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Uses and Gratifications of Online Newspapers: A Preliminary Study
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The Electronic Journal of Communication / La Revue Electronique de Communication
***** MINGS ******* EJC/REC Vol. 7, No. 3, 1997 ************



USES AND GRATIFICATIONS OF ONLINE NEWSPAPERS:
A PRELIMINARY STUDY


Susan M. Mings
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


        Abstract.  This paper reports preliminary
     findings of a quasi-experimental study seeking to
     explore the phenomenon of online newspapers from
     the standpoint of their audience.  The study is
     grounded in the audience-centered theoretical
     tradition of media uses and gratifications.  This
     paper first reviews literature discussing
     challenges currently confronting printed
     newspapers, and claims about how moving newspapers
     online may help them face these challenges.
     Central tenets of uses and gratifications theory
     of media consumption are then summarized.
     Proceeding from a uses-and-gratifications
     theoretical framework, research questions and
     hypotheses pertaining to audience motivations for
     reading online newspapers are presented.

        Next, preliminary results from a pilot study
     exploring these research questions and hypotheses
     are presented.  Pilot study data was gathered via
     survey, interview, and behavioral measurements.
     Behavioral data consisted of participants viewing
     both "traditional" online papers (such as _USA
     Today_ on the Web) and "personalized" online
     papers (such as the Crayon Web service), and
     simultaneously conducting think-aloud protocols.
     These activities were audio- and videotaped.

        Questionnaire and videotape data of 15
     participants has been analyzed for indications of
     correlations among print, online, and personalized
     online newspaper uses and gratifications.  These
     correlation analyses are presented here.
     Significant differences between how participants
     view traditional online versus personalized online
     newspapers are also presented.  Implications of
     findings from the pilot study are discussed.
     Finally, plans for the post-pilot online newspaper
     study are mentioned.


                        Introduction

     In the last twenty-five to fifty years, print
newspapers, "arguably the archetype" and "prototype" of all
modern mass media (McQuail, 1994, p. 267; citing Tunstall,
1977, p. 23), have been slipping from their prominent place
in American lifestyles.  This decline, as measured by a
number of different indicators, has been dramatic.  Leo
Bogart (1989) charts a years-long, steady downward curve of
readership in terms of reader frequency, multi-paper
readers, and household penetration.

     In terms of circulation, Denton (1993) notes that the
"number of newspapers per home per day" declined from "1.3
...just after W.W.II to less than 0.7 ... in 1990" (p. 5).
Hume notes that "the total daily circulation of newspapers
declined from 62.3 million in 1990 to 60.7 million in 1991"
(p. 9), and that "more than 150 dailies have folded in the
past 25 years" (p. 10; citing Kurtz, 1993, p. 315).

     Similarly, Lain (1986) states that "newspaper editors
and publishers have been aware for some years that their
audience, if not actually slipping, is not keeping pace with
the growth of the population" (p. 69).  Katz (1994) writes
that "for millions of Americans, especially young ones,
newspapers have never played a significant role" (p. 50),
and that this is but one aspect of the larger problem, that
"newspapers have been foundering for decades, their readers
aging, their revenues declining, their circulation sinking"
(p. 50).

     Rising costs of producing and distributing a paper
compound print newspapers' problems (Garneau, 1994, p. 26;
citing Roger Fidler).  The price of newsprint has tripled in
the past twenty-five years (Bogart, 1989, p. 28).
Distribution of newsprint papers has become increasingly
complex (Dalglish, 1992; Smith, 1980).

     Adding to the problems of circulation declines and
rising costs, newspaper advertisers, a large source of
newspaper revenue, have been pulling their business from
papers to invest in advertising strategies with more focused
and/or total penetration possibilities, like direct mail or
distributing to shoppers (Bogart, 1989).  Kurtz (1993) notes
a decrease in newspaper advertising revenue in the early
1990s.  Glaberson (1993), also explaining a loss of
advertising revenue in the 1990s, ascribes much of the
reason to "the growth of new advertising vehicles like cable
[TV] and direct mail" (p.  D10).  Dalglish (1992) identifies
"competition from other ... advertising media" (p. 34) as a
significant problem for daily papers in the 1990s.

             Hopes for Moving Newspapers Online

     With the increasing popularity of the World Wide Web as
a consumer-oriented mass medium (December, 1997, pp. 11-12),
one strategy for addressing print newspapers' problems has
been to move the genre online.  This movement proceeds at a
dizzying pace.  Outing (1996, "Hold on (line) tight"; 1996,
"Newspapers online") notes that 100 commercial newspapers
existed online, worldwide, at the beginning of 1995, a
number that grew to 750 by the beginning of 1996, to 1,115
by May 1996, and to 1,587 by December, 1996.

     In August 1997 the number is estimated at 1733.  For
the most current statistics regarding online newspaper
count, see the list started by Outing and now maintained
by _Editor and Publisher_ at URL
(http://www.mediainfo.com/ephome/npaper/nphtm/stats.htm.)
Outing also quotes "Editor & Publisher's Vice President of
New Media, Martin Radelfinger, [as saying that] his staff
[receives] notice of 5-10 new online ventures involving
newspaper companies each day" (1996, "Newspapers online").

     Moving newspapers online is seen as a strategic move to
both retain and expand a base audience of print newspaper
readers (see, particularly, Erlindson, 1995; Dalglish, 1992;
Denton, 1993; Fulton, 1996; Garneau, 1996; and Peterson,
1996).  Rationales for this strategy, based on assumptions
about the audience, are outlined below.

