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journalist and reader interaction in local british newspapers online initial case study data

Journalist and reader interaction in local British newspapers online: initial case study data

a desire to participate
A desire to participate

Bowman and Willis, 2003; Gillmor, 2006; Jarvis, 2006; Castells, 2007; Charman, 2007; Chung 2008; Hermida and Thurman 2008; Newman, 2009; Pew Internet & American Life Project 2010, Rusbridger, 2010


Crowd sourcing

User generated content

Citizen journalism




Collective intelligence


Mass self communication

Networked journalism

changing relationships
Changing relationships
  • How is Web 2.0 changing interaction?

Comments, social media, UGC

  • What is the type and value of reader participation?

Moral, ethical, political or community communication

  • How does Web 2.0 impact of journalists as gatekeepers?

Who sets the news agenda and breaks news

  • To what extend is journalism becoming a collaborative process under Web 2.0?

Citizen journalism and UGC


2 typical exemplar case studies:

Leicester Mercury: Citizen’s Eye

(Bournemouth) Daily Echo: Award winning social media

1. News room observation

2. Interview journalists

3. Survey of readers + interviews

4. Content analysis of comments and social media

reader survey
Reader survey
  • Set up online
  • Pilot at Liverpool Echo: 97 responses
  • Leicester Mercury: 176 responses
  • Daily Echo: 325 responses
  • 70% average completion rate
  • Entry points: website story / Twitter link (retweeted) / Facebook link
levels of interaction
Levels of interaction
  • LM: limited breaking news, some reader pics and video but only for major events, several Twitter accounts, growing input from Citizen’s Eye, comments
  • BE: constant breaking news, daily reader pics, live feeds, video and audio, multiple social media (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, Flickr, blogs), comments
respondents note
Respondents note
  • LM 38% of respondents don’t participate
  • BE 29% of respondents don’t participate

NB: Participating is anything other than viewing content/reading stories, for example commenting on stories, submitting photos, emailing journalists, sharing and linking stories. Actively getting involving in content.

survey similarities
Survey similarities
  • Male respondents 60%
  • 41-50 average age (31-60+ account for 80%)
  • £20,000 to £30,000 average salary
  • Visit website daily 88%
  • Switched from newspaper to online 50%
  • Why prefer website:

1. Convenient

2. Like interacting via comments and UGC

3. Free

similarities 2
Similarities 2
  • Most popular content:
  • 1. News and sport (45%)
  • 2. Multimedia (13%)
  • 3. Comments (LM 8% BE 11%)

Most popular reasons for participating:

  • Ability to have own say
  • Keeping more up to date
  • Interacting with other readers
  • For fun
survey differences
Survey differences
  • Other reasons for preferring website:

LM: I live out of the circulation area

BE: It has more up to date news / traffic reports

Rolling news is extremely important:

LM 30% agreed

BE: 40%

→ The Bournemouth Echo updates its website much more regularly than the Leicester Mercury

to moderate or not to moderate
To moderate or not to moderate
  • Single biggest issue for journalists and readers: evidenced by observation / survey / interviews
  • Legal uncertainty holding back publishers
  • Readers want:

- Less restrictions

  • But more moderation
  • And journalists to respond
let the comments battle commence
Let the (comments) battle commence

“It’s great so many people add their comments and it seems a really good place for debates on local issues to occur.”


“The majority of comments on the stories make it appear that the average reader of the Leicester Mercury has not completed primary education, yet has managed to obtain ridiculous world views that are normally racist, bigoted or a combination of the two.”

Leicester Mercury readers


“I think it is important to the journalists, local community and official figures involved or featured in stories to recieve 'live' feedback via these pages. Mainly in order to offer another perspective from the public view on stories or blogs. Occaisionally the newspaper would be quite empty, boring, repetitive and bland without this public interaction. It feeds the embers for the journalist to follow up on stories more important to the public at large.”

“Not yet commented (but may do), but feel the ability to comment and read comments of others is the strength of online newpapers”

“No - as I don't. I think the current participation detracts from the quality of the newspaper”

Bournemouth Echo readers

comments comparison
Comments comparison
  • LM 43% of readers comment (12% email journalists)
  • BE 50% of readers comment (22% email journalists)
  • Are comments valuable?

LM yes 24% no 31% maybe 1% (rest N/A)

BE yes 30% no 33% maybe 7%

some initial speculations
Some initial speculations
  • More interaction from journalists on more platforms = more reader participation in the form of:

1. Sharing news (LM 56% share content BE 61%)

2. Commenting on news / reading comments

3. Contacting journalists

interaction multiple platforms
Interaction / multiple platforms
  • Can more interaction = more online readers?

LM newspaper circulation 60,000 daily vs 300,000 unique users a month online

BE newspaper circulation 27,000 daily vs 350,000 unique users a month online

what it doesn t tell us
What it doesn’t tell us
  • Does BE have (relatively) more online readers because of its breaking news / interaction / multiple platforms – or combination of all three?
  • Does reader participation vary depending on whether interaction is with newspaper as a product or with a journalist personally?
  • How can comments be moderated appropriately to increase participation?
  • How do journalists feel about reader participation? ENDS.
extra survey differences 2
Extra: Survey differences 2
  • Viewing BE photo galleries on Flickr is second most popular after reading news (more popular than reading tweets or Facebook feeds)

→ But mostly viewed every month or so, rather than every day