This feature compares the way five different web sites treated the campaign race for the Democratic presidential candidate with specific reference (but not restricted to) Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Introduction

This is the first time in the history of the United States that the race for the Democrat presidential nomination has been fought so extensively on all media fronts – old and new. The traditional media was used extensively by both candidates but the younger candidate in the form of Obama launched a dedicated and targeted online campaign that has paid off.

 

Some $120 million was spent by the two candidates in the past 12 months and some believe Obama’s success is partly attributable to his significantly larger media budget.

 

Obama’s camp embraced new-media strategies from early on, and relied on online activity and a social-network-style campaign website. After Clinton loaned her campaign $5 million, the Obama team responded by sending out an e-mail to its supporters the next day that read, “We need to match this quickly, can you help?” Within 24 hours respondents donated $8 million.

 

Obama outspent Clinton in paid search, but according to SEO specialist Michael Fleischner, Clinton out-ranked Obama on her use of organic search. On Google, Clinton ranked within the top 20 listings on 717 related political keyword phrases. By comparison, Obama only ranked in the top 20 for 201 political keywords searches.

 

At the beginning of her campaign, Clinton featured extensively on blogs and was an early proponent of YouTube. However, there was no catching Obama on the user-generated media channel. Nearly three times more videos were uploaded by the Obama camp vs. the Clinton camp, with 10 times more views.

 

The viral impact of the “I got a crush … on Obama” video by “Obama Girl” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKsoXHYICqU) and its various spin-offs enjoyed more than 60 million views on YouTube.

 

Obama could also rely on more than 1 million Facebook and MySpace friends. His use of social media has not just helped him to connect with younger voters, but has also been an incredibly efficient way of keeping him in the media.

 

Obama also gained the upper hand in the one-to-one communication with gimmicks such as Chris Rock voice-mail messages and making use of the 1 million-plus e-mail addresses that were acquired through a fundraising database.

 

Obama’s ability to create personal relationships via mass-marketing techniques characterized his media strategy. The employment of digital media channels – notably  his website, use of social media and e-mail marketing – helped gain younger voter support and proved effective in fundraising, a critical factor in sustaining a heavy marketing effort.

(Antony Young http://adage.com/campaigntrail/post?article_id=127508)

 


We now look at some of the sites in more detail.

 

1. AlterNet

Introduction

One of the most impressive “independent” sites I have come across is AlterNet. It is also one of the most interactive sites with links to Digg, Delicious, reddit, Fork, Yahoo, Newsvine, Facebook and NewsTrust.

 

It even has a display calendar that archives videos by date. This makes it extremely easy to go to the date you are looking for and access the video you want to view.

 

Furthermore they make it very simple to subscribe to their newsletter. All you need to do is to add your email address, postal code and click on go! No need to fill in your life history as many sites require and which is very off-putting.

 

Nature of site

In their words the site is an award-winning news magazine and online community that creates original journalism and amplifies the best of dozens of other independent media sources.

 

Aim

AlterNet’s aim is to inspire citizen action and advocacy on the environment, human rights and civil liberties, social justice, media, and health care issues. Their editorial mix is dedicated to fairness, equity and global stewardship, and making connections across generational, ethnic and issue lines. AlterNet, they say, serves as a reliable filter, keeping hundreds of thousands of people well-informed and engaged, helping them cope with a culture of information overload and resist the constant commercial media onslaught. Their aim is to stimulate, motivate, and engage.

 

Use of technology

In addition to high-quality print content, AlterNet makes effective use of a wide range of web tools. They provide a variety of multimedia content, engage their readers in two-way communications, features reader-generated content, and respond to breaking news with various blogs.

 

Engaging their readers

AlterNet has an average of 1.7-m visitors per month. They send out a daily newsletter to

90 000 people and have 15 000 registered contributors. More than 80 000 readers visit their blogs per month.

 

Awards

AlterNet has won two Webby Awards for Best Web Magazine and several Independent Press Awards for online political coverage. AlterNet was also named one of NPR’s five “Winners on the Internet.”

  

It is one of the most interactive sites with links to Digg, Delicious, Reddit, Fork, Yahoo,

Newsvine, Facebook and NewsTrust.