     First, moving newspapers online might recapture young
readers, who have fallen away from the habit of reading
hard-copy papers (Bogart, 1989; Denton, 1993; Katz, 1994;
Thurlow & Milo, 1993), and yet may be attracted to online
services.  Dalglish (1992) notes that younger readers "have
grown up with computers and video games" (p. 34); perhaps
they'll grow into the newspaper habit, online.  Erlindson
(1995) observes that "Online newspapers are the newspapers
[sic] way of reaching at a younger audience" ("The Push
Factor" section).

     Second, moving newspapers online facilitates immense
archival capabilities, and these archives, along with tools
for quickly and conveniently searching and retrieving from
them, are assumed to be attractive to the online audience
(Cracknell, 1995; Hume, 1995; McAdams, 1995).

     Also, moving newspaper production and distribution
online is promised to eliminate, or at least alleviate, much
of the cost associated with newsprint production and
distribution (Dalglish, 1992; Cracknell, 1995).  Erlindson
(1995) notes that "Electronic publishing is a marriage
between low manufacturing costs and an expanding consumer
market" (1995, "The Push Factor" section).

     Moving newspapers online also removes traditional space
restrictions, allowing for greater in-depth coverage of
items of reader interest.  Lapham (1995) notes that "using
the hypertext capabilities of the Web totally eliminates the
proverbial 'news hole'[1] and opens up an unlimited amount
of 'space' for presenting the news product" ("The Creation
of a New Hybrid Model" section).  Erlindson (1995) explains
that "since online newspapers are not limited by space,
background information can be more extensive" ("Elements"
section).  McAdams (1995), in her informative history of the
development of Digital Ink, the Washington Post's online
service, explains that Digital Ink was able to "[expand the
Washington Post's] local coverage, for each suburb or
region, because there [was] more space [online, in Digital
Ink]" (Section 4, "Translating the Newspaper").  Fulton
(1996) and Paul (1995) discuss the advantages of this
increased space in terms of "annotative journalism"; that
is, the functionality of providing links from an online
newspaper story to supplemental information, such as entire
transcripts, or audio recordings, of speeches (Paul, 1995,
"This new technology is hyper-text, but the old product is
linear" section).  Again, in touting this feature of online
newspapers, the assumption is made that the audience desires
expanded information.

     Gildner (1994) describes the timeliness of online news,
and the consumers' ability to personalize it, as additional
desirable elements of online newspapers.  Erlindson (1995)
notes that "Online newspapers ... can provide the news
instantaneously.  There is no waiting period for a press
deadline or an afternoon edition.  Stories can be updated as
they happen" ("Elements" section).  Fulton (1996), too,
notes that "immediacy is one of the new medium's advantages"
("What's really new about this new medium?" section).
Fulton points out that weekly magazines like _Time_ can now
have daily updates, and daily papers like _USA Today_ can
update several times a day.  Touting these features of
online news incorporates assumptions that the online
audience wants immediate, personalized news.

     One last characteristic of online news assumed to be of
value to its audience is interactivity.  Many commentators
note that moving newspapers online allows readers, writers,
and publishers to interact more directly than ever before.
Fulton (1996) defines this interactivity as "facilitating
discussions or figuring out how to involve audiences
meaningfully in gathering information," or even in "actively
help[ing] readers create their own content" ("If this is a
new medium no one yet understands, shouldn't journalists
focus on preserving traditions and values?" section).  Hume
(1995) defines online interactivity similarly, saying that
this feature can allow the audience to collaborate in
newsmaking (p. 24).  Hume also predicts that successful
online papers will be those that allow for "talk back"
features, allowing the audience to voice their opinions of
newspaper coverage.

     Claims about the advantages of moving newspapers online
are grounded in assumptions about the online audience.
However, for such claims to be valid -- and any related
hopes for newspapers' economic viability to be realized --
an understanding of the audience is necessary.  Such an
understanding would encompass what that audience looks for
in an online paper, and what they do with what they find.

        A Theoretical Framework for the Exploration

     One way to develop an understanding of online audience
motivations is to start with an appropriate theoretical
framework.  Some commentators have called for a theoretical
grounding in new media studies (see Williams, Rice, and
Rogers, 1988, Chapter 11).  Specifically, Williams et al.
(1988) suggest the mass media theory of uses and
gratifications as holding particular promise for the study
of new communication technologies like "video cassette or
disk, cable television, new telephone services, home
computers, [and] videotext or teletext services" (p. 241).
Palmgreen (1984), too, in a comprehensive review of uses and
gratifications theory and research, issues the challenge to
explore "the adaptation and molding" of the uses and
gratifications "conceptual framework" to "deal with new
communication technologies" (p. 49).  As many of the
forecasts about online newspapers (outlined above) are based
on assumptions about their audience's uses and
gratifications, it does seem that uses and gratifications
theory might be a suitable framework for testing (or at any
rate, exploring) these assumptions.

     Further, uses and gratifications theory incorporates
both the online and the newspaper characteristics of online
newspapers.  Print newspapers are traditionally considered
to be mass media (see Katz et al., 1974; Palmgreen et al.,
1985; Smith, 1980; Stephens, 1988; Wenner, 1985; and
Williams et al., 1988).  The Internet, too, has been
categorized as a mass medium.  Lapham (1995) places her
discussion of online newspapers in a consideration of mass
media theorist Marshall McLuhan, among others.  Levinson
(1990) classifies electronic as mass media in his definition
of "mass" media as media enabling an exponential increase in
audience numbers.  Morris and Ogan (1996) propose
consideration of all Internet-based communications in a mass
media framework.  Hume (1995), McAdams (1995) and Fulton
(1996) discuss online newspapers, particularly, as a mass
communication medium (currently in flux).

