. What’s more, replacement hardly ever means switching from the print version of a given paper to its online counterpart; rather, aggregators and online news sites benefit from the flow of users giving up paper and ink for pixels and the screen.

The phenomenon is least apparent in the case of television, with about 24% of respondents claiming that they in fact watch TV news more often after having started to use the internet as a news source. And radio is somewhere in between newspapers and television.

It also seems to be the case that replacement happens because the internet is perceived as better in satisfying readers’ needs for variety and convenience.

Gaskins, Benjamin, and Jennifer Jerit (2012): “Internet News: It It a Replacement for Traditional Media Outlets?” in The International Journal of Press/Politics 17(2), 190-213.

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Journalists on aggregators

What do editors think about news aggregators, such as Google News – or social news websites, e.g. Reddit? If Marina Vujnovic is right, they don’t really have a clue.

She wrote about the subject in a chapter of a recent book, dedicated to participatory journalism. The question she explores: what, if anything, motivates journalists and editors of online publications to take advantage of the help of citizen reporters?

Their answers in general are not surprising, but there was one point that made me raise an eyebrow.

“Among the more problematic competitors for interviewees were aggregator sites such as Google News, which were seen as essentially stealing the work of traditional news gatherers.” (p. 148)

The interviewees in question were editors and journalists of online publications, working in a number of different countries. Their view is puzzling. Aggregator sites typically don’t host any kind of content on their own, they merely provide links to the contents of other sites, so not only do they not steal from producers, they provide an alternative channel for them to disseminate their content! To me, there doesn’t even seem to be much sense in considering these aggregators competitors.

On the other hand, what these sites do does encourage competition: they provide an additional channel for product X as well as its competitors. Their filtering mechanisms might even distort competition so that it favors those already in the dominant position; so in this sense, the wariness of less important players of the media industry is understandable.

Thinking about this drew my attention to something I should’ve thought about a long time ago: the differences between the computer-generated and manual filtering and news aggregation. Or, the difference between Google News and Reddit. Let’s find out which one is better!

Singer, Jane B., Alfred Hermida, David Domingo, Ari Heinonen, Steve Paulussen, Thorsten Quandt, Zvi Reich and Marina Vujnovic (eds.) (2011): Participatory Journalism: Guarding Open Gates at Online Newspapers. Blackwell.

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Work-in-progress: Social news sites in models of democracy

This table – incomplete and very much under construction – sums up the normative connection between 3 democratic traditions and social news sites, as seen through an analytical framework developed by Peter Dahlgren.

Liberal-individualist democracy

Communitarian-republican democracy

Deliberative democracy

Structure

Ownership and business model: enabling openness

Accessibility to users

Enabling a meaningful diversity of sources

Structural openness – with means of editorial control

Ownership and business model: enabling openness

Accessibility to users

Fragmentation and centralization 

Enabling a meaningful diversity of sources

Structural openness – with means of editorial control

Ownership and business model: enabling openness

Accessibility to users

Minimal fragmentation 

Enabling a meaningful diversity of sources

Structural openness – with means of editorial control

Representation

Meaningful diversity of contents

Meaningful diversity of sources

Informational quality (reliability, (im)partiality) 

Meaningful diversity of contents

Meaningful diversity of sources

Informational quality (reliability, (im)partiality) 

Promoting / enabling activism and political participation 

Meaningful diversity of contents

Meaningful diversity of sources

Informational quality (reliability, (im)partiality) 

Expression of competing views and disagreement

Reflexivity 

Interactivity 

Interactivity (between citizens and social news sites as media organs)

Meaningful interaction (potential and actual) 

Meaningful interaction (potential and actual) 

Meaningful interaction (potential and actual) 

Interactivity (among users of social news sites)

work in progress

work in progress

 

work in progress

 

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AR; User-generated content and the news

When describing the “democracy-enhancing” nature of user-generated contributions (UGC) to online news sites, it is helpful to keep in mind the “political economy” of such content:

UGC provision in mainstream media to a great extent addresses users-as-consumers and is part of a context of consumption.

– says an article from last year by Anna Maria Jönsson and Henrik Örnebring. They created a taxonomy of UGC based on the level of participation (low, medium or high), and on the type of content contributed (information (hard news), popular culture-related, and private). According to their study, high-level contribution (requiring relatively high levels of effort) is uncommon. And when such contribution actually happens, it is likely to happen in the popular cultural domain, as opposed to that of “hard news.” UGC, then, is mostly an “interactive illusion,” rather than the participatory-democratic paragon. “Serious news” remains the stuff of the established mainstream media institutions.

A couple of remarks I’d like to make. (Three, to be more exact.)

Continue reading

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AR; Beyond the front page

Another paper from the latest Journalism Studies – from Helle Sjøvaag, Hallvard Moe and Eirik Stavelin -, discussing the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation’s (NRK) performance on the web:

“NRK fails to fully utilize the unique potential of the web to facilitate audience engagement [or] to use online features to add depth and scope to the news agenda,”

but, on the other hand: this is primarily an issue on the website’s “inside” – while the front page, in contrast, seems to be “fully adapted to an online ecology […].”

For me, the most interesting part of this paper is its methodological considerations – emphasized also by the authors. On the one hand, there are compelling reasons to stick to the purposive sample of front pages (as Dylko et al. note in their article analyzing front-page videos on YouTube: “some types of news content are inherently more important to study than other types”). On the other hand, focusing only on the front page might only give partial, and therefore problematic and distorted, answers.

Sjøvaag, Helle, Hallvard Moe & Eirik Stavelin (2012): “Public Service News on the Web – A large-scale content analysis of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation’s online news” in Journalism Studies 13(1), 90-106.

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AR; The myth of immediacy

One of the great advantages of online publications over their paper-based counterparts is their speed. Stories online can be published and updated immediately when something happens.

Yet this theoretical immediacy of online news is

“a myth, because it reflects only the beliefs of researchers, journalists and users, [and it] ignores the fact that institutional practices govern the news production activity of news websites.”

So says a recent paper by Jeongsub Lim. He studied South Korean websites and came to the conclusion that, for the large part, immediacy largely remains a theoretical possibility for news sites, even when covering current events providing a stable and constant flow of news (e.g. the football world cup).

I think Lim’s point that immediacy presupposes, among other things, a readership that demands it in the first place, is an especially good one, and one that’s easy to forget.

Lim, Jeongsub (2012): The Mythological Status of the Immediacy of the Most Important Online News, in Journalism Studies 13(1), 71-89.

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The French connection

From the latest Economist, about François Hollande, the French Socialist Party’s presidential candidate:

“To the surprise even of some who work with him, Mr Hollande declared war on global finance. The financial industry, he said, had grown into a nameless, faceless empire that has seized control of the economy and society.” (‘Sauce Hollandaise’, p22, January 28th 2012.)

Hardt and Negri might be pleased; probably.

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