 

AlterNet: http://www.alternet.org/blogs/election08/86578/

 

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2. America.gov

Introduction

As can be expected this is a comprehensive site that offers a wealth of information. Interesting is the by-line: Telling America’s story.

 

Nature of site

This is a government site that provides a wide range of information listed under interesting headings such as Foreign Policy, Economics and Trade, American Giving, Peace and Security and American Life.

 

Aim of site

The obvious aim of the site is to inform and one can expect, to also influence. This is the site to visit for general information on the election with detailed information on the candidates, the election process and everything else that pertains to the election.

 

Use of technology

The site does is any time as advanced as any of the leaders in the field. It features videos, podcasts, webcasts, webchats, blogs, charts and others. There is a link to all the most popular social bookmarks such as Delicious, Digg, reddit, Facebook and StumbleUpon 

 

Engaging their readers

Should one want to follow a link you have a choice of 63! These are listed under the headings General Election, Parties, Campaign Finance (that track money spent), Diversity (women, Hispanics and youth), Information for Students, Polls and media.

Under polls one can link to sites such as ABC, CBS, Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post

Under media one finds the familiar names of ABC, CNN, Fox, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

 

General impressions

What impressed me most about this site is the attractiveness of its layout. One would often expect a government web site to be bland and stuffed with to much information. The layout is clean and fresh with easy access to any of the information, articles, links, videos and others. It is regularly updated and pleasing to the eye.

 

America.gov: http://uspolitics.america.gov/uspolitics/elections/index.html

 

 

3. Barackobama.com

Introduction

Barack Obama embraced new media enthusiastically as part of his nomination campaign and this is clearly evident on his site barackobama.com. His home page is well laid out with buttons titled Learn, Issues, Media, Action, People, States, Blog, Stores, and a separate button Donate now.

 

Under Learn you can choose to click on Meet the candidate, Meet the Obamas (which is not much different from Meet the candidate, other than an additional article about his spouse, Michelle Obama), Obama speeches, In the news, Know the facts and Results centre. Clicking on Results centre one is presented with a comprehensive colour-coded map with all the results tabled.

 

Issues

No less than 24 issues are listed under this heading ranging form civil rights to women.

 

Media

Under media one finds Barack TV, photos and downloads.

 

People

Seventeen headings are found under people ranging from African Americans, to veterans, to women.

 

States

Fifty five American states are listed under this heading. Most of the copy under the different states consisted of the same case study – that of the Mickes family and tax relief for the American middle class. Some had information pertaining to the specific state.

 

Stores

The sale of merchandise is used as an additional income stream and some 16 items ranging from T-shirts, stickers, signs and posters to caps can be ordered online. Interesting is the note at the bottom of the page informing buyers that any purchase is considered a federal contribution to Obama for America. If buyers have already contributed the maximum amount under federal law or are otherwise ineligible to contribute under the federal rules, they however may still purchase Obama merchandise.

 

Nature of site

Everything on the site is aimed at promoting Obama and the cause he stands for. The call to donate is also prominent without being overpowering. I believe part of Obama’s success was his moderate stance which is also reflected in the design, layout and content of the web site. He manages to bring across his views without having to slant or attack anybody.  

 

 

Use of technology

Barackobama.com makes extensive use of the available technology. One can link to Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Digg, Twitter, Eventful, Linkedin, BlackPlanet, Faithbase, Eons, Glee, MiGente, MyBatanga, AsianAve and DNC Partybuilder.

 

General Impressions

New media has played an important role in Obama’s campaign and it is obviously an important part of his total strategy. Obama has taken the lead in this respect and has set the benchmark.

 

Barackobama.com: http://www.barackobama.com

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4. HillaryClinton.com

Introduction

Hillary Clinton’s site also consists of a mostly blue background similar to Obama’s.

Many of the buttons are also the same such as Issues, States, Store and Blog, while others differ slightly e.g. newsroom (media), and Take action (action).

 

Issues vary from economics (Strengthening the Middle Class) to health care and education, women and immigration and Iraq. These are issues that came up often during the presidential campaign and one would expect to see the candidates’ viewpoint on their web sites.  

