THE IMPACT OF THE INTERNET ON JOURNALISM, II
LA REVUE ELECTRONIQUE DE COMMUNICATION
Volume 7 Number 3 1997
The Impact of the Internet on Readers
Although they are of primary interest to politicians, entertainers, advertisers, publishers and other who see journalism as an important mechanism to reach mass audiences, the reader or viewer often is harder for the researchers to study. When researchers do explore and reflect on the world of readers, as Janice Radway did in the Reading the Romance (University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC, 1991 reprint edition), they often uncover interesting results. In this section of The Impact of the Internet on Journalism, three researchers examine the world of readers or consumers of information available via the Internet. Employing a "uses and gratifications" framework, Susan Mings found evidence to support that peoples' uses and gratifications from online newspapers correlate to their uses and gratifications from print newspapers and that their uses of online newspapers correlate to their gratifications.
Along somewhat different lines, one of the primary concerns with the development of the Internet is the potential from stratifying society into classes of "information haves" and "information have-nots." With that in mind, Matt Reavy and David Permutter have studied political information available on the World Wide Web. They conclude that the Web can be an effective channel for conveying sophisticated political information by using different media elements to reduce the complex of the material. The concern about a growing knowledge gap may be well founded.
Jane Singer has also looked at the presentation of political information on the Web. She studied the way newspapers in Denver used the Web to report on politics during a campaign season. She found that newspapers used the Web to position themselves as the authoritative voice on a narrower range of issues than they typically cover in their print versions.
One conclusion that can be draw from this section is that the Web is developing its own set of characteristics as a conduit of information and that readers are and will learn to capitalize on those characteristics to achieve their informational goals.
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.
Matthew M. Reavy
David D. Perlmutter
Abstract. Scholars recognize that knowledge represents power, particularly in a participatory democracy. In modern society, the Internet offers a unique opportunity for candidates to interact with the citizenry, potentially increasing the transfer of political knowledge. This study examines the Web sites of three top candidates in the 1996 GOP primary to gauge their channel effectiveness - the degree to which candidates take advantage of the medium's unique capacity for immediacy, interactivity, sourcing and multimedia. Attention is devoted to how effective communication on the Web might promote a knowledge gap between those who have access to the Internet and those who do not.
Jane B. Singer, Ph.D.
Abstract. The _Denver Post_ and _Rocky Mountain News_ have been fiercely at war for 100 years. In the fall of 1996, the two papers got their first shot at trying to outgun each other in online political coverage. This exploratory study analyzes the print and Web versions of the two papers during the campaign season to determine how they handled the opportunities and challenges of cyberspace; interviews with their online editors provide insight into why things were the way they were this time around.
Communication Institute for Online Scholarship, Inc.