Blogging and Business Journalism: News Production in Transformation

Maria Grafström, Ph.D. Dept. of Business Studies Uppsala University Box 513, 751 20 Uppsala, Sweden Email:

Karolina Windell, Ph.D. Dept. of Business Studies Uppsala University Box 513, 751 20 Uppsala, Sweden Email:

Paper prepared for the 5th International Conference on Communication and Mass Media, Athens, Greece, May 21-22, 2007.

Business media have expanded significantly over the past few decades. 1 Specialized news media organizations that exclusively cover business issues on a daily basis have been established, and today national as well as provincial newspapers include special sections dedicated to business news. With this development, business news has gradually become a journalistic genre of its own, i.e. similar to cultural and sports news it is separated from the general news flow. 2 News about economy or business has gained a prominent position not only in relation to other journalistic genres, but also in the corporate world and in the society at large. 3 Concurrently with the expansion of business news, new technology has developed, which transforms the media landscape by offering journalists new tools for producing and distributing news. 4 It has become possible to increase the pace of news production and distribution. At the same time, new forms of media as well as sources of information have emerged. In the last decade, the development of Internet has enabled journalists both to distribute news and to find information and news stories in other ways. An increasing number of technologies for searching or distributing information have evolved, such as search engines, communities, chat rooms, and blogs. These new forms of news production and distribution are making boundaries between different types of media blurred, and sometimes even disappearing. 5 The digital technique is used by everyone regardless of original media type. This means that different types of media content today is produced and distributed through the same channels. New technology has also resulted in vague differences between media and the consumer as well as between journalists and adjacent working groups within the field of communication. 6 Literature on blogging demonstrates that mainstream media and bloggers have engaged in a symbiotic relationship: “reporters [are] sourcing story ideas from bloggers and bloggers in turn [are] referencing and linking to the news stories reporters write.” 7 Citizens who previously were consuming news can now publish their own news and influence the news agenda. Hereby, traditional communication models illustrating news flow as transferring from a source through independent media to the audience become insufficient for explaining contemporary news production. Blogs – a technique for easy publishing on the Web and available for everyone with an Internet connection – are increasingly referred to as new “agenda setters” for traditional media. 8 The emergence of blogging has put pressure on traditional media to report on neglected topics by starting a massive information flow on the internet. 9 In times of wars, and in undemocratic countries like China and Iran, blogs have come to play important roles as new independent media channels. 10 Blogs can also function as sources of expertise on specific issues for general as well as specialized journalists, 11 and political journalists are searching daily rankings of blogs in order to find hot
1 2

E.g. Duval 2005; Grafström 2006; Kjaer et al. 2007. Tunstall 1996, p. 354. 3 Gavin 1998; Lindhoff and Mårtensson 1996; Tunstall 1996, pp. 354-373. 4 E.g. Hvitfelt and Nygren 2005. 5 E.g. Hvitfelt and Nygren 2005. 6 Kline 2005, pp. 249-250. 7 Kline 2005, p. 244. 8 E.g. Lawson-Borders and Kirk 2005; Tremayne 2007. 9 Herring et al. 2007. 10 Stattin 2005. 11 Drezner and Farrell 2004.


stories and information to develop into news features. 1 As a consequence of this development it is apt to assume that blogs play important roles also in other journalistic genres. Despite the expansion of business news and media’s increasingly important role as agenda-setter in corporate life, 2 research on the processes of production of business news is still an underdeveloped area of research. 3 A recent study on how popularity is created through corporations that are highlighted as “celebrity firms” in media content asks for more research un-wrapping the journalistic processes behind the news in order to understand how celebrity firms are actually created. 4 Considering this lack of news production studies in the field of business news and the development of new technology, in this paper, we enlighten the news producing process from the perspective of the interplay between media and news sources by analyzing how new technology influences these processes. In this paper we raise the question of what role new technology, in particular blogs, plays in business news production. By exploring the relationship between blogs and business journalists the aim is to provide insights that further develop our understanding of news production. This paper explores if and in what ways blogs influence the production of business news. How do business journalists perceive and use blogs?