 

Under the heading Spotlight in the centre of the page one can click to the Campaign Photo Album with some of the best campaign photographs presented as if in a hard copy album. Some of the pictures have commentary from Hillary that makes it even more personal. Under the same heading one can also read a transcript of her speech in Washington D.C., look at a video of her election night speech in New York and read a message from her with the heading I want you to know.

 

Additional sites

There are four sites one can link to from the hillaryclinton.com site. The first, The Hillary I know is what a number of different people have to say about her. These are all people that have been helped or have a close affinity towards her.

 

Women for Hillary is a site about campaign news with a slant towards women.

 

Hillary Hub consists of a News, Blog and Video section with news about Hillary and the campaign.

 

HillaryStore.com offers a number of promotional items that can be ordered online.

 

 

 

 

Use of technology

Whereas Obama had no less than 16 social media sites on his site, Hillary only has a quarter of that number with MySpace, Facebook, Flickr and You Tube.

 

General impressions

Although Clinton’s site is by no means as comprehensive as Obama’s it is informative, easy to navigate and attractive. It has far less links and is therefore also much less interactive. It does however manage to connect with the user and create a two-way flow of communication.

 

HillaryClinton.com: http://hillaryclinton.com

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5. Electionsfoxnews.com

Interesting background

Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News television station has been forced to apologise to Barack Obama for the third time in two weeks. The first incident happened when a Fox contributor had to apologise after making a joke about Obama being assassinated.

 

The second incident occurred on the night that Obama won the Democratic nomination. Obama, in a show of affection, lightly touched his fist against his wife Michelle and the anchorwoman referred to it as a “terrorist fist jab”.

 

The latest was when during an interview a caption was flashed up saying: “Outraged liberals: Stop picking on Obama’s baby mama.” The term is slang for a woman who has a baby with a man who is neither her partner nor boyfriend.

 

The site

On Tuesday 17 June, Fox news brought the election news to its readers on a bright blue and red background with a striking photograph of the Statue of Liberty in the foreground and the thick smoke cloud of 9/11 in the background. The accompanying headline read: Candidates advisors’ accuse each others of weak mindsets on terror fight, with a link to the full story. It then listed another six Top Stories on election news.   

 

Under Latest Posts from the Campaign Trail, Fox features headlines such as McCain slams Obama on energy and McCain camp: Obama will make the US less safe.

 

With headlines such as these one does suspect a bias towards McCain.

 

The site features a map with the heading Primaries and Caucuses and a facility to click on each state that takes you to a page of the state. On the page one can view the past results of the last three elections as well as a list of the local media – radio, television and newspapers available together with their web site addresses.

 

 

 

There is access to a video on the site, a poll with a relevant question pertaining to the election, Blogs spotlight, Calendar with events and Fox news on air.

 

Use of technology

The site makes good use of technology to support its news but is less interactive than what one would expect.

 

General impressions

Being a news site it is packed with fresh news and less emphasis on background news although this is available. In general it provides what a news site should – news of the day on matters that pertains to the candidates and that what they stand for. 

 

Fox news: http://elections.foxnews.com

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Blogging: Is it a threat, challenge or opportunity for journalism?

Essay Topic: Blogging: Is it a threat, challenge or opportunity for Journalism?

 

Abstract: Blogging is an opportunity for journalists to expand their trade (and influence) from the printed to the online media. It creates two-way communication and provides almost instant feedback to the writer. Quality journalism will always have a place whether on a printed or online platform.

 


 

 

Blogging: Is it a threat, challenge or opportunity for Journalism?

 

Introduction

When looking at the question of whether blogging is a threat to journalism one first needs to ask what many have asked before: is blogging journalism?

 

Without going into the much debated subject into too much detail my short answer for the purposes of this essay is no it is not true journalism as we know it.

 

Or in the words of Agnes Poirier from The Guardian (theguardian.co.uk):

 

To think that blogging is Journalism seems dangerous and certainly misleading. Journalism is a profession, not a hobby. It usually requires research and some care in its execution. I have always thought blogging was a more spontaneous, informal way of feeding (or blocking) debate. Silly at worst, thought-provoking at best. To blog seems a little like to take a shower: the experience is quick, fun and energising and its good effects last but a few hours.

