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A New

Model
for News
Studying the
Deep Structure
of Young-Adult
News Consumption
A Research Report
from The Associated Press
and the Context-Based
Research Group
June 2008

TM
C O N T E N T S

Prologue 3
Behavioral Field Study
and Findings 5
AP’s Understanding
of the Model 51
The Telegraph,
a Case Study 66
Acknowledgements 71
© 2008 The Associated Press
All rights reserved.
May be downloaded for personal use only.

TM
P R O L O G U E

In the spring of 2007,


The Associated Press embarked on some business research that began
quite routinely but would end up reshaping our thinking about jour-
nalism in the digital age.

As part of our strategic planning process, we sought to understand


news consumption patterns beyond what traditional market data and
consumer surveys could tell us. We had a senior management retreat
coming up, and we needed something more exciting than regional
growth rates to stimulate discussion.

An analyst on the planning staff suggested doing an “ethnography”


of young adult consumers, and after a quick Google search to under-
stand exactly what that meant, we decided to give it a try.

To be frank, our expectations were modest. We sought some real


people to put a human face on the accelerating shift to online and mo-
bile consumption of news around the world. We knew young people
were at the leading edge of that movement and a cultural science
study of their media habits sounded like fun.

In the end, it proved to be as transformative as it was fun. The hu-


man stories were only the start. From there, the professional anthro-
pologists we commissioned to conduct the research created a model
for news delivery that distilled the challenge to its essential elements.

Based on the observed behavior of the subjects in the study, four ba-
sic news entry points were identified as the main components of the
subjects’ news diets: Facts, Updates, Back Story and Future Stories.
The essential finding: The subjects were overloaded with facts and
updates and were having trouble moving more deeply into the back-
ground and resolution of news stories.
That model, illustrated in a couple of interesting ways in this re-
port, helped validate the mission we had been charting for the digital
marketplace:

Create content that will satisfy a full range of consum-


ers’ news needs and then build the links that will con-
nect people to the relevant news they seek.

Easy to say and harder to accomplish, in a news environment char-


acterized by fragmented interests and mostly passive consumption
patterns across online and offline news venues. The research dem-
onstrated quite convincingly that the old models for packaging and
delivering news were not connecting with the audience now coming
of age around the world. The habits of these young consumers are
radically different from those that have characterized news consump-
tion for generations. Newspapers, scheduled broadcasts and even Web
sites are giving way to a chaotic system of self-aggregation that is
producing disappointing results not only for news producers, but – as
this research shows – for consumers as well.

For the World Editors Forum, our initial research has been expand-
ed in two important ways. First, the basic model of consumer behav-
ior that emerged from the original project became the foundation for
a broader set of findings and recommendations designed exclusively
for release at the forum. Second, we have provided a summary of AP’s
own analysis of the model and the practical work that has taken shape
in response to these and other digital trends. As further grounding for
the findings, a brief case study of The Telegraph of London is in-
cluded to illustrate how one well-known newspaper has dealt with the
kind of challenges the model highlights.

Special thanks go to our partners in this research, the Context-


Based Research Group of Baltimore, Maryland.

– AP Strategic Planning | June 2008

TM
A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

News Consumption Behaviors


of Young Adults
An Anthropological Study
Overview and Study Objectives

T he Associated Press
commissioned Balti-
more-based Context-Based
of media usage and were
even clearer in everyday
life. Younger consumers,
adjustments, even revolu-
tions, at media companies
in every part of the world.
Research Group to conduct ages 18-34, have adopted Amid its own revolution
a cultural science study ways of getting their news from predominantly print-
– in the parlance of the that are much different based services, AP sought
discipline, an “ethnogra- from those of past genera- Context’s help in gaining
phy” – focusing on the news tions. Younger consumers a deeper and more holistic
consumption habits of are not only less reliant on understanding of young
young digital consumers in the newspaper to get their consumers. How is news
six cities around the world. news; they also consume read, viewed and used by
The drive for this research news across a multitude of this generation—through-
came from the recognition platforms and sources, all out a typical day?
that a significant shift in day, constantly. Among the
news consumption behav- key touch points in the new The project’s original
ior is taking place among environment are online objectives included docu-
younger generations. video, blogs, online social menting the frequency
networks, mobile devices, with which participants
The trends had surfaced RSS, word of mouth, Web searched for or consumed
clearly across any number portals and search engines. news; identifying the
of quantitative measures This shift is triggering news sources that young

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A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

consumers turned to what constitutes news for planning process.


most commonly, as well young consumers. In short, In 2008, AP and Context
as those sources that they the project sought to put a re-engaged to analyze
avoided; identifying the human face on 21st century the field data further and
means they used to access news consumption. What is extract findings and rec-
these sources; examin- the “new face of news?” ommendations that could
ing preferred platforms The original research be shared with all those
for news consumption, was completed in the sum- interested in pursuing new
especially new and/or mer of 2007 and produced approaches to news gather-
nontraditional channels a model for digital news ing and delivery.
and devices; and expand- consumption that AP in-
ing AP’s understanding of tegrated into its strategic

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A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