     In addition to being historically applied to mass media
study, and thus applicable to considerations of both
newspapers and online media, uses and gratifications is a
receiver-based communication theory.  Evans (1990) defines
uses and gratifications as a framework in which "audience
... gratification [is] primary," and "media consumers [are]
seen as rational agents whose various uses of media
offerings depend upon how these offerings serve various
social-psychological functions" (p. 151).  Levy and Windahl
(1984) note that uses and gratifications is a
"receiver-oriented concept," supposing an "active audience"
(p. 51).  Katz's (1959) seminal discussion of the tradition
states concisely that, in a uses and gratifications
framework, the question is not "_What do the media do to
people?_", but rather, "_What do people do with the media?_"
(p. 2, emphasis in original).

     In fact, almost any consideration of media from a uses
and gratifications standpoint explicitly asserts as its
central maxim the idea of an active, rational, goal-seeking
audience.  (See also Evans, 1990; Loges and Ball-Rokeach,
1993; McQuail, 1984; O'Keefe and Sulanowski, 1995; Orlik,
1994; Palmgreen, 1984; Rosengren, 1974; Rubin and Rubin,
1985; Rubin & Windahl, 1986; Swanson and Babrow, 1989; and
Windahl, 1981.)  Katz, Blumler, and Gurevitch (1974) give an
oft-cited, classic seven-point precis of the uses and
gratifications tradition.  They define uses and
gratifications studies as "concerned with (1) the social and
psychological origins of (2) needs, which generate (3)
expectations of (4) the mass media or other sources, which
lead to (5) differential patterns of media exposure (or
engagement in other activities), resulting in (6) need
gratifications and (7) other consequences, perhaps mostly
unintended ones" (p. 20).

     Related to this central assumption of an active,
goal-driven audience is the assumption that the audience
selects from and uses various media and non-media
"functional alternatives."  Functional alternatives provide
audience members with alternate means of achieving the same
ends (fulfilling needs or gaining gratifications) (Katz,
Gurevitch, and Haas, 1974; Rubin and Rubin, 1985; Rubin and
Windahl, 1986).

     Methodologically, uses and gratifications research
assumes that audience members are self-aware enough to
report on their personal motivations for using media
(Babrow, 1988; Galloway and Meek, 1981; Katz, Blumler, and
Gurevitch, 1974; Katz, Gurevitch, and Haas, 1973).  Most
uses and gratifications studies, with their reliance on
surveys and self-reporting as data-gathering techniques,
accept the validity of this assumption.  A reliance on
empirical research design, and multivariate statistical
analysis and techniques, are also central in the uses and
gratifications tradition (Evans, 1990; Palmgreen, 1984;
Palmgreen, Wenner, and Rosengren, 1985).

     One final tenet of the uses and gratifications
tradition is the belief that "value judgments about the
cultural significance of mass communication should [or at
least can] be suspended while audience orientations are
explored on their own terms" (Katz, Blumler, and Gurevitch,
1974, p. 22).  Uses and gratifications research, then,
sometimes suspends value judgments about cultural
implications of media use in order to explore audience
activity on its own terms.

     Uses and gratifications research has been subject to
criticism for some of its assumptions.  First, the tradition
has been criticized for a "tunnel vision" focused so
exclusively on the audience's actual mediated communication
experience that other substantial concerns (like the
cultural significance of the exchange, or the long-term
effects on the audience) have been ignored.  (See, for
example, Elliott, 1974; Swanson, 1977; and Rubin and
Windahl, 1986.)

     In his comprehensive review of the tradition, Palmgreen
(1984) recalls Katz et al.'s (1974) classic definition of
uses and gratifications as a defense against the charge of
tunnel vision.  Palmgreen points out that, though individual
items in Katz et al.'s seven-point prE9cis have been given
more or less attention, none have been completely neglected.

     Palmgreen also defends the tradition against criticisms
that it is "atheoretical."  (See, again, Elliott, 1974, and
Swanson, 1977.)  Though such charges may have once had
merit, Palmgreen asserts that by the mid-1980s they would be
"difficult to defend" (p. 20).  For, according to Palmgreen,
by 1984 uses and gratifications research is in a late phase,
one of "theory development," which "is concentrated on
attempts to provide explanations of the ways in which
audience motives, expectations, and media behaviors are
interconnected" (p. 20).[2]

     In particular, Palmgreen (1984) identifies six main
strands of research evident in uses and gratifications
studies, and proposes a theoretical model that integrates
all of them.  These six research strands are:  "(1)
gratifications and media consumption; (2) social and
psychological orientations of gratifications; (3)
gratifications and media effects; (4) gratifications sought
and obtained; (5) expectancy-value approaches to uses and
gratifications; and (6) audience activity" (p. 21).  Of
particular interest to the pilot study reported below is the
fourth research strand Palmgreen identifies:  a
consideration of gratifications sought and obtained.[3]

     The pilot study reported below has drawn from the
research areas reviewed (newspaper readership, online
newspapers, and uses and gratifications) to explore
"newspaper" use in a new online medium.  The study is based
on the uses and gratifications assumption of an active,
goal-seeking audience selecting from various news media in
order to achieve desired gratifications.  The focus of this
research is to investigate the activity of online newspaper
viewing in the theoretical framework of media uses and
gratifications.