 

Tom Regan (Nieman Reports 2003) believes that “bloggers will need to adopt to some of journalism’s practises that they now eschew, often because of laziness.”

 

Furthermore blogs share a number of generic qualities different to traditional journalism:

 

  • a most-recent-post-top structure
  • a ‘blogroll’ of related sites
  • an often personal or subjective writing style
  • brevity, and related thereto a tendency to link to sources

 

 

History of blogs

At first blogs consisted mainly of lists of links to similar sites (this ‘blogroll’ element is still to be seen in blog systems and templates today).

 

Blog posts – before the launch of free content management systems such as Pitas, Blogger and Groksoup – mostly hinged around a single link. After the technological barriers of entry were removed through the development of easy to manage software, blogs exploded. New technologies since have seen blogs encroaching (some would say) towards journalism.

 

11 years of blogging

The month of July 2008 marks the 11th year of blogging. And how blogging has grown.

 

Figures from 2007 counted more than 70 million blogs covering almost any conceivable topic (thestar.com).

 

Every day more than 120,000 new blogs are created and 1.5 million new posts are published (this converts to about 17 posts per second). A new “media” breed has emerged.

 

Many have argued that blogs will replace traditional journalism, driven by a wave of citizen-run media. On the other hand critics have argued that such “amateurs” lower the quality and integrity of journalism.

 

Both are wrong, says Eaves and Owen (thestar.com).

 

They argue that blogging is not a substitute for journalism.

If anything, this past decade shows that blogging and journalism are symbiotic – to the benefit of everyone.

 

Blogging they say is not displacing traditional journalism. Journalism has certain sets of norms and is structured in a certain way. The same can not be said of blogging – although blogging has certain unique properties (as stated above) it has very little (if any) norms.

 

“The industry once thought that blogging would somehow replace journalism. It turns out the threat to journalism is something bigger,” writes Chris Lau (blogs.itworldcanada.com). He concurs that there are unique values to blogging. The unique value, he says, is virtual interaction. “The interaction from readers through comments has generated further discussions. Blogging is therefore a modernised version of group message forums, but without moderator intervention or fixed subjects.”

 

Lau rather believes Google, to be the real threat to journalism. Google is valued far greater than some major newspaper companies in the U.S. They provide “content” without having paid anything. Profits are reached when revenue through advertising exceeds the cost of providing content. When the cost of content is zero, someone has to pay and the companies that bear the cost are those companies who pay their journalists. 

 

Dana Blankenhorn (danablankenhorn.com) agrees on the subject of links. “It’s the giving of links that makes blogging so dangerous to journalism.  The room with the most exits wins by letting in the most light.”

 

Adding links have enormous value. “It’s by sending traffic out that you get traffic in.”

 

Not all journalism organisations subscribe to this principle, though. Some hide their content behind subscription firewalls. Traditionalists still see their readers as receiving content without playing any role. They see their readers as passive.

 

The key to winning on the Web is interacting, says Blankenhorn. “It lies in linking out to every resource available, no matter who holds it. It means turning each story into a conversation. It means looking for ways to make living in your community easier.”

 

Looking at blogs from a different perspective is David Eaves and Taylor Owen.

They compare books as an established medium to journalism. Books they say enable various practices, such as fiction, poetry, science and sometimes journalism, to be disseminated. Books however do not pose a threat to journalism. To the contrary, books, like blogs, increase interest in the subjects they cover and in this way promote further media consumption.

 

“The same market forces that apply to books and newspapers apply to blogs”.

 

Similar to the way readers judge and elect what to read, they do with blogs. Does it inform, is it well researched and does it add value and is it from a credible source?

 

Because blogs are relatively easy to set up and costs nothing or very little, there will always be many of them. Herein lie the challenge: how does one differentiate and keep the readers’ interests among so many of them?

 

“Ultimately blogs, like books, don’t replace journalism; they simply provide another medium for its dissemination and consumption,” says Eaves and Owen.

 

Quality of blogs

Proponents of traditional media rightly criticises the often dubious quality of blogs. Rightly so, but with more than 70 million blogs around is it at all surprising? The same can be said of printed media – not all printed media are created equal either.

 

As with printed media, users have a choice. Users on the web can eliminate very quickly, connect and find what they are looking for in seconds – this includes high-quality writing on any subject.

