You are here

Reader Engagement in De Correspondent and Krautreporter

The second paper in this news session at AoIR 2016 starts with Lena Knaudt and Renske Siebe, who begin by highlighting the transformation of journalism in the context of participatory and social media. How does journalism redefine itself as an institution in this environment; how do we understand news beyond the industrial paradigm?

There are three levels of de-industrialisation of journalism: the business model, the production process, and the journalistic paradigm; in terms of production, in particular, there is an opportunity to move away from deadline-driven, high-throughput journalism and towards 'slow journalism' that engages in considered news production and also involves the audience as co-producers. However, journalists' perceptions and experiences of such models are not usually very positive, with incivility noted as a particular problem, and they are therefore reluctant to engage.

The present study examines the Dutch De Correspondent and the German Krautreporter projects, in particular. These are projects specifically set up to involve users in journalistic practice; how do they work, and are they successful in meeting their ambitions? De Correspondent is the considerably more active site of the two, and also receives a significantly higher number of reader comments; however, the team examined a comparable number of articles and comments across both sites.

Of the articles, some 40% across each site actively invited reader input; some 30% of articles on Krautreporter but only 6% on De Correspondent were direct responses to reader comments. Comments are largely topically focussed, and rarely advance to a meta-level that is concerned with the quality of the discussion itself; this may be encouraging as it may point to a high level of discussion quality. There is also a strong level of reciprocity; some 58% of reader comments are engaging with previous comments, and for journalists that percentage rises to 96%.

Main functions of comments were critique and analysis (62%); questions and answers (14%); acknowledgments (9%); and factual information (5%). Readers are more active in analysis and critique; journalists are more active in acknowledgments. Across the two sites, the percentage distributions are very similar, except that the Krautreporter community is more active in providing information. There is also a substantial amount of backing up of statements with information in reader and especially in journalists' comments.

Overall this indicates high degrees of discussion quality; this is at odds with observations from mainstream news sites, and with the observations of mainstream journalists. This may point to the fact that these sites are quite successful at what they do.