Studying business journalism and the role of blogs The paucity of research about business news production and blogs makes this study necessary explorative. The paper builds on three sub-studies: 1) a pre-study consisting of informative interviews; 2) a quantitative survey among business journalists; and 3) a content analysis of articles about blogs in the business press. Below we present these three sub studies.

Pre-study of informative interviews
A pre-study consisting of informative interviews with well-known bloggers in the Swedish blogosphere, media analysts, and experienced business journalists was conducted in order to provide us with important insights and knowledge about blogs and their relationship with mainstream media. The pre-study started by an interview with a business developer who analyses the possibilities to observe and monitor blogs for corporate clients. He recommended us to contact a today well-known blogger in the Swedish blogosphere with a journalistic background. At this interview, as well as at the subsequent interviews, we asked the respondents for other key persons who are well informed about the Swedish blogosphere. In this way we conducted in total fourteen interviews, of which nine interviewees were active bloggers, two were experienced journalists, and two were PR/media analysts (see Appendix 1). Nine of the interviews were personal interviews (face-to-face), two were conducted over the phone, and one was conducted over e-mail. The personal interviews and the phone interviews lasted between 45 minutes and 1 ½ hours. The results of the pre-study were of significance for designing the rest of the study, and for the development of a survey to business journalists in particular.

1 2

Lawson-Borders and Kirk 2005. E.g. Carroll and McCombs 2003. 3 Deephouse et al. 2003; Johansson 2004; Machin and Niblock 2003. 4 Rindova et al. 2006.


Content analysis of articles about blogs in the business press
In previous studies, content analyses of blogs have been conducted mainly to identify the average blogger and the links between blogs. 1 In our study we are not primarily interested in the bloggers themselves, but to what extent business journalists use blogs as news sources or as channels to distribute their own news. The content analysis had the purpose to identify whether blogs were referred to or quoted as sources in the articles. The articles were collected from the database Affärsdata [Business Data], which contains all major Swedish dailies, business newspapers, and some trade papers. The coding process was undertaken in two steps. First, the total number of articles containing the word blog was collected from the first year we found the word, in 2002, until 2006. The data set enabled us to map the development of the amount of articles about or referencing to blogs over time. Second, we collected all the articles containing the word blog in the Swedish business press (including also the business pages of major Swedish general dailies) during four months – January, April, September, and December – of the year of 2006. This data set consisted of 83 articles, which were coded more in detail.

A quantitative survey among business journalists
Based on the results in the pre-study, a survey among business journalists was conducted. The survey included business journalists at various types of business media: print, radio, and online. Newspapers with a business news section being nationally distributed as well as business news magazines were included in the study. Included were also all Swedish online business news distributors and the business news at the public service radio broadcaster. Altogether eight media organizations were included, and 187 journalists were asked to participate in the survey. 2 Journalists that were on maternity leave or on vacation were excluded. In total, 79 journalists responded, which represents just above 42 percent of the total number of business journalists who were contacted. 3 The survey was designed as a web survey – the respondents received a link to a website via e-mail, where they could respond to the survey. Two reminders were sent out via e-mail to those who had not yet answered. To secure that the business journalists approved to take part in the survey we promised them anonymity. The survey contained questions about if and how the respondents use blogs in their daily work.

Herring et al. 2007. Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Dagens Industri,, Veckans Affärer, Affärsvärlden, E24, and Sveriges Radio. 3 The dropout analysis shows that the respondents are representing all included organizations. The respondents are well distributed among all the organisations, except for the online media, at which the response rate is lower than the average. One likely thesis is that professionals at the online editorial offices are more prone to use blogs than other professionals. Because of the scarce response rate from this group, we are not able to support or discard this proposition.