 

Technology expert Paul Graham (paulgraham.com) argues: “Those in the print media who dismiss online writing because of its low average quality miss the point. No one reads the average blog.”

 

As more writers (including journalists) and citizens try blogging, the range and quantity of high-quality blogs increases all the time.

 

The number of blogs double every 300 days. Therefore although some may argue that the situation is going to get much worse, it will also improve vastly.

 

And this past decade should serve as a good guide. Contrary to the predictions of both champions and sceptics, blogging has neither displaced nor debased the practice of journalism. If anything, it has made journalism more accurate, democratic and widely read.

Scott Rosenburg (wordyard.com) believes bloggers and journalists can learn from each other.  Bloggers can teach the pros:

*How to blur the line between personal and the professional – creatively    *How to improvise in real time
*How to have a conversation with the people formerly known as
readers
*How to be humble –- you don’t know everything!

What bloggers can learn from traditional journalists:
*The value of legwork
*The nature of accountability
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

*The positive aspects of editing
*How to be humble –- you don’t know everything!

Open source threat

Prof Alfred Hermida is an online news pioneer, digital media scholar and journalism educator. He leads the multiplatform journalism programme at the graduate School of Journalism of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada and believes that blogging’s threat to journalism is an open source threat.

Just as open source software threatens proprietary software. Just as open spectrum threatens the wireless monopolies. Just as network neutrality threatens the phone companies.

“Open source is not just a business model,” says he. “It’s not just a way to distribute software”.

It’s a political philosophy. And it’s going to roll over everyone and everything that stands in its way. Because it works. It grows the economy, it adds to knowledge, it distributes knowledge, and it makes those who use it more competitive.”

The case of blogs vs. journalism

One can cite commercial interests as the defining element separating amateurism from professionalism. Professional journalism is a commercialised entity that is required to make show profits.

 

 

It is a business and is run among business lines. In order to do this it must either attract very large audiences, or relatively affluent ones that are attractive to advertisers or willing to pay high cover prices.

 

 

It must minimise costs which means that newsgathering is generally formalised and run among bureaucratised lines.

 

Herman (2005) cites five conditions which information must fulfil before it becomes commercial news:

§         the size, ownership and profit orientation of news operations

§         the dominance of advertising

§         dependence on ‘official sources’

§         attempts at control and

§         ideological pressures.

Almost none of these pressures apply to blogs. Most journalism blogs are usually written by one person. This person’s primary aim is not to make a profit from their blogging. Advertising, if any exists, is usually sold through a third party such as Google AdSense, and the person is rarely dependent on the revenues generated from that.

But this state of affairs is changing:

“Increasingly blogs are motivated by money because successful blogging now takes more and more time. You have to write, design, answer emails, do SEO work, comment on other blogs, release ebooks etc. As a result the profit motive is slowly creeping in. Most bloggers are not willing to do this all for free. It will be interesting to see how blogs develop in the future,” writes John@ScibbleSheet on onlinejournalism.blog.com. The owner of the blog, Paul Bradshaw, agrees: “I think bloggers have been changing their work practices as they become more popular, and wish to improve what they do, and this means they have to seek ways of funding them to spend more time on it.”

 

What to do

How do traditional media face the blog challenge? By allowing for interaction.

 

 

Media companies must create an infrastructure which enables active participation and allows consumers to not only read the news but also share in it’s creation through citizen journalism or feedback on articles. This new form of connection between media and consumer is called ‘social media’ and the value to media companies is now the infrastructure, or social entity created to facilitate interaction, not the physical newspaper or news broadcast (Bowman & Willis, 2005)

The first step is to adopt a new business model. Riley (2005) suggests that this new model must create a way for the industry to produce quality journalism, with a profit, in the digital world. If journalism is to exist, as we know it, media enterprises must find a model that uses the internet to add value to their organization.

Riley (2006) illustrates some of the key principles (for newspapers) that must be adopted in shaping the future of online print. Although no one model will work for all companies, these guiding principles will help make the transition from print to online more beneficial. Riley suggests the following:

Adopt a new way of Thinking

There must be a switch from monologue type news to a more interactive conversation with their consumers. In traditional news, the control resided in the industry. With the introduction of Web 2.0 individuals now have a power to create and publish their own stories.