Why Ethnography and


Anthropology:
Getting to the Deep Structure

To achieve its objec-


tives, the AP un-
derstood the need to take
on the simple, yet profound,
premise that to truly un-
derstand human behavior
But ethnography alone is
just a technique, a process
by which thick and rich
a look at consumers from you need to witness it first descriptions are provided
a holistic perspective, to hand. Anthropologists that illustrate people’s
delve into their lifestyles understand that to uncover lives, emotions, social rela-
and how their current at- the deeper structures that tionships, decision-making
titudes and beliefs tie into guide a culture it is neces- processes and more. The
larger cultural news con- sary to “live among the na- secret to ethnography
sumption constructs on a tives.” By living among the lies in anthropological
global scale. To accomplish natives you come to learn analysis. Anthropologists
this goal, the AP turned to 1) what people do versus conducting ethnographic
the discipline of anthropol- they say they do and research and analysis get to
ogy, enlisting Context to 2) the why, or underlying what Context calls people’s
perform an ethnography of motivation, behind people’s “Deep Structure” – the
contemporary news con- actual behavior. place beneath the surface
sumption behaviors. Ethnographic field work, of easily observed behav-
therefore, involves go- iors where cultural values
Ethnography is a re- ing into people’s natural and individual motivations
search tool that comes from settings versus studying are produced and support-
the discipline of cultural people in a controlled envi- ed. One value for under-
anthropology and is based ronment. standing cultural Deep

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A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

Structures is to connect
behaviors with their under- Roots of ethnography
lying motivations, thereby Anthropolgists compare people’s behavior to parts of a tree –
providing a useful frame- some are obvious, some are hidden.
work for creating products
and services that reach Material
Culture
people on a truly deeper
What products
plane of unmet needs. and services do
people use?
To fully comprehend the
ethnographic and anthro-
Behaviors
pological research process, What do
it is helpful to use the meta- people do?
phor of a tree [right]. The
goal is to unearth the tree’s
Deep Structure
roots. The roots in this Why do people
analogy represent the Deep do what they do?
Structure that supports the
culture under study.
Above the surface, anthropologists observe people’s behavior. Below
Anthropologists rely on the surface, insights are drawn on underlying motivations.
the ethnographic method
to identify, describe and it-
eratively interpret behavior people’s disposal. behaviors and examples of
– the trunk of the tree and material culture, patterns
the material culture that Unlike the roots of the begin to emerge. The pat-
comprises the limbs and tree, the trunk and the terns that emerge from the
the leaves. Material culture limbs and leaves are the ethnographic investigation
in an ethnographic study part of the tree you can are the manifestation of
is the “stuff ” people use. walk around, touch and Deep Structure or in this
In consumer anthropology, see and describe in close analogy, the tree’s roots.
most of the stuff equals detail. As anthropologists The ethnographic ap-
products and services at begin to see more and more proach is deductive and

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A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

iterative. As the patterns and anthropological studies economies) are working or


from the research start suggest: not working.
to take shape and suggest 1) the underlying deep Most important, anthro-
a certain structure, then structure for why people do pological investigations
anthropological and social what they do and provide a platform to create
theory guides the explana- 2) what in people’s lives change, grounded in a truly
tory models that emerge. – be it products, services, deep understanding of hu-
Simply put, the resulting institutions (e.g., educa- man behavior.
models from ethnographic tion, government, religion,

Methodology
To get at the Deep Struc- group), representing a mix ton, Silicon Valley, Phila-
ture behind news consump- of ethnicities and gender. delphia and Kansas City
tion, an ethnographic Each participant had to were chosen in the United
project was designed to have access to the Internet States to provide a broad
explore a diverse group of and in addition to check- geographical sweep while
participants, using a range ing the news at least once staying away from cities
of methodologies includ- a day, participants had where the influence of
ing self-reported real-time to report accessing news major media might be more
behaviors, direct observa- through means other than prominent. Brighton, Eng-
tion and, to complete the print, television and radio. land was selected because
process, in-depth anthropo- This bias was assumed to the city is quickly attract-
logical analysis. capture young people who ing a young new population
were both connected and with its universities and
To gather as broad a digital consumers of news. established cultural life.
group of participants as The participants were In India, Hyderabad was a
possible, 18 participants recruited in three countries natural choice, as the influx
were recruited between – United States, United of technology companies
the ages of 18-34 (with an Kingdom and India and six has brought extensive ur-
emphasis on the 18-24 age metropolitan areas. Hous- banization.

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A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

‘My News’ Send-Ahead Behavioral Journaling Exercise

To gather a founda-
tion of information
about the participants’
how they would represent
themselves, focusing on
what was important to
story over a full news cycle,
making note visually and
textually of when, how and
lives, particularly their them, their likes/dislikes, why they searched for and
behaviors, values, news values and philosophies, as accessed updates on the
sources and news consump- well as who and what made story.
tion habits, all the partici- up their social networks.
pants in the study received Moving more directly The exercise, followed by
a Send-Ahead Behavioral into the news realm, par- a home visit from a Con-
Journaling Exercise en- ticipants also represented text anthropologist, was
titled “My News.” To com- what they considered to intended to prompt par-
plete the journal, partici- be news, how they defined ticipants to begin thinking
pants received a Polaroid newsworthiness, the in- about their news consump-
camera and set of instruc- fluence of platform and tion behaviors, motivations
tions on taking pictures of channel on their personal and habits, as well as their
their daily lives over the definitions of news, their perceptions of what consti-
course of three to five days. preferred means for access- tutes the news. The images
ing the news and how and and the description pro-
Participants completed when they themselves dis- vided by the participants
the behavioral journal seminated, or shared, news. yielded rich data about who
by addressing a series of Finally, participants were they were and the role that
questions both visually asked to choose a story news consumption was
and textually. The jour- that they would typically playing in their lives.
nal began by asking them follow and then track this

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A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