The Swedish blogosphere
The first Swedish blogs were established in 2001 by Jonas Söderström and a few others, and during 2004 and 2005 blogging virtually exploded. 1 Similar as the development in USA, the first blogs had a political character, and in Sweden they emerged mainly from the right wing, among neo-liberals and independent liberals in particular. 2 Shortly thereafter politicians in the congress developed their own blogs – the European Union commissioner and social democrat Margot Wallström 3 and the foreign minister Carl Bildt 4 to mention two of the most influential. Over the last years, blogs within consumer markets have developed, such as blogs about fashion, 5 information technology, and food. Bloggers within these areas do not only have relatively large groups of readers, but have also gained attention among corporations in corresponding industries. Fashion bloggers are invited to different PR-events and are even receiving products from companies in order to try them, and subsequently also write about them. 6 Blogs increasingly also contain advertisements. A few Swedish corporate blogs have also emerged, 7 for example the search company Eniro, 8 the animal insurance company Agria, 9 and the business law firm Linklater. 10 Increasingly often PR-consulting firms are setting up their own blogs in order to promote themselves, therby creating more business by illustrating how the blog is a corporate communication tool for others to use. 11 As in the US, rankings of blogs have developed in Sweden. These rankings rate blogs according to two main systems: either the number of unique visitors per day on the blog or the number of incoming and outgoing links from and to other blogs. The latter type of ranking also takes into consideration the centrality of the incoming links. The more central the blog is in a network (the more links a blog has) the more important it is considered. The blogs with the most incoming links become the hub in evolving networks of bloggers.

Blogs and the Swedish mainstream media
Initially, the Swedish media has had a reluctant attitude towards blogs, and discussions about the role of blogs in contemporary journalism are easily found on the Web. Per Gudmundson, one of the first journalists with an own blog, was, for example, asked to stop blogging by his employer, SVT [the Swedish public service broadcaster]. The argument was that a journalist should stay objective and not express his political opinions on a blog. Shortly thereafter, the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet [The Swedish Daily] let its chief editorial, P. J. Anders Linder, launch a blog on the newspaper’s Web site. Today, most media companies in Sweden have their own bloggers. The entry of bloggers has, in particular, been visible in the Swedish press.
1 2

Interviews with Gudmundson, Lidbom, Söderström. Våge 2005. 3 4 5 E.g. Dagens Nyheter 2007; Svenska Dagbladet 2006. 6 Interviews with Jeffery, Lidbom. 7 Svenska Dagbladet 2007a. 8 9 10 11 See e.g. Åkestam Holst,, Springtime,, Mahir PR,, and Good Old,


Recently, Svenska Dagbladet launched six new blogs managed by six of the paper’s reporters. 1 Some days later the same newspaper and its main competitor Dagens Nyheter [Today’s News] tied their online news to blog comments. 2 Both dailies started to use a service called Twingly, which collects blog comments and links them to articles on the news sites. Consequently, articles on the Web pages could be commented by bloggers. In this way, Swedish newspapers have recognized blogs to provide valuable additional information to their own articles. 3 The expansion of blogs can also be observed in the Swedish press’ articles. The first articles about blogs in Swedish media were published in 2002 and appeared in computer magazines. These articles mainly informed the readers about the function of blogs. In total, four articles containing the word “blog” were published in 2002, which can be compared with the equivalent number in 2006, 1062 articles (Figure 1). Similar results have been noticed in the US, where the number of articles containing the word “Weblog” increased from eleven articles in 1995 to 647 articles in 2003. 4 The results from the content analysis of articles in business pages/newspapers show that about 40 % of the coded articles have explicit references to specific blogs – indicating that blogs have been used as news sources (Figure 2). The rest, about 60 % of the articles, were instead about blogs. 16 % out of those 40 % of the articles that contain references also quoted blogs.