Don’t neglect one to the expense of the other

The transformation to online requires time and energy. This is therefore a good time to refresh the print side as well. The new business model that is to be adopted should include both online and offline. If the online presence is to have community news, then this should be emulated in print as well. This will create loyalty, and brand identity.

 

 

Be experimental

One advantage of the internet is that costs are relatively low. Therefore media can experiment and loose less if the experiment fails. The internet is about innovation and developing new strategies.

 

Managers need to realize that in order to remain profitable, they must transform their existing business model to one that incorporates new technologies and new revenue streams. Bowman and Willis (2005) point out that most managers of traditional media sources are not yet willing to except such principles, and this will lead to their demise.

 

In the traditional business model, value was created by the delivery of information. This can no longer be the way to think of value, and to survive, one must understand that the “value will come from creating an infrastructure for citizen participation and nurturing communities” (Bowman and Willis, 2005).

 

A sure way to create value is to use online news media, not simple as a copy of print (or so called shovelware) but as a complementary product to the original media source.

 

Organisations that simply put print online are not creating new value to consumers. By using online media as a complementary product, the organisation can create customer loyalty and assure brand recognition is being created both online and offline (Carlson, 2005).

 

Sambrook, the director of the BBC, states that value has been created, not by owning the news, but by “making connections with and between different audiences.” (Bowman & Willis, 2005).

 

 

 

Boynton (2000: 29) suggests there will be further blurring between the mediums but that online journalism will supplement traditional mediums rather than replace them.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Conclusion

Already print media are adding value to their existing offering in the form of additional lifestyle, sport, health, business and other supplements.

 

Most offer newsletters with news that broke after the print deadline. Others offer newsletters with breaking news. Many are finding ways to integrate the printed and electronic version. The mainstream South African media is well prepared for the challenges ahead.

 

In my view newspapers have adopted well to the “blogging” threat and are standing strong.

 

And finally here’s something to think about:

Brayden Simms wrote for The Miami Herald’s Heavy Thrifting, a column about saving money, when recently the newspaper decided to take a tip on saving money and laid him (and many other employees) off.

 

But what’s a little ironic is how The Miami Herald is actually paying him to blog … about how he’s been laid off by The Miami Herald!

 


 

Bibliography

http://www.danablankenhorn.com/2006/04/why_blogs_are_a.html

Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 24/06/08

http://www.eaves.ca.

Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 24/06/08

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/mar/21/blogisnotjournalism

Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 21/06/08

http://www.hypergene.net/blog/weblog.php?id=P327! – 49k

Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 20/06/08

http://www.miamiherald.com/136/story/579002.html

Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 22/06/08

http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports/03-3NRfall/68-70V57N3.pdf

Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 24/06/08

http://onlinejournalismblog.com/2007/10/24/blogs-and-investigative-journalism-draft-first-section/

Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 23/06/08

http://www.oxblog.com.

Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 20/06/08

http://reportr.net/2008/01/11/why-blogs-should-play-a-role-in-journalism/

Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 21/06/08

http://blogs.salon.com/0000014/2004/11/16.html#a772

Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 20/06/08

http://www.taylorowen.com

Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 20/06/08

http://www.thestar.com/article/241165

Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 20/06/08

http://www.wordyard.com

Retrieved from the World Wide Web on 21/06/08

 

References

Boynton, R. “New Media May Be Old Media’s Savior” Columbia Journalism Review, vol.39. 2000

Briggs, M. How to blog in Journalism 2.0. How to survive and thrive. 2007

Deuze, M. Understanding the impact of the internet: On new media professionalism, mindsets and buzzwords.

Fidler,Roger F. The death of newspapers and other myths. Paper presented at the Interactive Newspaper Conference, Houston. 1997

Gilmor,D. “The gates come down” in We The Media. 2004

Negroponte, Nicolas. Being Digital. Coronet Books, Hooder and Stoughton. 1995

Matheson, D. Weblogs and the epistemology of the news: Some trends in online journalism. 2004

Regan Tom. Weblogs Threaten and Inform Traditional Journalism. Nieman Reports. Fall 2003.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

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Class discussion on Interactivity

Class discussion on Interactivity

 

“Understanding interactivity and how it works is fundamental to understanding the likely success of internet services” 

 

When looking at interactivity though, it is important to find a definition for the term.