              The Online Newspaper Pilot Study

     This paper presents preliminary results of a study
examining online newspaper audience activity.  The overall
research plan is described, and results from the pilot phase
of the study are given.  By means of triangulating survey,
interview, and behavioral data, this study attempts to
illuminate what kinds of gratifications viewers turn to
online newspapers for, and what uses they make of those
papers.  Specifically, the research questions driving this
investigation are as follows:

     RQ1:  What gratifications traditionally sought and
obtained from print newspapers are sought and obtained from
"traditional" papers that have gone online (such as The New
York Times on the Web, or the San Jose Mercury News Mercury
Center)?

     RQ2:  What gratifications traditionally sought and
obtained from print newspapers are sought and obtained from
"personalized" newspapers available online (such as Create
Your Own Newspaper [Crayon] or Individual, Inc.'s Personal
News Page)?[4]

     These research questions translate to the following
research hypotheses:

     H1:  Audience members' gratifications sought and
obtained from print newspapers will show correlations with
audience members' gratifications sought from online
newspapers.  Specifically,

     H1a:  Print newspaper Gratifications Sought (PGS) will
correlate with Online newspaper Gratifications Sought (OGS).

     H1b:  Print newspaper Gratifications Obtained (PGO)
will correlate with Online newspaper Gratifications Sought
(OGS).

     Measures for testing H1 were gathered by means of
participant surveys (as described below).[5]

     H2:  Audience members' gratifications sought and
obtained from print newspapers will show correlations with
their uses of online newspapers.  Specifically,

     H2a:  Print newspaper Gratifications Sought (PGS) (as
indicated by survey data) will correlate with audience uses
of online traditional newspapers (as indicated by behavioral
data).

     H2b:  Print newspaper Gratifications Sought (PGS) (as
indicated by survey data) will correlate with audience uses
of online personalized newspapers (as indicated by
behavioral data).

     H2c:  Print newspaper Gratifications Obtained (PGO) (as
indicated by survey data) will correlate with audience uses
of online traditional newspapers (as indicated by behavioral
data).

     H2d:  Print newspaper Gratifications Obtained (PGO) (as
indicated by survey data) will correlate with audience uses
of online personalized newspapers (as indicated by
behavioral data).

     Finally,

     H3:  Audience members' gratifications sought and
obtained from online newspapers will show correlations with
their uses of online newspapers.  Specifically,

     H3a:  Online newspaper Gratifications Sought (OGS) (as
indicated by survey data) will correlate with audience uses
of online traditional newspapers (as indicated by behavioral
data).

     H3b:  Online newspaper Gratifications Sought (OGS) (as
indicated by survey data) will correlate with audience uses
of online personalized newspapers (as indicated by
behavioral data).[6]

     Measures for testing H2 and H3 were gathered by means
of participant surveys and recordings of participant
behavior (as described below).

                          Methods

     In an initial attempt to test these hypotheses, a pilot
study was conducted in which an undergraduate "Writing to
the World Wide Web" class at a Northeastern U.S. university
was introduced to both online traditional newspapers and to
the online personalized news service Crayon (Create Your Own
Newspaper).  At the beginning of the class period in which
the students explored these online news services, they
responded to electronic surveys requesting demographic data
and information about their opinions about and uses of print
newspapers.  These surveys were constructed from material
available in previous newspaper readership, and uses and
gratifications, research.[7] At the end of the class period,
students completed electronic questionnaires about what
gratifications they might now (with some experience) seek
from online newspapers.  These questionnaires, too, were
compilations and modifications of surveys available in
previous newspaper, electronic media, and uses and
gratifications research.

     Two weeks after this class period, students were
invited to participate in an individualized online newspaper
activity.  Those who chose to participate, a total of
fifteen students, were scheduled for roughly a half-hour's
activity at a networked Pentium PC in a faculty member's
office.  Demographics of this sample were as follows:  They
ranged in age from 15 to 37 years old, with a mean age of
22.6 years.  Six identified themselves as Asians; seven as
Caucasian; one as Hispanic; and one as Other.  (No one
marked African American or Native American.)  Twelve were
male; three female.  Four reported family (annual) income as
less than $24,999; two reported family income of $25,000 -
49,999; five reported family income of $50,000 - $75,000;
three reported family income of greater than $75,000; and
one participant did not report family income.  Education
levels ranged from four current high-school students, to two
high school graduates, to eight current college students, to
one person with some graduate school education.  (Some of
the current college students were returning students.)

     In terms of print newspaper reading practices, six
participants responded that they'd read a print newspaper
the day before; nine had not.  Two participants reported
never reading print newspapers; seven respondents reported
reading print papers 1-3 days per week; three respondents
reported reading print papers 4-6 days per week; and three
respondents reported reading print papers every day.
Participants' mean time for reading a daily print paper was
23.71 minutes; for reading a Sunday print paper, 38.2
minutes.  Seven respondents had access to print papers via a
household subscription; one respondent subscribed
individually; four respondents reported usually buying
single issues at a newsstand or store; one respondent
reported usually reading papers received for free (the
college paper, or a paper purchased by someone else); and
two respondents did not report their primary access to a
print paper.