News Consumption Mobile Blog and News Diary

To capture behaviors
and motivations
while consumers were
day. Participants took pic-
tures to record their ideas
of what news is and why;
a discreet camera phone
to capture these moments
visually as they happened,
away from home and in the how, when and for how while internationally based
varied and different envi- long they accessed news participants completed the
ronments they visit in their sources; what news chan- assignment by taking pic-
daily lives, Context had par- nels they typically utilized; tures to accompany their
ticipants complete a mobile their level of engagements news diary using Polaroid
blog and news diary. For with different channels, cameras. U.S. participants
this structured assignment, platforms and devices; and uploaded their pictures
participants were asked to the impact this news had to a secure Web site at the
capture moments of news on them, including how end of each day, providing
consumption behavior, in they decided whether to contextual details on the
real time, over the course further disseminate a piece behavior they captured, us-
of one weekday and one of news. By including a ing their news diary pages
weekend day, from start to diary of news collection to ensure that they included
finish. pages, participants were all the details.
able to textually document For the international
Context anthropologists these news consumption participants, the Context
directed all participants to moments and motivations anthropologist brought this
take pictures that captured as well. exercise to life during the
how they search for or Participants in the United in-home, in-depth inter-
consumed news during the States were provided with view.

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A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

Day-in-the-Life Immersion and Observation

D ay-in-the-life immer-
sions were also con-
ducted to obtain first-hand
Immersion and observa-
tion are at the core of eth-
nography and the primary
A major strength from
observation and interac-
tion over the full day is
information about news technique for anthropolo- that researchers uncovered
consumption, as it actu- gists. In anthropology, the discrepancies between what
ally happened and to put in method is called participant participants said and what
perspective the information observation. In addition to they actually did.
gathered in each partici- undertaking direct observa- A structured observation
pant’s self-reported journal tion, Context anthropolo- guide was created to cover
and diary. In these sessions, gists were able to engage a series of specific issues
an anthropologist spent with the participant’s social and questions. Topics in the
part of the day shadowing life and participate in col- observation guide included
and observing participants lective discussions with exploring people’s daily
through their activities. members of his or her wid- schedules and how they
er social network. Spend- moved throughout their
Context anthropologists ing much of a day with day; what constituted news
scheduled the observation each participant meant the throughout their day; their
period during the times anthropologist was able preferred or primary news
that participants said they to obtain more detailed sources; the platforms and
consumed the news most and accurate information, devices they actually used
frequently. To gain a deeper including both observable for consuming their news;
understanding of partici- details (how much time the times and frequencies
pants’ lives and how they they spent on each Web of their news consumption;
interface with news, the site, for example) and more the level of engagement
immersion encompassed hidden details (such as how with news sources includ-
a broad sampling of their interaction with different ing their interaction and
daily activities, including news media affected their involvement with these
work, school, leisure or consumption behavior) that sources; and their reasons
entertainment activities, in- are more easily observed for the sources and medi-
teractions with family and/ and understandable over a ums they used and their
or friends and more. longer period of time. overall behavioral prefer-
ences.

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A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

In-home In-depth Interview

A fter participants com-


pleted their journal
and diary exercises, Con-
pants consumed or other-
wise received news. The
interview was structured
with a chance to explain in
greater depth the behavior
observed by the anthropolo-
text anthropologists went using the same themes as gist during the immersion
to their homes, debriefed those directing the immer- period and to discuss the
these exercises and con- sion observation, although relationship between real-
ducted in-depth interviews. questions were introduced time behaviors and what
Debriefing the journals as open-ended to assist par- participants recorded in
and diaries provided a ticipants in providing vivid their journals and through
launching pad to conduct and self-directed descrip- their blogs and news dia-
a conversational interview tions of their life experi- ries.
designed to uncover further ences. The interview also
details about how partici- provided the participants

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Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

Ethnography Participants
The following pages summarize the observations of the subjects in the study by geographic
location. The names have been changed to pseudonyms for the purposes of this report.

N ews was very impor-


tant to Riya, a 22-year-
old woman, who, together
that “knowing the news,”
or staying up to date on
current affairs, would help
goals.
Riya had a regular rou-
tine of reading the morn-
with her her pursue and achieve her ing newspaper before work.
sisters, moved She also watched televi-
Riya Hyderabad, India
out of her sion in her office cafeteria
22 village to live during breaks and dis-
Software in Hydera- cussed the news with her
engineer bad. Riya was CHINA colleagues. Back at home,
PAKISTAN
employed as she watched the evening
a software NEPAL local news with her sisters.
engineer and, on a macro New Delhi She had Internet access at
level, symbolizes the chang- work and home and usually
ing Indian woman, who has checked the news online
“come out of her kitchen,” I N D I A three times a day.
venturing into the larger, In news, Riya was look-
urban world on her own, ing for motivation and
Mumbai
far from her parents. inspiration: Reading about
Information helped Riya Hyderabad
successful women in poli-
achieve parity with her tics motivated Riya toward
male colleagues and urban her own goals and gave her
counterparts. Riya also Arabian Chennai hope that it was possible
Sea Bay of
said she dreamed of becom- Bengal for her to be somebody
ing a politician or a great SRI someday. She also looked
leader someday. She felt LANKA for news to relax. Reading

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Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

about entertainment and sociated Press.


film news was an indul- Raj mostly accessed the
gence that she enjoyed.
“Film news relaxes me. I
love to read about gossip in
Internet via his personal
computer. Before graduat-
ing, he had Internet access
V ijay, a 26-year-old man,
was an owner of an
interior design store, which
the film industry.” at college and he would he ran from his home,
check news at school as located in a fairly wealthy
well. Television was not area in the heart of Hydera-