 

Rafaeli (1988: 111) defines interactivity as going beyond simple one-way ‘action’ or two-way ‘reaction’ that may not be truly responsive.  His definition is:

 

Interactivity is an expression of the extent that in a given series of communication exchanges, any third (or later) transmission (or message) is related to the degree to which previous exchanges referred to even earlier transmissions.

 

Rafaeli suggests a model with three levels of interactivity

 

  • two-way non-interactive communication
  • reactive or quasiinteractive communication
  • fully interactive communication

 

Kawamoto says interactivity is “the process of engaging active human or machine participation in the process of information seeking and information sharing” (2003: 4).

 

Chung (2008) says that interactivity allows the reader to become more involved in the news. Online news affords the reader more control and bigger choice – something that’s lacking in traditional media.

 

Chung then looks at the numerous definitions of interactivity:

 

Medium interactivity

Also known as user-to-system/document or content interactivity is interactive communication between users and technology that is based on the nature of the technology itself and what the technology allows users to do.

 

Human interactivity

Also known as user-to-user or interpersonal interactivity, on the other hand, is communication between two or more users that takes place through a communication channel.

 

Stromer-Galley (2007) considers human interactivity to be more interactive than medium interactivity.

 

Human interactivity is the difference between traditional news and online news in that the audience can participate through interpersonal communication.

 

Chung did a study on the use of interactivity that brought few surprises. People who are comfortable on the net, she found, are also the same people that are more inclined to participate on the net. They are the people that generally read more (including traditional media). One can also assume that they are more media savvy. In other words they are the people that participate, are more involved and more interested in their surroundings.

 

Although Chung’s study has some inherent flaws as pointed out by the author herself she finds that to deliver quality news reporting to build credibility of the news organization and subsequently encourage audiences to actively participate in the online news is of critical importance.

 

And although the study provides somewhat discouraging results to the initial enthusiasm about online news and the application of interactivity through the adoption of interactive features, news organisations that are sincerely interested in communicating with their news audiences should not discard their efforts in applying interactivity, she says.

 

David Domingo (2008) believes that the traditional training of journalists and the way they are used (or conditioned) to operate stand in their way of becoming truly interactive.

 

He believes interactivity to be the power of the user of a medium to control the communication flow or even alter the message sent by the producer.

 

And although journalists subscribe to the notion of interactivity the reality shows differently. This relates back to the traditional role of the journalist which many can’t seem to shake off or adapt to.

 

Practical realities in the newsroom also play a role. The online journalist’s first priority is to present to their readers the news as quickly as possible and with the restraint of limited resources often leave little time to actively engage with their readers.

 

Fact is that interactivity has become an integral part of online news. Readers aren’t content to be mere spectators anymore. They have become active participants that want their voices to be heard. As Chung points out quality journalism is crucial. In the internet age this rings even more true, where thousands of readers are quick to jump at any mistakes or to add their two cents worth.

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Interesting web news statistics

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Interactivity in the daily routines of online newsrooms

Interactivity in the daily routines of online newsrooms

Dealing with an uncomfortable myth

David Domingo calls online journalism a powerful myth with which journalists have to deal in their daily work.

He suggests that the professional one way traffic approach of journalists prevent them from developing the ideals of interactivity

Weblogs and citizen media sites have put forth the idea that the Internet will make journalism more dialogical, turning the audience into active collaborators of journalists’ news production work

There is however a difference between what online journalists view as interactivity and what the actual users of interactive features see as interactivity.

Interactivity, hypertext and multimedia were believed to bring about the changes the Internet will produce in journalism.

 

Interactivity –the power of the user of a medium to control the communication flow or even alter the message sent by the producer has always been the epicenter of online journalism myths.

 

The fact that the response of and interaction with the audience is the key element of the online news site could allow for a cultural change in journalism.

 

This brings us to filtering of the news. Some authors argue that the sheer amount of information available online actually make journalists more necessary than ever to filter what is relevant although their functions and their relationship to the audience might change quite dramatically.