Business journalists and blogs
The age spread among the respondents is rather good ranging from 23 to 67 years. 9 % of the respondents are between 21 and 30 years; 33 % between 31 and 40 years; 19 % between 41 and 50 years; 23 % between 51 and 60 years; and 13 % between 61 and 70 %. 40 % of the respondents are women, and consequently 60 % are men. A significant majority, almost 80 %, of the respondents work for a newspaper, roughly 20 % work for a Web-based newspaper, and around 13 % work for radio/TV (the question allowed the respondents to mark more than one medium). In addition, almost 60 % state that they work as reporters, while the rest are for example news editors, editor in chiefs, correspondents, columnists, commentators, or editorial writers. Only 4 % have been working less than five years within the field of journalism. Almost 30 % have been working between 11 and 15 years, almost 20 % between 16 and 20 years; and 22 % between 21 and 25 years. In total, 25 % have been working within the field for more than 26 years – and at the most 40 years. Even though the content demonstrates that blogs are actually used as references in articles in the business press, and sometimes even quoted, the results of the survey show that many of the business journalists are reluctant to use blogs as news sources. The survey demonstrates that 63 % of the business journalists disagree with the statement that they make references to blogs in their articles (Figure 3). Only a few percent of the journalists say that they use blogs as news sources. In their comments, some of the respondents view blogs as unreliable sources, whereas others treat them just as one source among others. One business journalist stressed that “naturally, I deal with blogs as any other source and if I would get an idea from a blog I would refer to it”. Similar results are found when it comes to the actual use of blogs among business journalists. Most of the business journalists stress that they do not use blogs as part of
1 2

Svenska Dagbladet 2007b. E.g. Internet World 2007; Svenska Dagbladet 2007c. 3 E.g. interview with Jönsson. 4 Drezner and Farrell 2004.


their everyday work. For example, only 4 % of the business journalists strongly agree with the statement that they find information of use for their journalistic work through blogs, whereas 41 % strongly disagree with the same statement (Figure 4). The same results appear when the business journalists answered questions concerning the use of blogs in order to “find” news stories or to do background research for news articles. In other words, according to the business journalists, they do not use blogs to any greater extent in their work. The survey also demonstrates that most of the business journalists do not perceive blogs as an important element in their everyday work. 42 % of the business journalists strongly disagree with the statement that reading blogs is part of their work, whereas only 6 % of them strongly agree (Figure 5). The hesitant attitude towards blogs also discern in the free comments included in the survey by respondents. One business journalists writes, for example: I’m rather tired of blogs, and I wonder when the people who write them have time for work, family, and life in general. Simply, I think that blogs get too much space in the debate. And maybe blogging should be translated into babbling. A comment by another respondent reflects a similar attitude: I have simply no time to read blogs. I have yet not seen any reason to why I should prioritize something factual oriented less in favour for the more opinion oriented blogosphere. The reluctant attitude and the rather scarce use of blogs that appear are particularly interesting in comparison to how the same business journalists use other online information sources. More than 80 % of the respondents use search engines, such as Google (Figure 6). Almost equally many use corporate web pages, 77 % of them use newsletters, and 53 % state that they use wikis, such as Wikipedia, in order to find information in their work. Hence, the respondents clearly make a difference between blogs and other online information sources, such as corporate web pages, newsletters and wikis. The results could be interpreted either as if the journalists have better knowledge about these online sources, or as that they find them more trustworthy than blogs. So far, the results demonstrate that a majority of the business journalists are hesitant in using blogs in their daily work. They do not consider reading blogs as part of their work, nor do they use blogs to find information, news stories or to do background research. At the same time, though, a significant amount of the business journalists think that it is important to know what is going on in the blogosphere. As Figure 7 demonstrates, just above 10 % strongly agree with the statement that “in my work, it is an advantage to know what is discussed in the blogosphere”, and almost 40 % have marked 1, 2 or 3 (where 1=strongly agree and 6= strongly disagree). Similarly, almost as many respondents think that blogs have become an important part of the media landscape as those who disagree with the same statement (see Figure 8). In addition, a majority of the respondents place themselves in the middle of the 6-numbered scale – they do neither agree nor disagree with the statement that “blogs have become an important part of the media landscape”. The results point to the conclusion that the participated business journalists consider blogs as being of some importance, even though they do not use blogs to any greater extent in their work. In other words, we may interpret the results as a shift of attitude among business journalists – a shift that is not yet reflected in the journalistic practice. This is also supported by one of the respondents, who comments today’s use of blogs:


You are out studying at an early stage, blogs still don't play a significant role for how journalists search information (I think), but that might change in the future. The reasons for the relatively modest use of blog in the journalistic work are probably several. One explanation could be lack of knowledge about blogs, since a majority of the journalists state that they are using other online news sources, such as search engines and wikis to a relatively great extent indicating that they are not reluctant to online news sources as such. The results from the survey also indicate that there is a significant variation in the respondents’ perceived knowledge about blogs and blogging (Figure 9). These findings can also be understood in the light of the interview statement of Martin Jönsson, business journalists and blogger. Jönsson explains that business journalists who are specializing in certain topics have more use of blogs than general business journalists.

