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Online News Commentary Patterns in Sweden

The next presenters in this ECREA 2014 session are Susanne Almgren and Tobias Olsson, who continue the theme of user comments on online news. Digital media offer new forms of co-existence between producers and users; indeed, there is a new media ecology of participation emerging.

User-generated content has always played a part even in traditional media, of course, in the form of letters to the editor or telephone call-ins. The current environment simply makes such harnessing of user-generated content a great deal easier. Online newspapers are a particularly interesting case for this, given their long institutional history.

What is necessary here is to bring together two strands of research: the conditions of participation, and the participatory preferences of users. There remains a process of gatekeeping of user comments, and this process plays out differently across different news categories: in particular, comments on accidents and crime are more frequently filtered, for legal reasons. Similarly, users prefer to comment on specific areas of the news over others; sport and entertainment are especially important here.

How often participatory features are made available in each site will also differ, and how often users take up such offers differs for a number of reasons; there are distinctions in Sweden for example between regional and national newspapers, which regional papers seeing more user engagement. The availability and take-up of Facebook and Twitter sharing features reverses this trend, however: here, national newpaper items are shared much more often.

Further research is necessary to explore these patterns, but some very interesting observations are emerging from this.