 

The digital management of news makes it technically possible to filter content on the basis of the preferences of each user. This empowers users, who are able to customize the product and consume it in the way that best suits their needs.

 

Audience Feedback

The internet has brought about enhanced audience feedback.

The public availability of reporters’ email addresses on news websites, next

to their news stories, turns readers and viewers into commentators, critics and

collaborators. Even the old-fashioned letters to the editor have been sped up because they can now be submitted by email. The relationship between journalists and their audience can be richer, and for the first time reporters can systematically know what their audiences expect from them.

 

The public can now also be the eyes of the journalist, uncovering new hot topics and submitting first-hand accounts, photos and videos that can enhance a story.

 

A second development that could counter the effects of customization and news

aggregators is the promotion of citizens’ debate in online news sites, which bring to the public arena discussions that are often restricted to close family and friends.

 

Surveys of online journalists clearly show that they strongly adhere to the myth of

interactivity: Most believe that the future of online news production lies in interactivity and that building a stronger and interactive relationship with the public is the best way to do online journalism.

 

However, online news sites analyses show that the development of interactive

features defined in the online journalism myths is generally poor.

Users are however still regarded as a rather passive audience, consumers of the stories. In online newsrooms linked to traditional media companies, the strongest value for the online product was immediacy, publishing stories as quick as possible, and this fact strongly affected the development of interactivity.

 

Journalists in most cases embrace interactivity as a crucial feature of their work, but in practice Domingo’s study shows that the professional culture and the priority given to immediacy –  which fitted better the values and routines of traditional journalism – made them perceive audience participation as a problem to manage rather than a benefit for the news product,

 

The fact that interactivity is counterintuitive with the principles of traditional journalistic culture tended to diminish the willingness to explore audience participation.

 

The prevalence of traditional journalism culture and the representation

of the users as passive consumers or active producers had a strong influence in

shaping the strategies of the different online newsrooms. Journalists embedded in print or broadcast media companies were more inclined to stress immediacy over interactivity and define their users as consumers. Even though

the online-only portal was more eager to explore interactivity and understand their users as active netizens, the references to traditional journalistic norms were still very present.

 

The professional culture of journalism is still very prevalent and actually overshadows the strength and pervasiveness of the interactivity

myth.

 

Other factors also play a role: the small size of online teams made it impractical to deal with extensive participation opportunities as the priority in three of the four cases was publishing news stories as fast as possible;

the separation of news production routines and interactivity management routines in most of the cases minimized the radical potential of audience participation.

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Interactivity

Interactivity

 

This study looked at categories of interactivity, patterns of online newspaper readers’ uses of interactive features, and factors that predict the use of different types of interactive features.

 

Based on an online survey of 542 respondents, four categories of interactive features were identified. Findings show that interactive features are generally used infrequently, especially the features that facilitate human-to-human communication and the features that allow audiences to express their views.

 

Chang says that interactivity allows the reader to become more involved in the news. Online news affords the reader more control and bigger choice – something that’s lacking in traditional media.

 

Chang then looks at the numerous definitions of interactivity.

Medium interactivity, also known as user-to-system/ document or content interactivity is interactive communication between users and technology that is based on the nature of the technology itself and what the technology allows users to do.

 

Human interactivity, also known as user-to-user or interpersonal interactivity, on the other hand, is communication between two or more users that takes place through a communication channel.

 

Stromer-Galley considers human interactivity to be more interactive than medium interactivity.

 

Human interactivity is the difference between traditional news and online news in that the audience can participate through interpersonal communication.

 

Chang’s study brought little surprises. People who are comfortable on the net are also the ones that are more inclined to participate on the net. They are also the people that read more (traditional media). In other words they are the people that are more involved and more interested in their surroundings.

 

Although Chang’s study has some inherent flaws as pointed out by the author herself she finds that to deliver quality news reporting to build credibility of the news organization and subsequently encourage audiences to actively participate in the online news is of critical importance.

 

And although the study provides somewhat discouraging results to the initial enthusiasm about online news and the application of interactivity through the adoption of interactive features, news organisations that are sincerely interested in communicating with their news audiences should not discard their efforts in applying interactivity, she says.

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