R aj, a 22-year-old man,


just received his
bachelor’s
his primary source to stay
abreast of current events,
as he preferred the Internet Vijay
bad. Tech-
nologically,
Vijay was
degree and for news. To Raj, know- 26 well “wired,”
Raj was enrolled ing the news was a social with cable
Store
22 already in a skill because it helped him owner television and
Master’s m aster’s of communicate and raise his continuous
student s cience pro- social standing. access to the
gram in the To hone his communica- Internet.
United States. tion skills, Raj charted the Vijay came from a large
Raj browsed the Internet development of news on family with a fairly tradi-
for news to improve his a whiteboard. In fact, he tional upbringing. He felt
communications skills chose a news topic, wrote it connected to these roots
and keep himself ahead out on a whiteboard in his but was also intrigued by
of his friends. Raj said room and then practiced the changes he saw occur-
he normally checked the presenting it to others, ei- ring around him as a result
news eight to 10 times a day ther alone or before friends. of globalization. He relied
when he was busy and up By working on the way he on being up to date on the
to 20 times a day w h e n he communicated news, Raj news as a way of keeping
had more free time. Raj’s believed he could not only up with his friends and his
preferred sites were NDTV impress others, but also wider social network.
and Yahoo. He was also overcome Indian socio-cul- Vijay began the day by
very familiar with The As- tural barriers. reading the newspaper

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A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

and watching television story that he was following sources was quite interest-
with his morning coffee. because it was important ing. One of the first sites
It was at this time that he for his social circle. he went to for news was the
was most engaged with the Vijay was mostly inter- television news channel
news. This was the time ested in global business NDTV, an authoritative and
that Vijay used to prepare and political news. Dur- well-respected news chan-
himself for his day – en- ing the time of this study nel. In particular, he en-
gaging with the top news he was actively following joyed the show “The World
stories and social events several stories pertaining This Week,” which NDTV
before meeting clients and to car and bike companies has been broadcasting for
friends alike. Aside from that had begun investing in the last two decades. His
the morning hours, Vijay India. The impact this new secondary source was Ee-
would return to the televi- business could potentially andu, a well-regarded local
sion or Internet during have on the Indian econo- newspaper, written in the
the lunch hour and before my was important to him local language of Telegu.
going to sleep to check on as he had some investments His online sources included
information regarding the in the Indian stock market. NDTV.com and Yahoo.com.
stock market or a news His choice of news

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Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

J ill, a 28-year-old wom-


an, was working as an
online insurance broker.
Brighton, United Kingdom
0 100 mi
for the southern British
counties.
When Jill arrived at work
She lived 0 100 km she immediately logged
with her part- on to her e-mail, another
Jill ner, Kathryn, SCOTLAND exposure to Yahoo news
28 in a small North Sea headlines. Occasionally,
Insurance apartment she would follow up with
broker overlooking Edinburgh additional searches on
the English some of these headlines.
Channel. Jill ENGLAND She logged in and out of
was very technologically her Yahoo account about
Manchester
oriented: She accessed once every hour during the
news stories online any- Leeds day and saw Yahoo News’s
time of day. She saw news Birmingham headlines several times.
as constantly moving, “It’s London At work, Jill received text
a non-stop machine, just messages and e-mail alerts
Brighton
churning information out. about other news as well.
It doesn’t matter what it’s Plymouth During the Wimbledon ten-
about … it’s just churning.” FRANCE nis tournament, Jill kept a
She engaged with the news live scoreboard on her desk-
approximately six to eight News 24 — BBC’s round- top to follow the matches.
hours a day. She checked the-clock all-news channel. Driving back home, Jill
her e-mail on Yahoo every She then listened to head- listened to news on the
hour and thus saw Yahoo lines on the radio in her car radio. When she got home,
headlines up to 10 times as she drove to work. Her she logged into her Yahoo
a day. She was primarily commute could last 10 to 30 and Facebook accounts
attracted to stories that minutes. Jill felt that radio to get personal news and
piqued her curiosity. news was much softer and e-mail, while she watched
Jill’s news consumption more humorous than BBC news and chatted with her
routine during the day fol- News 24. In the car, she partner about the day’s
lowed a pattern: She started listened to BBC Radio One events.
her day by watching BBC and the local radio station

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Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

M ark, a 28-year-old
man, was employed
as a project manager for
final result. The house also
appreciated in value and is
now worth £100,000 more.
up to date on news coverage
and sports-related informa-
tion.
an online The main room of the Mark liked his news to
travel agency. house was a lounge that be “punchy” and point-
Mark Mark started featured a very large flat- focused. He read the head-
28 in this com- screen TV with a Sky Digi- lines in the Times and
Project pany’s call tal set-top box. Each mem- followed up on BBC online
manager center and ber of the household (and to “find out what’s hap-
was proud of their respective partners) pening” with stories that
the way he had a laptop, which meant he wanted to track. Mark
had moved up the ladder. that sometimes there were said he trusts the BBC and
Part of Mark’s job included five laptops on the wireless Sky Radio (for sports), fol-
overseeing a group of 10 to broadband network in the lowed by the Times and the
15 people. lounge at the same time. Guardian.
Mark moved to Brighton, Mark was constantly Mark’s news consump-
a more cosmopolitan and using his PDA and mobile tion was related to other
liberal city, from a northern phone to receive alerts and activities that he was
English town with a more feeds as well as up-to the- engaged in and although
conservative bent. In part, minute scores for football. he was actively consuming
Mark made the move to dis- He even took his PDA to the the news, it was almost al-
tance himself from his old lavatory and read the BBC ways in tandem with other
life and embrace a higher headlines in the way that activities such as driving or
standard of living. he used to read the newspa- working.
Together with a couple of per. (At the time of the study,
friends two years ago, Mark Mark’s news cycle was Mark was spending a
purchased a house as an continuous and he spent up majority of his time away
investment and put £26,000 to six hours a day search- from Brighton, in Peter-
into refurbishing it while ing for and receiving infor- borough, to help launch a
they lived in it. The project mation. Mark was on the new product his company
took 18 months to finish Internet most of the day charged him to manage.
and they are proud of the and used that time to keep The commute would take