     These demographics are, in some respects, not
particularly representative.  The sample is, however, useful
and appropriate for a pilot study.  Moreover, many of the
characteristics represented here are precisely those that
online newspapers find attractive in a potential audience,
including proportionately high incomes and low ages.
(Again, see, particularly, Dalglish, 1992; Erlindson, 1995;
and Katz, 1994.)  The predominantly male makeup of this
sample reflects the predominantly male makeup (roughly 2/3)
of the current Internet audience.[8]

     Modifications are planned to increase both the size and
representativeness of the sample in the online newspaper
study.  And, though the sample size is relatively small,
participants in the pilot study are representative of a
range of print paper-reading practices.  Thus, information
from the pilot, and the follow-up online newspaper study,
may illuminate motivations of both non-print newspaper
readers, and those who read print newspapers with varying
frequencies (both groups that online newspapers endeavor to
attract).  The online newspaper activity was structured as
follows:  First, the participant was given an orientation to
the activity, and asked for their consent to participate in
the study, and to be video- and audio-taped.  If the
participant gave consent, video and audio recording
equipment was started, and the participant began the (up to)
twenty-minute activity of viewing an online traditional
newspaper.  Participants were given a selection of two local
and two national online newspapers.  If participants
preferred, they could select any other World Wide Web
(WWW)-based newspaper.  As the participant engaged in the
viewing activity, the video recorder captured every screen
movement.  The audio recorder captured the participant's
think-aloud protocol (a concept participants were introduced
to, and practiced, in their Writing to the WWW course).
After twenty minutes (or when the participant decided to
stop, if sooner), the participant answered an interviewer's
questions about the activity.

     After another brief orientation, participants viewed
their personalized Crayon newspapers for up to fifteen
minutes.  Again, a video camera recorded screen activity and
a tape recorder captured the participant's think-aloud
protocol.  And again, at the end of the activity (at fifteen
minutes or when the participant chose to stop, if sooner),
the participant answered an interviewer's questions about
viewing their Crayon.

     Three datasets were thus gathered:

     1. Survey data about participants' opinions and uses of
both print and online newspapers;

     2. Video recordings of participants' online traditional
and online personalized newspaper-viewing activities; and

     3. Audio recordings of participants' think-aloud
protocols as they engaged in the online newspaper
activities.

                       Data Analysis

     At this writing, only the video data has been fully
transcribed, and analyzed to any extent.  Videotape data was
transcribed and coded into several variables for tracking
participants' online newspaper activities.  These variables
included measures of the types of screens participants
viewed (navigational screens, summary information, the
detailed "body" text or graphics of a story, audio-visual
[A-V] information, etc.); subjects viewed (advertising,
health, news, sports, etc.); time spent viewing a screen;
time spent waiting for a selected display; etc.

Testing H1.

     To test for hypothesized relationships, Spearman
correlation coefficients[9] were calculated for pairings of
survey and behavioral data, as follows:  In testing H1,
predictor variables were audience self-reported measures of
print newspaper gratifications, correlated with criterion
variables of audience self-reported measures of online
newspaper gratifications.  Drawing from
uses-and-gratifications literature, eight gratification
categories (thus, eight predictors) were elicited via survey
measurements.  These eight gratifications include

     1. avoidance; that is, negative gratifications or
disincentives to consume news media (Babrow, 1988;
Palmgreen, 1984);

     2. entertainment;

     3. escape;

     4. excitement;

     5. parasocial interaction; that is, affective
gratifications related to some sense of social interaction
gained from media consumption (Levy and Windahl, 1984;
Palmgreen, Wenner, and Rosengren, 1985; Rubin and Perse,
1987a; Swanson and Babrow, 1989; and Wenner, 1985);

     6. relaxation;

     7. surveillance; that is, "knowing what's going on in
the world" (Lain, 1986);

     8. and utility; that is, perceived direct usefulness in
some matter such as forming opinions, making plans, or
making decisions (Evans, 1990; Katz, Blumler, and Gurevitch,
1974; Levy and Windahl, 1984; Rubin and Perse, 1987b; and
Wenner, 1985).

     Survey items operationalizing each gratification were
drawn from prior uses and gratifications studies.[10] Table
1 lists the survey items used to operationalize each
gratification category.[11]

============================================================
    Table 1.  Gratification categories and survey items.

Gratification: AVOIDANCE
- Newspapers don't give enough information about the
  information I'm interested in.
- Newspapers include unpleasant information.

Gratification: ENTERTAINMENT
- It's fun to read the newspaper.
- Reading the newspaper cheers me up.
- Reading the newspaper is enjoyable.

Gratification: ESCAPE
- Reading the newspaper helps pass the time.
- Reading the newspaper is an escape from loneliness.
- Newspapers provide diversion from school, work, or
  other things.

Gratification: EXCITEMENT
- Newspapers carry personal ads.
- Newspapers contain some exciting news and features.
- Newspapers contain stimulating information.

Gratification: PARA-SOCIAL INTERACTION
- Newspaper writers give a human quality to the news.
- Writing a letter to the editor is like talking to
  other newspaper readers.
- Newspapers are a way to learn about other people's
  opinions.

Gratification: RELAXATION
- Reading the newspaper is a way to unwind.
- Reading the newspaper is a way to relax.
- Reading the newspaper helps me fall asleep.

Gratification: SURVEILLANCE
- Reading the newspaper is a way to learn about people
  and places far away.
- The newspaper is a source of current information.
- The newspaper is a source of trustworthy information.

Gratification: UTILITY
- Reading a newspaper is a good use of time.
- Information in newspapers helps people decide what
  to buy and where to buy it.
- Information in newspapers helps people plan their
  evenings or weekends.

============================================================

Testing H2 and H3.

     In testing H2 and H3, predictor variables of audience
self-reported measures of both print and online newspaper
gratifications were correlated with criterion variables
measuring audience online activity.  Online activity was
measured in terms of time spent viewing different subjects.