Concluding discussion
The survey data prove significant variances in attitude and use of blogs among Swedish business journalists. The results demonstrate that business journalists are still reluctant to the use of blogs in their daily work. Only a minority of them actively browses blogs in order to find information that they can use in their news production. Still, a significant part of the respondents argue that it is important for them to be updated on discussions in the blogosphere. This indicates that business journalists are not indifferent to blogs, even though only a few of them state that they actively use them in their everyday work. One explanation to the relatively scarce use of blogs among business journalists, that could be put forward on the basis of the interview data, is the degree of specialization. It is likely to assume that more specialized business journalists have greater use of blogs in comparison with non-specialized. The limited use of blogs could also be understood by the fact that there are few blogs specializing in business and economic issues in Sweden. Even though the Swedish blogosphere has grown significantly over the past few years, blogs about economic and business issues as well as corporate blogs are still relatively few. However, the bloggers interviewed predict increased interest for blogging also in the corporate world. Many of them underline that corporations – and so also media companies – need to develop more personalized communication with their customers, which can be done through blogs. Many of the respondents put forward that corporations need to understand that they must talk with many voices – not just a single “bureaucratic” one. In line with previous research, the data from the three sub-studies support the statement that professional journalists increasingly tend to engage in blogging activity themselves and create their on blogs. 1 The media sphere is becoming increasingly interlinked with the blogosphere. 2 Not only do journalists read blogs, but individuals operating in one setting – either in the media sphere or the blogosphere – increasingly cross over into the other sphere, or are active in both. Many newspapers and magazines have set up their own blogs, which indicates that blogs as a form for producing and distributing news are of interest also for traditional media. This development is also emphasized by the interviewed bloggers; they argue that the topics they blog about increasingly often appear in mainstream media. The content analysis also demonstrates that references to and quotes from blogs actually appear in the business press. The survey demonstrates that a significant part of the journalists
1 2

Lawson-Borders and Kirk 2005. Drezner and Farrell 2004; Observer 2005.


perceive the blogosphere as an important part of the media landscape, and agree that it is an advantage to be updated on ongoing discussions in the blogosphere. But, at the same time, the data show that a majority of the respondents are not using blogs in their work. In other words, even though the journalists have not changed their practice to any greater extent, they seem to recognize blogs as in mainstream media. The Swedish blogosphere is booming and new blogs are established continuously. The many different topics and functions of blogs stress that the blog itself is merely a content management technique, possible to be used in multiple ways. For example, blogs are increasingly used as internal communication devices in organizations or as marketing channels for corporations. Blogs that are entirely commercialized projects have also emerged, such as the male fashion blog, Consequently, one conclusion from this study is that we should be careful when defining blogs and blogging activity too narrowly. Instead, the emergence of the blogosphere should be understood as a new way of interaction on the Web. The blogging technique allows everyone to publish and comment on one another’s notes. The one-way communication of mainstream media is challenged as multi-way communication is taking over on the Web. Based on these findings we argue that the Swedish business media landscape is undergoing a transformation as a result of new Internet techniques such as blogs, which makes it possible for each and everyone to publish. Thereby, the definition to news is bound to change. What becomes news is not necessary published in mainstream media, instead it can just as well be published on a private blog or a private Web site. This development also raises questions about the borders between news producers, consumers, and sources. The results witness of blurred boundaries between new media and mainstream media, between bloggers and journalists. Consequently, the emergence of the blogosphere is challenging established ideas of who is considered to be a journalist, and what is considered to be “news”. Whereas this paper has aimed to sketch the contour of the emerging blogging activity on the Web – and from the perspective of business news in particular – further studies in the field are needed, in which a key question is: In what ways is blogging changing the condition for, and the content of, mainstream media?