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A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

three to seven hours in one ceived a copy of the Times others and her own trips
direction depending on newspaper delivered to his were free; she said goes on
traffic and he spent a lot of hotel room.) two holidays a year.
time in his car and on the Mark also mentioned Angela worked in a
phone.) Facebook as a source for largely female work force
When he was home in news. He recently had a and her male colleagues
Brighton, he would wake friend die and found out were mainly in managerial
up to his mobile phone about it from another roles. When she discussed
alarm and put on Sky friend who used e-mail via news consumption at work,
sports first thing in the Facebook to let everyone she mentioned that all the
morning. He would putter know about the death. girls were interested in gos-
around and have a cup of Mark admitted to this being sip, fashion and celebrity
tea while he listened to the a difficult and potentially stuff, while the managers
latest sports news and then unfair way to tell people were all interested in foot-
switch over to BBC news. about the death. He ques- ball and more hard-hitting
Mark then drove himself tioned the use of Facebook news.
and his two housemates, for certain types of “news.” She lived with her boy-
who also work with him, friend in his apartment on
to work and they listened a quiet residential street.
to BBC Radio One’s Chris They had a big-screen TV
Moyles Breakfast Show.
Once at work, Mark
checked BBC News online
A ngela, a 28-year-old
woman from Hove,
nearby Brigh-
but no computer or lap-
top at home. Usually, An-
gela woke up to her mobile
and a few select sports ton, was a phone alarm and her part-
sites. He followed this news Angela sales and ner put on Sky News, which
and sports pattern through- 28 booking agent she watched before she
out the day. Mark did not Booking for a travel went to work. On her drive
use MSN or Yahoo and did agent company, spe- to work, she would listen to
not look at other news sites. cializing in both local radio and BBC
(If Mark was in Peterbor- snowboarding Radio One, and was a fan of
ough, his routine was much and skiing holidays. Angela the Chris Moyles Breakfast
the same, except that he re- got discounts on trips for Show.

A Research Report from The Associated Press and the Context-Based Research Group
19
A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

At work, she would log She and her colleagues subscribe to RSS feeds or
on to her PC and check would read it at lunch and any live reports or score-
the BBC News Web site for then discard it or pass it on boards, as her work envi-
the day’s headlines. Before to someone else. ronment was somewhat
checking the stories, she After work, Angela liked monitored, though she had
looked at the five-day fore- to take her horse for a freedom to use the Internet
cast to see if she would be ride. On her way back, she at work and no sites were
able to take her horse out didn’t listen to the radio blocked.
that week. From there, she as she preferred the quiet. Overall, Angela was not
would look for other stories At home she would watch very engaged with the
that she was interested in the TV newscast with Sir news. She listened to and
(such as the flooding in Trevor McDonald before read about the news in the
England or the Madeline going to bed. morning and was typically
McCann kidnapping story Angela’s Internet use was interested in human-inter-
at the time of the field surprisingly limited. She est stories or headline news
study). accessed news first thing that had a British focus.
At lunch she would buy in the morning and then She had lost interest in
a celebrity/fashion/gossip glanced at the news on her anything in the Middle East
magazine, known in the Yahoo e-mail account but and did not follow much in
U.K. as women’s weeklies. never read it. She did not politics.

A Research Report from The Associated Press and the Context-Based Research Group
20
A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

A llen, a 20-year-old
man, was pursuing his
graduate degree at the Art
Philadelphia | U.S. But usually, I will check at
home because I am working
on other stuff at school and
0 50 mi
Institute of do not have time to browse
0 50 km
Philadelphia; the Internet.” He checked
Allen he studied NEW YORK the news three to four
20 graphic de- hours throughout the day,
Graduate sign largely “one hour in the morning
student because these Scranton and usually more when I
skills would get back from school.”
help him earn PENNSYLVANIA Allen had several RSS
a higher salary than his feeds that allowed him to
true passion, zoology. exclude news that he con-
Allen’s curiosity and sidered “filler.” He was
need to know drove his Harrisburg primarily interested in
news consumption. Allen environmental news, global
enjoyed keeping up with news, technology news and
what was new in the war in Philadelphia some entertainment (about
Iraq, politics and science. N.J. movies, not about the per-
He did not check news on MD. sonal lives of celebrities).
the go. He did not have and Allen thought of himself
did not want a PDA, “Sure, as the face of news because
if I had an iPhone, I’d would banter back and “I choose what I read” on
check the news on the way forth about different head- the Internet.
to school. But it is more of lines, articles or videos.
a novelty. I doubt between In the evening, he would
here and school there is spend about two hours

L
going to be some breaking checking the news. isa, a 27-year-old
update on something.” Allen’s news consump- woman, was working
Allen consumed news tion at school was shaped in account management in
online for about an hour in by his other activities. “If the telecommunications
the morning after he woke I have time in class I might industry.
up. He and his roommate check for breaking news. Lisa got her news