                   Results and Discussion

     Initial descriptive statistics were run to examine the
data, and to eyeball trends and/or comparisons and contrasts
pertaining to how participants spent their time with both
online traditional and online personalized newspapers.
These descriptive statistics indicated, among other things,
that participants spent the majority of their online time
viewing textual, rather than audio-visual or graphic
material; they spent much of their time navigating online
newspaper sites (versus viewing content on the sites); and
they spent very little time following links provided by
advertisers.  These findings are discussed in detail
elsewhere (Mings, 1997).

     As a baseline test of survey measurements, Spearman
correlation coefficients were calculated for the eight Print
Gratification Sought (PGS) measures with Print Gratification
Obtained (PGO) measures.  The following predictors and
criteria were significantly correlated:  PGS Avoidance with
PGO Utility (r = -.632, p < .05); PGS Escape with PGO Escape
(r = .555,  p < .05); PGS Escape with PGO Relaxation (r =
.794, p < .01); PGS Parasocial Interaction with PGO Utility
(r = .722, p < .01); PGS Relaxation with PGO Relaxation (r
= .639, p < .05); PGS Relaxation with PGO Parasocial
Interaction (r = -.616, p < .05); and PGS Surveillance with
PGO Utility (r = .694, p < .01).  Considering the relatively
small sample size,[12] findings of significant correlations
of five predictors with criteria provides some foundation
for faith in survey measures, and replicates prior uses and
gratifications findings illustrating relationships between
gratifications sought and obtained from news media.

     Pertaining to H1, the following significant
correlations were found:  PGS Avoidance correlated with
Online Gratification Sought (OGS) Avoidance (r = .694, p <
.01), with OGS Surveillance (r = -.568, p < .05), and with
OGS Utility (r = -.694, p < .01).  PGO Utility correlated
with OGS Utility (r = .562, p < .05).  PGO Parasocial
Interaction correlated with OGS Avoidance (r = -.542, p <
.05).

     That is, those who reported avoiding print newspapers
also reported avoiding online newspapers.  Print newspaper
avoiders also reported they would not look to online
newspapers to satisfy surveillance or utility
gratifications.  (It might be interesting to note here that
were online gratifications the predictor variables, and
print gratifications the criteria, this correlation could be
interpreted as an indication that participants who reported
seeking surveillance or utility gratifications from online
papers did not report avoiding print newspapers.)
Participants who reported gaining utility gratifications
from print newspapers also reported seeking those same
gratifications from online newspapers.  Participants who
reported gaining parasocial interaction gratifications from
print newspapers also reported little tendency to avoid
online newspapers (perhaps this can be interpreted as an
inclination to view online newspapers).

     Pertaining to H2, the following significant
correlations were found between survey data and online
traditional newspaper activity.  Specifically, pertaining to
H2a, PGS Avoidance correlated with time spent on online
newspaper Registration screens (r = -.608, p < .05); PGS
Escape with time spent viewing News subjects (r = -.542, p <
.05); PGS Relaxation with time spent viewing online
Advertisements (r = -.651, p < .01); PGS Surveillance with
time spent on Registration screens (r = -.665, p < .01); and
PGS Excitement with time spent viewing News subjects (r =
-.632, p < .05).  Pertaining to H2c, PGO Entertainment
correlated with time spent on screens Indexing online
newspaper content (r = -.532,= p < .05), and with time spent
viewing News screens (r = -.598, p < .05); PGO Escape with
time spent viewing information about the local Community (r
= .574, p < .05); PGO Surveillance with time spent on online
newspapers' Front Pages (r = .651, p < .01), with time spent
viewing System Messages (r .522, p < .05), and with time
spent viewing Sports (r .542, p < .05).  PGO Utility
correlated with time spent on Registration screens (r .515,
p < .05).  PGO Excitement correlated with time spent on
classified advertisement screens (r .576, p < .05).

     These correlations may give some support for
relationships hypothesized between audience usage of print
and online traditional newspapers.  First, those
participants who reported avoiding print newspapers were
unwilling to spend much time with registration processes for
online traditional papers, as were those who reported
seeking surveillance gratifications from print newspapers.
On the other hand, those who reported gaining utility from
print newspapers were more likely to complete registration
screens in order to view a traditional online newspaper.
That is, neither those uninterested in reading print
newspapers, nor those seeking general surveillance
information from them, seemed to be interested enough in
viewing an online traditional newspaper to overcome the
obstacle of registration screens.  However, those who
reported obtaining specific, useful information (that is,
utility gratifications) from print newspapers were more
willing to overcome the obstacle of registration screens, in
order to view a traditional online newspaper.  There may be
some indication here that those who use the genre
"newspaper" for specific, needed information are more
motivated to view online papers than are those who make
other uses of print newspapers.  (These people spend more
time attempting to overcome obstacles to online newspaper
viewing, at any rate.)

     Also pertaining to H2a and H2c, participants who
reported seeking escape or excitement, as well as those who
reported gaining entertainment, from print newspapers did
not spend much time with news-related subjects in the online
traditional papers.  These correlations seem intuitively
sensible, indicating that those members of the print
newspaper audience oriented towards escape, excitement, or
entertainment may not spend their time online viewing
news-related subjects.  Participants who reported seeking
relaxation gratifications from print papers spent little
time with advertising-related subjects online.  This
correlation makes some sense, if we consider shopping a task
or errand, but is puzzling if we consider shopping a
recreation.

