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Communication Dans Un Congrès Année : 2012

Diversity or Repertoire: a study of audience's 360° News Experience


News industries and public spheres are undergoing dramatic changes as digital distribution and social media transfer considerable power to the users and enhance opportunities for asynchronous mass delivery. Today, audiences get news from a variety of media platforms (both old and new) for a multitude of purposes. Some users go to a popular news portal (Yahoo, Google News) and follow the Web site recommendations to retrieve information. Others rely on mainstream sources like CNN, The New York Times, and BBC to get their news. Others (or the same people who read news on The New York Times) use social media, politically extreme groups' blogs and other independent sources to seek political content. Simply put, news consumers are facing the information tide today (Graber, 1984) and become their own "gatekeepers" in a content-abundant environment. Will the increased selective exposure lead to "echo chambers" in which people only use the news content and sources that support their opinions (Garrett, 2009; Sunstein, 2001)? Or will digital distributions and social media displace traditional news sources and bring diversity to the information flow? Given the crucial role of news consumption in shaping the future of deliberative democracy, it is important to study how individuals make their news decision across various sources and platforms. Many suggest that newer media tend to provide substitutes or act as "functional alternatives" to existing media products (e.g., Chyi, et al., 2010; Ferguson & Perse, 2000). Nonetheless, with the growing prevalence of connected viewing and multidimensional media use, individuals increasingly use media simultaneously, may use one delivery platform as a "jumping off point" for another one, and may otherwise use different sources for reasons that functionally have little or no connection to each other (Cooper & Tang, 2011). In terms of news use, researchers suggested two patterns: seek different sources for different types of news; and use various platforms for overlapping information (Chaffee, 1986; Yuan, 2011). As news consumption continues to change in form, content, and substance, scholars need to increasingly employ a broad, often divergent, range of theories and methods to explain phenomena across media platforms. Two primary, though conflicting, theoretical perspectives - active audience and structural theories - have guided explanations of how and why people make their news selection. The first emphasizes individual reasons (e.g., motivations, content preferences and cognitive needs) for news consumption (Diddi & LaRose, 2006; Vishwannath, 2008). The second focuses on how structural features (e.g., availability, access and media structures) influence audience media use (Cooper & Tang, 2009; Webster & Newton, 1988). Each approach provides important insights about news consumption, but typically ignores key aspects that would provide more complete explanations of media choices. Thus, integrated efforts are needed to understand how consumers decide what news sources/content they use (or ignore) in today's dynamic environments. Rooted in two primary, though conflicting, theoretical traditions in media choice research and informed by previous studies on news selection, this research aims to seek empirical integration of active-audience and structural theories to best explain individual's news choices across media platforms and examines the relationships between audience's 360° news experience and the new public sphere. Researchers suggest "focus groups work particularly well to determine the perceptions, feelings and thinking of people about issues, products, services, or opportunities" (Krueger & Casey, 2000, p. 12). Thus, four in-depth focus group interviews were conducted. Each focus group contained 6 to 12 participants and lasted approximately an hour. Questions related to news preferences, criteria for news selection, access to technologies, media structures, multiplatform news experience, and the free flow of information were discussed. Consistent with previous studies (e.g., Chyi, et al., 2010; Sundar, 1999), this research found that audiences applied very similar criteria (e.g., quality, interest, credibility) when selecting news from both traditional and new media sources. Individual news preferences, cognitive needs, and perceptions had a direct influence on the types of news content and sources people selected. In addition, there was a strong connection between "access" and "use". Both intentional decisions on adopting (or not adopting) a medium/delivery system and the affordability of a technology/service influenced news use. Moreover, this study found that although audiences sought news through old and new, mainstream and niche platforms, they used a fixed set of news sources. The internal structures, such as habits and self-constraints, played an important role in influencing the types and sources of news that individuals used, and constrained the diversity of the information flow. With overwhelming amount of information, news consumption could become an automatic routine. Findings also provide new perspectives on the relationship between news consumption and the emergence of new public spheres. While the 360° news experience undoubtedly provides audiences the diversity never before seen, the easily "accessible" content and sources are still tied to traditional and mainstream media. The diversity and free flow of information still are more of a scholar's wish than a demonstrable fact. Nonetheless, the multidimensional news access did shift some readers' attention to niche sources (e.g., journalists' blogs, political forums, out-of-market newspaper sites), thus bringing new/alternative voices to the consensual public information dialogue. In addition, many users share, comment, rank news stories, and directly or indirectly communicate with other news consumers and news organizations. These activities could reduce the agenda setting from corporations and encourage citizens' participation in reproducing the public sphere. Overall, this research represents one of the initial attempts that seek empirical integration of active-audience and structural theories to best explain audience's 360° news experience. By focusing on multiple-source news selection, this study suggests that scholars need to increasingly consider news content, uses and effects across platforms rather than to isolate concepts/research to a single medium. In addition, in a world where time is limited and information is overloaded, news selection could be an automatic process. Thus, it is important to draw a distinction between content availability and content consumption when accessing the new public sphere. This study is a step in this direction and should encourage future inquiry.
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Dates et versions

hal-00840611 , version 1 (02-07-2013)


  • HAL Id : hal-00840611 , version 1


Tang Tang, Meghan Peirce. Diversity or Repertoire: a study of audience's 360° News Experience. Communiquer dans un monde de normes. L'information et la communication dans les enjeux contemporains de la " mondialisation "., Mar 2012, France. ⟨hal-00840611⟩


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