A Research Report from The Associated Press and the Context-Based Research Group
21
A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

through TV and the Inter- online from work because She preferred NBC’s Live at
net. She engaged with the the connection was faster Five newscast, because she
news in the morning when and she could watch videos liked local news and liked
she was getting ready for more easily. Lisa said that watching it on TV when she
work. She the content of the story was at home. CNN.com and
said that once determineed whether she MSNBC.com were her next
Lisa at work she actively sought more infor- preferred sites for news
27 would visit mation. because she felt they were
Accoun- hard-news Lisa primarily followed credible news sites. She
tant Web sites mainstream sources from checked those sites at work
when she television, radio and the when she was bored or
was not busy. Internet. She also got infor- when a conversation with
However, she mentioned mation regularly through a co-worker prompted her.
visiting soft-news Web sites text messages and phone She preferred news Web
often during work as well. calls on her PDA. Lisa got sites so her boss would not
In the evening, Lisa her news from NBC (TV), think she was looking at
turned on the television CNN.com, MSNBC.com, Ya- tabloid Web sites.
from the time she got home hoo, the Philadelphia Daily Another favorite for her
until she went to bed. Her News (print) and WKYW was Yahoo, which she kept
news consumption clus- (radio). She also went to as her homepage. She went
tered around the hours of YouTube to get videos to Yahoo.com to check her
4 to 6 p.m. and then from about celebrities and other e-mail and she could see
10 to 11 p.m. She had her celebrity-focused Web sites, all the current headlines.
PDA with her all the time, such as perezhilton.com. The Philadelphia Daily
checking e-mail and tak- In addition, she occasion- News was a print source
ing calls. If she checked ally watched Univision, a of news for her. Lisa got
e-mail on her laptop, she Spanish-language TV chan- the paper from a co-worker
might browse Yahoo’s latest nel, because she wanted to and sat at her desk while
news headlines and peruse learn Spanish. she ate lunch and thumbed
some stories that appealed Lisa’s preferred source through it. WKYW on the
to her. She preferred to go and platform was NBC-TV. radio was important in her

A Research Report from The Associated Press and the Context-Based Research Group
22
A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

car and mostly for weather for a restaurant that was only person allowed to ac-
and traffic. an eight-hour drive away cess a PDA on the “floor”
Lisa’s PDA was central to and as a musician and a (in the venue where he
her information and news- performer. Robert’s per- worked), he had become
gathering. Lisa got e-mail, formances the “news node” for em-
calls or text messages from were cabaret- ployees to get news up-
friends about the news, Robert style and dates. Robert would look
such as the story about 28 incorporated for particular news stories
the singer Beyonce falling Events odd news on his PDA at work if he
onstage (during the time of manager about cur- needed to communicate
the field study). Her PDA rent events. something to his employ-
also provided her with traf- Robert said ees. Robert engaged with
fic updates when she was he would only go home to the news throughout the
stuck in traffic. YouTube sleep and to feed his cat. day via his PDA.
was also a source for con- He might spend one hour Of particular interest
tent. Lisa would go to You- at home after he woke up was the connection Robert
Tube after hearing about a a n d one hour at home had made between texting
story to see a certain video before he went to bed. and checking news. After
(as she did when she heard Robert’s social network finishing a text message,
about Beyonce’s stumble). was rooted in his work. He Robert habitually hit the
had worked at the perfor- Internet button on his

R obert, a 28-year-old
man, was working 50
to 80 hours a week as an
mance venue for three
years and spent a majority
of his time there. Robert
PDA and quickly browsed
headlines. Other moments
of engagement with news
events manager at a perfor- did not have Internet ac- during the day included
mance venue. He usually cess at home, so he relied overhearing the top of the
arrived at work around on his phone (which he hour NPR (National Pub-
noon a n d would stay until referred to as a Pocket PC) lic Radio) news that was
somewhere between 10 and his office computer broadcast via the radio
p.m. to 3 a.m. Robert also to keep in touch with the station WXPN that played
worke d periodically as “outside” world. throughout the building
an independent auditor Because Robert was the where he worked.

A Research Report from The Associated Press and the Context-Based Research Group
23
A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

H annah, a 30-year-old
woman who still lived
at her family’s home, was
Houston | U.S. with the news, utilizing
both TV and the Internet
until she felt “up to date.”
ARK.
studying OKLA. After an hour or two, she
for the state began studying either at
Hannah nursing board home, at a friend’s house
30 exams while or at a coffee shop. When
Nursing working at Hannah was studying,
graduate a hospital. Dallas she was usually using her
She said she computer by taking test
loved be- TEXAS questions and using online
ing a nurse because she Austin
study resources. When she
described herself as a got tired she liked to “take
compassionate person who Houston breaks and look at the news
cared about people and the a bit.” In explaining this
state of the world. “I stay habit, she said, “I like to
up on the news because I have my mind concentrate
wish I could make more of 0 200 mi
Gulf of on something else, not just
Mexico
a difference.” She felt that go dead, because it’s harder
0 200 km
since one person cannot to get my mind going again
really make a difference if I totally disengage and
globally, she could help daydream or something.”
“one patient at a time” by a.m. to 7 p.m. Her days off At work, Hannah’s news
informing those around her were usually spent study- consumption was much
of what she learne d from ing for the board exams, more social, as her col-
the news. “I pay more atten- either at home or with a leagues updated her on the
tion to things that are more friend at a coffee shop. Her latest headlines while they
significant to me and the daily routine was very dif- did their rounds. Keeping
world around me.” ferent between when she up on the news at work was
Hannah worked at a hos- was at work and when she a very communal endeavor
pital about 15 minutes away was off. and an ingrained cultural
from her home for three On her days off, Han- habit and even the patients
to four days a week from 7 nah liked to start her day were involved. At work,