     And, still speaking to H2c, the correlations indicate
that participants who reported obtaining entertainment from
print newspapers did not spend much time with online
traditional newspaper navigational features (specifically,
the online newspapers' indices).  Those who reported
obtaining excitement from print newspapers spent
proportionately more time with online classified ads.
Perhaps these correlations indicate that entertainment
and/or excitement-oriented members of the print paper's
audience will, when online, go straight to items of
interest, like automobile or personal classified ads.

     Participants who reported obtaining surveillance
gratifications from print papers, however, spent
proportionately more time with the online newspapers'
navigational features (specifically, the front pages).
These surveillance-oriented participants also spent
proportionately more time reading system messages displayed,
and viewing sports-related subjects.  These correlations,
too, seem sensible, perhaps indicating that audience members
who find surveillance gratifications in print newspapers
will look for similar gratifications online, taking the time
to orient themselves to all the information presented,
and/or seeking specific updates on a dynamic topic (like
sports).

     Finally, participants who reported obtaining escape
gratifications from print newspapers tended to spend
proportionately more time viewing local community
information in the traditional online newspapers.  This may
indicate that this audience segment looks online for
information about nearby relaxing or distracting activities.

     Turning to H2b, concerning relationships between Print
Gratifications Sought (PGS) and online personalized
newspaper activities, the following significant correlations
were found:  PGS Parasocial Interaction correlated with time
spent on Advertising screens (r= -.725, p < .01), and with
time spent on Arts screens (r = -.584, p < .05).  PGS
Utility correlated with time spent on Business screens (r
.534, p < .05), and with time spent on News screens (r
=-.524, p < .05).  That is, participants who reported
seeking parasocial interaction from print newspaper reading
did not spend much time with advertising or arts-related
subjects online.  Those who reported seeking utility from
the printed newspaper turned to business information online,
and spent proportionately less time on news-related screens.
This set of correlations may indicate that those who make
specific uses of their print newspapers find specific
topics, like business, more useful than more general
news-related information, and are more likely to go online
for such specific information than for general news.

     And finally, in reference to H2d, the following
correlations were found for Print Gratifications Obtained
(PGO) and subjects viewed in online personalized newspapers:
PGO Entertainment with time spent on Sports screens (r
=.540, p < .05); PGO Escape with time spent on Life &
Leisure screens (r =-.786, p < .01); PGO Parasocial
Interaction with time spent on Business screens (r= -.670, p
< .01); PGO Utility with time spent on Arts screens (r=
-.658, p < .01); and PGO Excitement with time spent on
online newspapers' Front Pages (r= -.681, p < .01).  That
is, participants who reported obtaining entertainment from
printed papers viewed sports-related subjects in their
online personalized papers.

     This willingness to spend time viewing online sports
information was also evident in participants who reported
obtaining surveillance gratifications from print newspapers.
The attraction of two different audience segments (audience
members motivated by both surveillance and entertainment
gratifications) to sports content may explain the popularity
of WWW sports sites, and the sites' corresponding ability,
in some cases, to charge for content.  (See Mings and White,
1997.)

     Those who reported using printed newspapers as an
escape mechanism did not spend much time with life and
leisure topics in their personalized online papers.  This
correlation is hard to interpret, but perhaps this
population -- largely male undergraduates at a technological
university who did spend a great proportion of their online
personalized newspaper time viewing science and
technology-related subjects -- looks to topics like science
and technology for escape gratifications, rather than to
topics traditionally placed in the "Life and Leisure"
section of the newspaper.

     Respondents who reported obtaining parasocial
interaction gratifications from print newspapers did not
spend much time online with business-related information.
This correlation may make the most sense in conjunction with
the indication that it is the print newspaper audience
seeking utility gratifications who do spend time online with
business-related subjects.  Perhaps related is the
correlation indicating that participants reporting utility
gratification obtained from print newspapers did not spend
time on arts-related subjects.  This correlation makes the
sensible implication that those who make specific uses of
print newspapers (that same group who spends proportionately
more time online with specifically business-related news)
won't spend much time with arts-related subjects online.

     Finally, those participants who reported gaining
excitement from printed newspapers did not spend time with
the navigational features (specifically, front pages) of
their personalized newspapers,[13] much as those who
obtained entertainment gratifications from print newspapers
did not spend time with the indices of online traditional
newspapers.  This may be another indication that audience
members who read print newspapers for excitement or
entertainment won't spend much time carefully navigating
online newspaper sites.

     Pertaining to H3, significant correlations were found
between measures of Online newspaper Gratifications Sought
(OGS) and online traditional newspaper activities.  OGS
Escape correlated with time spent on Advertisements (r=
-.650, p < .01).  OGS Parasocial Interaction correlated with
time spent viewing Weather screens (r= -.590, p < .05).  OGS
Relaxation correlated with time spent on Advertising screens
(r= -.535, p < .05) and with time spent on Weather screens
(r= -.678, p < .05).  OGS Surveillance correlated with time
spent on Registration screens (r= .585, p < .05), as did OGS
Utility (r= .599, p < .05).  And OGS Excitement correlated
with time spent on News screens (r= -.586, p < .05).

     That is, neither those who reported seeking escape from
online newspapers, nor those who reported seeking
relaxation, spent much time with ads (in this respect,
mirroring the activities of those who seek relaxation from
print newspapers, as noted above).  Participants who
reported seeking utility gratifications from online
newspapers (like those seeking the same from print
newspapers), and those who reported seeking surveillance
gratifications from online newspapers (unlike their print
newspaper counterparts) were willing to spend time on
registration screens.  Perhaps this is an indication that
going online for information is perceived by the audience as
more "useful" than browsing a printed paper.  If this is so,
each of these correlations may point to the online paper's
potential audience's willingness to overcome obstacles (at
least, to complete registration screens) for information
they feel they can use.

