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Newspaper Research Journal Study

Newspaper Research Journal Study

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Published by Goran Rizaov

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Published by: Goran Rizaov on May 29, 2010
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34 -
Newspaper Research Journal • Vol. 31, No. 2 • Spring 2010
he migration o media to the Internet and the deep recession that startedin 2008 has had an exponential impact on the traditional daily newspaperindustry. Although readers appear to be making the slow transition to digital“newspapers,”
advertising lineage is not.
The result has been the disappear-ance o public newspaper companies such as Knight Ridder and the TribuneCompany, the ling or bankruptcy by other newspaper companies and acontinuing decline in newsroom personnel.
As a result o these two orces, observers in 2009 expressed concerns aboutthe survival o newspapers.
But i major players like Knight Ridder and Tri- bune make the biggest business-page headlines, other observers speculate onwho will provide the community inormation needed by citizens o individualcommunities.Some academics and industry analysts have suggested that online citizen journalism might evolve and develop to the point o compensating or de-
Citizen Journalism Web SitesComplement Newspapers
by Stephen Lacy, Margaret Duffy, Daniel Riffe, Esther Thorson andKen Fleming
 A content analysis o 86 citizen blog sites, 53citizen news sites and 63 daily newspaper sitesindicated that citizen journalism sites, including both news and blog sites, diered signifcantly romnewspaper sites.
Lacy is a proessor in the School o Journalism at Michigan State University. Rieis the Richard Cole Eminent Proessor in the College o Journalism and MassCommunication at the University o North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Duy is anassociate proessor, Thorson is a proessor and Fleming is the director o the Centeror Advanced Social Research. They are in the School o Journalism at the Universityo Missouri. Funding or this research was provided by the John S. and James L.Knight Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Lacy, Duffy, Riffe, Thorson and Fleming: Citizen Journalism Web Sites
- 35clining community coverage resulting rom decreased newspaper reportingresources.
 This study aims to explore this possibility by using content analysis andother data to evaluate whether citizen journalism Web sites have the potentialactually to be such substitutes or the inormation currently provided by dailynewspapers’ Web sites. The evaluation begins with a oundation in mediaeconomics theory and then examines key attributes—timeliness and structureo both citizen journalism and traditional daily newspaper sites—to determinei the sites resemble each other enough to possibly ulll similar unctions orreaders.
Theoretical Framework
Neoclassical economic theory states that demand is a unction o a product’sprice, the price o complements and substitutes, individuals’ income and taste
  but not all these actors apply equally here.In the short-run, or example, individual income would not aect thesubstitution o citizen journalism or traditional newspaper Web sites becausean individual’s income would be unaected by such a choice. A person with a$50,000 annual income will still have that income whether she or he substitutescitizen journalism sites or traditional newspaper sites.Second, because citizen journalism sites tend to be ree and most newspapersites remain ree, with the exception o archives,
the price cross-elasticity odemand does not have a large eect on demand. I a substitute or a productis ree, there is no price to aect demand.The role o the price o complements as a determinant o newspaper demandremains unexplored. Complements are products that are consumed in conjunc-tion with another product. For example, some people may have complementaryproducts they use with newspapers, coee or example, but the relationship between reading newspapers and consuming a complementary product varyrom person to person and rom time to time or the same person.Research indicates that the price o newspapers is airly inelastic.
Changesin price have traditionally had little impact on total demand because many mar-kets lack close substitutes or newspapers. In addition, the price o newspapersremains relatively low compared to other products. In short, the absence o asignicant role or price and income suggests that the content o the newspaperand reader taste have the greatest impact on individual newspaper demand.
 Unortunately, neoclassical economic theory assumes taste is constant andprovides little help in analyzing substitutes on the basis o taste. However,media economics research and theory have addressed this issue.In a model based on the theory o monopolistic competition,
Lacy positedthat people evaluate media products on the basis o attributes.
Product attri- butes take a variety o orms, such as the nature o stories, the structure o themedia product and the accessibility o the material online, among others. The
36 -
Newspaper Research Journal • Vol. 31, No. 2 • Spring 2010
term content is used in the model to include presentation elements as well asthe symbolic presentation o inormation. The attributes that are important toany given individual vary. Willingness to substitute one product or anotherdepends on whether the attributes o the rst product adequately meet theperson’s needs and wants. To be a substitute, a media product’s attributesmust ulll the same unctions as attributes o the original media product. Forexample,
The New York Times
Web site is a good substitute or CNN or some-one who uses both or the surveillance unction and checks on the latest newsthroughout the day.Although the unctions o a set o content attributes can vary rom per-son to person, the levels o variation are constrained by the content itsel. Acity council story cannot satisy a person seeking a story about a proessional basketball game. Similar content in two media products is more likely to meetthe same needs and wants than is dissimilar content. Because substitutabilityis anchored in aspects o content, content analysis can be used to measure po-tential substitutability.However, the question that needs addressing is: What types o attributesare important or determining the substitutability o citizen journalism Websites and traditional newspaper sites?Two types o attributes come to mind immediately: timeliness and thenature o the Web site. A potentially substitutable Web site with characteristicssimilar to the original site is more likely to serve similar unctions and requireless investment in time. News products also have time attributes. Publicationcycle—hourly, daily or weekly—is a product attribute that aects substitut-ability.
To substitute or a daily newspaper, citizen journalism sites need to betimely and predictable in posting content. Web sites with irregular and erraticpostings will likely not be acceptable substitutes or daily newspaper sites.
Literature Review
Much o the literature about online citizen journalism alls into threetypes:• Explorations o the Web’s potential or citizen journalism• Descriptions o the nature o online citizen journalism• Description o Web site characteristics that people use and wantIn early discussions o online citizen journalism, observers saw a promisingalternative to the powerul journalistic gatekeeper. For example, Glaser said in2004 that he believed citizen journalists would instead unction as “shepherds”who would encourage and welcome individual citizens’ reports and com-ments.
Gillmor called this grassroots journalism,
while others in 2007, usingsotware development terminology, called it “open source journalism.”
Stillothers saw citizen journalism as a vehicle to bring together dierent kinds ocontent: traditional mainstream news, opinion and commentary and a orumor sharing and discussing.

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