A Research Report from The Associated Press and the Context-Based Research Group
24
A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

Hannah depended on oth- friend would be charged ternoons into evenings six
ers to update her on the with committing a crime days a week, usually from 4
news. Her access points for in addition to the mother. to 8 p.m. She sat at the front
news at work included the Hannah felt that because of the salon behind a coun-
nurse sitting at the nurs- the two had been together ter and computer, greete d
ing station with access to for so long and had four and scheduled guests as
Internet and the computer other children that “there’s they came in a n d took
in the break room, which no way he didn’t know she their payments when they
she normally used to look was pregnant and I think left. Her other responsi-
up or browse news a couple he should be punished bilities included sweeping,
of times during a 12-hour too.” She checked every cleaning, washing towels
shift. article she could find about a n d taking inventory.
Much of Hannah’s news that story but never found When she had downtime,
consumption behavior took the answer. She said she or when the door traffic was
the form of a search for an- would continue to follow slow, she surfed the Inter-
swers. Not being someone this story to see if any new net for news, usually start-
who automatically accepted information was released. ing from the computer’s
other people’s opinions homepage (msn.com) or her
or an editorial piece, she e-mail homepage (Yahoo).
tended to investigate the From there, she clicked on
reasoning, facts and sup-
porting evidence behind a
story on her own until she
B ess, an 18-year-old
woman, was working
as a receptionist at a hair
headlines that most inter-
ested or intrigued her, or
that had some relevance to
was satisfied with her own salon chain. Her mother her life or the lives of her
opinion on it. was a hair stylist and Bess friends and family. An avid
For instance, a story in had just taken her styling baseball fan, she always
the headlines of the day test. She was clicked on baseball-related
during the study was about to become a headlines.
a mother in Ocean City, Bess stylist at the
Maryland, who had left 18 same store The owner of her salon
four fetuses out to die on Recep- in just a few hardly ever came in, but
her property. Hannah was tionist weeks. Bess had a Web spyware ap-
curious whether the boy- worke d af- plication installed on her

A Research Report from The Associated Press and the Context-Based Research Group
25
A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

computer so he could watch with her parents to spend and typically felt no need
what she was doing on the more time with them. The to take action or be further
screen. If she was playing nightly news became a engaged.
solitaire or looking at the time for her to catch up
news, he would look at the
check-in software program
to see how many people
with them and she said
she enjoyed it. Bess would
also sometimes look some-
C orey, a 24-year-old, was
working at Best Stor-
age, a pri-
were being worked on and thing up online from home, vately owned
how many were queued. If particularly if she got a Corey storage
he thought the salon was piece of a story sometime 24 facility, where
too busy for her to be fid- during the day and was Aid/ customers
dling around on the com- curious about the whole Student rent indi-
puter, he would often call story. She rarely turned on vidual storage
her and tell her to get busy. the computer at home to units. Corey
Bess had just graduated just browse; rather, she was also worke d overnight
from high school and still usually looking up some most nights at two different
lived at home with her specific story. halfway houses for mental-
mother and stepfather. Her Bess was usually engaged ly challenged adult men. In
21-year-old boyfriend, who with the news only to the addition, Corey was study-
she had been dating for five extent of discussing it with ing accounting.
months at the time of the those around her. Rarely In the mornings, when he
field study, recently moved did a news story impact or was at one of the halfway
in as well. change her behavior unless houses, Corey and “the
They shared her small it was a local story about a guys” would sit around the
childhood bedroom and had storm (“need to know about kitchen table and watch
plans to save up enough the weather”), accident the news on TV (first the
money to move out, find a (“need to know about traf- regular news, but as soon
place of their own and get fic”) or murder/rape (“need as sports news came on
married. to know what areas to at 8 a.m. they switched to
At home, Bess started avoid”). Bess was basically ESPN). After the news, he
watching the news nightly a passive recipient of news usually would head to Best

A Research Report from The Associated Press and the Context-Based Research Group
26
A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

Storage, where he worked had classes and usually was news insofar as it helped
five to seven days a week. too busy for news. How- him feel more confident
When he first got to work, ever, on the few nights he and intelligent and allowed
he caught up on what was was home, he would often him to form opinions for
new (starting with Yahoo sit with his wife, Mel, discussing issues with oth-
and moving to CNN.com) and watch the news on ers. He felt it was important
or confirmed stories he had CBS, ABC or CNN. They to “know what’s going on”
heard on TV that morning, discussed what they saw, around him and enjoyed
as well as from the newspa- but Corey tended to avoid talking with other people,
per or word of mouth. talking “politics” with whether they be colleagues,
An important trigger for Mel, since she would get fellow students, teachers,
knowing the news was a co- annoyed and bored with family or friends, about
worker. Corey talked a lot political discussions. what was going on. Since
with one of his co-workers Corey did not have Inter- he kept up with the news
about news. As he said, net access at home, so he so much, he usually found
“Half the reason I’m so only looked online when he that a lot of the informa-
intent on keeping up with was working at the storage tion was repeated and that
sports is so I can argue facility or at school. he knew most of what he
about it with her!” Corey was engaged with saw in headlines already.
Two nights a week, he what he learned from the

A Research Report from The Associated Press and the Context-Based Research Group
27
A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

S usan, a 25-year-old
woman, was living
in the suburbs with her
Kansas City | U.S.