     Finally, participants who reported seeking excitement
from online papers did not spend much time on news-related
subjects.  Again, perhaps this audience segment is looking
for something specific, not general "news."

     One correlation was found between Online Gratifications
Sought (OGS) and subjects viewed in online personalized
newspapers:  OGS Entertainment correlated with time spent on
Life & Leisure screens (r = .629, p < .05).  That is,
participants who reported seeking entertainment from online
newspapers selected life and leisure information in creating
their personalized service, and they spent time viewing this
information.

              Conclusions and Future Research

     The pilot study reported here attempts to lay the
groundwork for an in-depth study of audience uses of online
newspapers, undertaken in a framework of uses and
gratifications mass media theory.

     Initial correlations run on pilot study videotape data
provide qualified support for the three hypotheses
presented.  Some audience members' gratifications sought and
obtained from print newspapers do seem to carry over into
audience expectations (as reflected in survey measures of
gratifications sought) and uses (as reflected in a
time-per-subject breakdown of the online viewing activity)
of online newspapers.  Further, as predicted by uses and
gratifications theory, data from the pilot study does
indicate that gratifications sought by the online newspaper
audience are factors in their online viewing activity.
Ongoing and future research will attempt to further these
findings, in the belief that the exploration of the online
newspaper audience's motivations and activities is a
significant and timely undertaking at a time of heightened
interest in this new form of a traditional artifact.

     Ongoing and future research will attempt to extend the
exploration reported here, first, by increasing the sample
size, and the diversity of populations from which the sample
is drawn.  Second, current and future research addresses and
corrects inconsistencies and/or problems that were uncovered
in pilot study measures and procedures.  Finally, ongoing
and future research will make specific predictions about
relations between print and online newspaper expectancies,
values, and uses and gratifications, and will test these
predictions with multivariate regression analyses.

                           Notes

     [1] The "news hole" is the non-advertising content of
the newspaper (Bogart, 1989).

     [2] Palmgreen cites Blumler and Katz (1974) in
identifying earlier stages of uses and gratifications
research as "concentrated mainly on description and
measurement of audience uses and motives" (p. 20).  Blumler
and Katz, specifically, name these stages in the historical
development of uses and gratifications research:  A
"descriptive" phase in the 1940s and 1950s, an
"operationalization phase" in the 1960s, and an "explanatory
phase" seeking to connect communication processes with
audience motives and expectations in the 1970s.  Palmgreen
here seems to imply (and later, in Palmgreen et. al [1985]
explicitly state) that a fourth stage of explicit
theory-building and testing has been undertaken in the
1980s.  Littlejohn (1992), too asserts that "important
theoretical codification" of uses and gratifications ideas
took place in the 1980s (p. 364).  Swanson and Babrow (1989)
also point out that explication and codification of the uses
and gratifications theory is evident by the late 1980s (p.
362).

     [3] Exploration of online newspaper use from the
perspective of audience expectancies and values is also
taken up as part of the post-pilot online newspaper study,
but is not reported on here.

     [4] For an overview of, and links to, online
personalized news services, see Harper (1996, "The Daily
Me").

     [5] Survey measures of Online newspaper Gratifications
Obtained (OGO) were not obtained in the pilot phase reported
here, but have been included in the ongoing research.  In
the pilot phase reported here, information about OGO may be
inferred, to some extent, from audience members' behavioral
data.

     [6] When survey measures of Online newspaper
Gratifications Obtained [OGO] are gathered, in the ongoing
research, corresponding hypotheses about correlations
between audience members' OGO and their uses of online
newspapers can be tested.

     [7] The students also completed a social desirability
scale which will be used in later data analysis, but has not
been incorporated into this initial analysis.

     [8] For Web audience demographics, see the reports
available from the Graphics, Visualization, and Usability
Center at Georgia Tech, at
http://www.cc.gatech.edu/gvu/user_surveys/.

     [9] The Spearman correlation coefficient is used
because no assumptions are made about the normal or
bivariate nature of the population sampled for this study.

     [10] Studies referenced include, among others, Bantz,
1982; Becker, 1979; Katz, Gurevitch, & Haas, 1973; Kimball,
1959; Levy, 1977; Lichtenstein & Rosenfeld, 1984; Loges &
Ball-Rokeach, 1993; Palmgreen, Wenner, & Rayburn, 1980;
Rubin, Palmgreen, & Sypher, 1994; and Toops, 1995.

     [11] Chronbach's alpha measurements were calculated for
survey items measuring each gratification category, giving
reliability of > .70 for several of the measures.
Problematic measurements are being modified in the ongoing
research.

     [12] A subsequent power analysis has determined that
N28 to 34 is a sample size of sufficient power to test
hypothesized relationships, and this sample size is exceeded
in the ongoing research.

     [13] A personalized newspaper can incorporate any
number of front pages, including the personalized
newspapers' own list of topics, and the front pages of
online news resources that the personalized service
accesses.

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************************************************************
Author Information: Susan M. Mings
                    Dept. of Language, Literature, and
                         Communication
                    Sage Lab., 4th Floor
                    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
                    Troy, NY 12180
                    mingss@rpi.edu
                    (518) 391-1892
                    (518) 276-4092 (Fax)

     Some elements of this research were presented at the
1997 National Communication Association (formerly SCA)
national conference.
************************************************************
     Copyright 1997 Communication Institute for Online
                     Scholarship, Inc.

     This file may not be publicly distributed or reproduced
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