1200 1000 Antal artiklar 800 600 400 200 0 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006

Figure 1: The number of articles containing the word blog in the Swedish business press, 2002-2006.

No reference Reference

39% 61%

Figure 2: The relation between the amount of articles with explicit reference to specific blogs and articles without reference.
6= Strongly disagree 5 4 3 2 1= Strongly agree 0 4 4 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 5 6 14 63

Figure 3: The respondent’s answers to the statement “I reference blogs in my work” (percent).


6= Strongly disagree 5 4 3 2 1= Strongly agree 0 5 6 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 8 10 11 19



Figure 4: The respondents’ answers to the statement “I “read” blogs in my daily work” (percent).

6= Strongly disagree 5 4 3 2 1= Strongly agree 0 4 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 5 11 14 24



Figure 5: The respondents’ answers to the statement “I use blogs to find information that I can use in my work”(percent).

Other Wikis Communites Corporate webpages Search engines Newsletters E-mail 0 10 20 30 20

37 53

81 86 77 89 40 50 60 70 80 90 100

Figure 6: The share of the respondents who use online information sources in their work (percent).


6 = Strongly disagree 5 4 3 2 1= Strongly agree 0 5 10 9 11 15 15


22 18



Figure 7: The respondents’ answer to the statement “In my work, it is an advantage to know what is discussed in the blogsphere” (percent).

6 = Strongly disagree 5 4 3 2 1= Strongly agree 0 5 8

9 19 23 22 11





Figure 8: The respondents’ answers to the statement “Blogs have become an important part of the media landscape” (percent).

6= Strongly disagree 5 4 3 2 1= Strongly agree 0 5 10 10 15 15 11 16






Figure 9: The respondents’ answer to the statement “I have a good knowledge about blogs” (percent).


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APPENDIX 1 More information about the interviewees Beta alfa, e-mail interview, January 2007. Anonymous blogger, covering issues about media, new technology, and communication. Blog: Comerford, Mark, February 13, 2007, Stockholm. Teacher and researcher at the Department of Journalism, Media, and Communication at Stockholm’s University, as well as consultant in the field of new media. Blog: Gudmundson, Per, January 31, 2007, Stockholm. Former journalist, today full-time blogger and columnist at Svenska Dagbladet’s editorial. Blog: Holmström, Lotta, February 6, 2007, Stockholm. Editor at Aftonbladet’s “Läsarbladet” [The Reader Page] and has many blogs among which the most famous one is about citizen media: Jeffery, Björn, February 13, 2007, phone interview. Communication consultant and media analyst at the communication bureau Good Old, and blogs about media trends, male fashion, and music: Jönsson, Martin, March 9, 2007, phone interview. Business journalist at Svenska Dagbladet, and has his own blog: Kullin, Hans, February 16, 2007, Stockholm. Marketing communication manager at the law firm Linklater’s Stockholm office and blogs about media and public relations: Lidbom, Olle, February 7, 2007, Stockholm. Freelance journalists and blogger. He blogs mainly about the media market (“power and media”): Mason, Alexander, January 12, 2007, Stockholm. Media analyst and business developer at Observer, and has been studying blogs and blogging. Pallin, Fredrik, March 8, 2007, Stockholm CEO at the PR agency Mahir PR, which has a corporate blog: Rossander, Olle, January 24, 2007, phone interview. Freelance journalist and consultant, former business journalist at for example Dagens Nyheter and Affärsvärlden. Söderström, Jonas, February 7, 2007, Stockholm.


Information architect and senior consultant at inUse Ab, and runs his own blog since 2001: Torstensson, Henrik, February 9, 2007, Stockholm. Business developer at, and blogs about Internet, business, and society: Wass, Fredrik, February 16, 2007, Stockholm. Part of the blog group of Mahir PR, journalist at Internet World, and blogs about media and society: