Blogs

Beyond Clicks: Understanding News Browsing Patterns

Up next at ECREA 2014 is Tim Groot Komelink, who shifts our focus to the quantification of news usage practices through the news organisations' emerging online readership monitoring practices. This builds on services such a Google Analytics, and user monitoring of this kind has also led to the development of news content genres such as clickbait, and of 'news' operators specialising in such content.

Longitudinal Changes in News Consumption Patterns since 2004

The final session at ECREA 2014 today starts with Irene Costera Meijer, whose interest is in the changing patterns of news consumption – from consumption in fixed places and at fixed times through the customisation of news and the active contribution to the news to the foregrounding of the social experience of news. Research into these changes has largely been based on survey or diary research, or on Web metrics.

How may be able to further examine such changes over a longer period of time, though? The project engaged in a ten-year programme of multi-mode investigations that focussed on exploring actual news use practices rather than on encouraging respondents to offer their opinions only.

Twitter Rumours at the 'Pre-News' Phase

The final speaker in this ECREA 2014 session is Scott Eldridge, whose interest is in the role of rumour and gossip as 'pre-news'. Rumour is institutionally unfounded, and is not part of the discourse of journalistic products – but it is a kind of reality-testing especially when insufficient verified facts are available.

Rumour is the intervention of the unauthorised voice within the flow of information, then. It is a perishable commodity, and historically the development of formal news reporting is a process of sequestering rumour to a handful of defined categories (letters to the editor, comments, vox pops) that are clearly distinct from 'proper' news.

Celebrity Tweets as a Way of Managing News Coverage

The next presenter at ECREA 2014 is Marcel Broersma, who begins by flagging Robbie Williams's recent livetweeting of the birth of his child: such tweets were also used widely by the mainstream news media, of course. This demonstrates the emerging role of Twitter as a newsbeat for journalists, who now frequently quote from tweets in their articles.

This is especially prominent for celebrity tweets, and in a sense empowers these celebrities to manage their public personae without losing control of their privates lives. For journalists and news organisations this is interesting as celebrit sells papers, but it also changes the journalist/source relationship.

Social Media as Newsbeats in the Czech Republic

The next speakers at ECREA 2014 are Vadim Hladík and Vaclav Štetka, whose interest is in the intersections of social media and journalism in the Czech Republic. What has emerged is a hybrid media system, impacting on organisational setups and routines; on the use of social media as sources (with distinct patterns during breaking news and everyday routine, respectively); and on intermedia agenda-setting processes.

Twitter, for example, has become a kind of newsbeat for journalism: a rich and easy resource for news content, and a tool that allows sources to maintain better control of their messages, as tweets are usually quoted in full. But current research focusses mainly on Western contexts, and on Twitter; the present study therefore explores social media more broadly for the Czech context.

Twitter-Based Interactions between Norwegian Journalists and Politicians

The next ECREA 2014 speaker is my Norwegian project partner Eli Skogerbø, whose interest is in the connections between journalists and politicians on Twitter. How do journalists connect with politicians on Twitter; how do politicians respond to being approached on Twitter?

The project focussed especially on the timeframe around the 2013 Norwegian election. During this time, journalists' activities varied widely; one political journalist was very highly active (producing some 9,000 tweets over the course of one year), while the average level of Twitter activity across journalists was a great deal lower.

Glimpsing the Social Life of News

The next ECREA 2014 session begins with Henrik Bødker, whose interest is in the sharing of news via social media. This is a process of social filtering, which has been seen variously as a positive filtering for relevance or a negative creation of filter bubbles. At any rate, such filtering happens through news talk or informal commentary, and this sharing is an integral part of making meaning from the news as it has happened through other interpersonal communication modes for a long time.

Such practices are pointing out worthwhile stories to read, and in doing so already suggest frames through which the texts should be read; often. More explicit comments are being added as well. This is a hybrid process between the oral and the textual, then (an immediate (oral-style) response to things that takes place in textual form), both informal and formal, both immediate and stored, crossing through various social spheres, and both vernacular and integrated into the communication all landscape of journalism.

Framing the Big Data Debate

The final speaker in this session at ECREA 2014 is Christian Pentzold, whose focus is on the discussions around the 2013 affair about the use of protesters' mobile phone data by police in Saxony. There is a discursive social construction of the term 'big data', and different frames of big data have emerged so far.

Transmedia discourse is combining a number of different conceptualisations, and this enables a number of different analytical perspectives and approaches; the speed of the dynamic reconfiguration of these different modes also affects how analysis may proceed.

Civilising the Discourse about Big Data

The next speaker at ECREA 2014 is Frederic Guerrero-Solé, whose focus is on big data on Twitter. Few people know at this point what 'big data' actually means; what discourse about big data are we constructing here? So is big data just a marketing concept? The uses of big data in social networks have largely shaped our understanding of the big data concept; is there therefore a common discourse about big data at least in a social network such as Twitter?

Frederic's project gathered some 400,000 tweets mentioning the term big data or the hashtag #bigdata, and explored the influence of users contained in that dataset; economic and technological newspapers and magazines emerged as the leading users from this, alongside leading hardware and software companies, and terms such as analytics or analysis were most common – the key theme now appears to be about how big data may help companies predict their markets. At the same time, a discussion of privacy issues and threats also emerged, but at a much lower level of volume.

The Emergence of Data Activism

The next speaker at ECREA 2014 is Stefania Milan, who begins by noting the social media response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, using Ushahidi Maps as a key tool for mapping the local situation. This is a positive example of how civil society can put big data to good use: what forms of massive data collection are possible here, and how can they be used for good?

There has been an industrial revolution of data, but citizens face a paradox, as moral codes are not yet aligned with social practices. Big data may mean big control, but also more opportunities; we need data activism to mobilise a critical stance towards massive data collection, emerging perhaps from hacker movements but also involving ordinary users, and enabled but also constrained by software capabilities.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - blogs