0 100 mi
the radio,” so she avoided
most exposure to news.
Sometimes, though, she
parents, her IOWA
0 100 km would listen to drive-time
brother and DJs discuss current events
Susan his wife a n d while she was in the car.
25 their 8-year- Susan might catch the
Nanny/ old son, early news with her father
Student Frankie. Su- Kansas City before she left the house
san’s goal was at 7:15 a.m., for her job as
to be working a nanny. But typically, she
as a nurse, or in some type did not get time to hear the
of field where she could KAN. Jefferson City news in the morning be-
help others. MISSOURI cause she was busy helping
Susan’s direct news con- her nephew get ready for
sumption was very struc- the day and preparing to
tured and public. Watching Springfield go to work. She paid extra
TV news was a daily, family attention later in the day
event, particularly in the to stories people told from
OKLA. ARK.
evening prior to dinner. hearing or reading the
Her family watched the lo- news. In this way, Susan
cal news at 5 p.m., then the said the news “kind of
national news at 5:30 p.m., was based on television comes to me … from other
followed by the local news viewing. Susan’s active people who read the news-
again at 6 p.m. The family newsgathering routine paper” or who watch the
did not subscribe to news- was based mainly on the morning news.
papers. times other people were She was particularly keen
Susan had a laptop and consuming news. In the car, on human-interest and lo-
the family had an Inter- she had the opportunity cal stories. Susan believed
net connection. However, to listen to the radio, but most news was far too
Susan described her news for her, “the radio is for negative and she actively
consumption as “very music.” She did not like to avoided national and inter-
traditional,” because it listen to “people talking on national news.

A Research Report from The Associated Press and the Context-Based Research Group
28
A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

Sometimes she would formation that was close “Given the choice,” he
look up the information to him. “It’s important to added, he “would probably
about breaking news on know what’s going on if go to most popular stories”
Google – “Google’s a little it’ll affect me.” The face of because the title did not
bit better” – to obtain more news for Jack was the face make him feel quite so
information. She did not of his social network. He depressed. Jack followed
go first to news Web sites, felt that his friends, par- sports news and other
which she said could be dif- ents, co-workers and uncle news stories differently. He
ficult to navigate and there- were the constant face of received RSS feeds on his
fore frustrated her. Mostly, news for him. These were Yahoo homepage about his
Google and Yahoo were the people who “I hear favorite teams and sports
tools that she associated from and talk about news leagues and followed those
more with college course- and events.” At the same headlines. He said he would
work and writing papers. time, he said that he did not just glance at other stories.
know a lot of people who Jack had three variables
were highly informed. that determined whether a

J ack, a 22- year-old man,


attende d the Universi-
ty of Kansas
Jack distinguished be-
tween “breaking news,”
“latest news,” “top stories,”
news story was high pri-
ority for him: location of
an event, its severity and
and lived in and “most popular” news his prior familiarity with
Jack Lawrence. He stories. “Breaking news” the context of the story.
22 started out at was “not the full story, like He acknowledged, though,
Psych the Universi- a preview, but it is kind that his ideas about what
major ty of Kansas of annoying sometimes. was news were changing
as a business I don’t like to get bits and as he matured. “In high
major and pieces of information.” school, I couldn’t care less
shifted to psychology. He “Latest news” was just a about the news. In my more
and four fraternity broth- fuller exposition of what in-depth classes, I’ve been
ers shared half of a duplex was previously “breaking learning the way the world
apartment in a new subdi- news,” but he said that and the government work.”
vision on the south side of “top stories” were “more He found that the scope
town. depressing” than latest or of things that affect him
To Jack, news was in- breaking news stories. was widening: “I’m start-

A Research Report from The Associated Press and the Context-Based Research Group
29
A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

ing to get out on my own versity of Kansas newspa- in the expanding south side
and there are things I need per. He also listened to 101 of Kansas City. The two-
to know about like Social FM and 98.9 FM, especially story house s a t at the edge
Security.” Jack therefore DJ Johnny Dare and to AM of farmland.
tought that what was news 810 WHB, a sports talk sta- Max was en-
for him would probably tion. These tended to be the Max rolled at the
change over time. easiest sources to access. 20 local commu-
As for his approach to Yahoo was convenient to Market nity college.
news, Jack said, “I don’t access because it was his worker Max did not
really go hunting for the Internet homepage and the consume the
news; I just accept it when Daily Kansan was avail- news much
it comes.” This was clearly able free on campus when when he was actually work-
not the case for sports school was in session. ing, but he did when he
news, which he actively Secondary sources for was on break. In the break
sought out on a daily basis, Jack included Fox 4 local room, he looked at The
usually sometime after he TV news, CNN, MSNBC Kansas City Star newspa-
woke up: “I always look up and the Lawrence Journal per – first the sports, then
the sports. Then I might World newspaper. These the auto classifieds, then
look at the weather and sources were outside his the FYI section (a lifestyle
finally the headlines if I normal patterns of con- section) and the headlines.
have time.” He was particu- sumption. However, with In the break room he could
larly active in finding news certain friends and co- look at the news openly, but
about his fantasy sports workers he might use them the environment behind
teams. While he made a more frequently. the seafood counter was not
habit of looking up infor- conducive to reading the
mation on Yahoo Sports, he paper.
said that if he saw a story He would sometimes
on ESPN first, he might go
to the Internet to follow up
on it.
M ax was working in the
seafood and meat de-
partment of a large grocery
discuss the news with co-
workers. He found talking
about the news with the re-
Jack’s main sources were store in the far southern tirees he worked with to be
Yahoo Sports, ESPN and suburbs. Max was living particularly enlightening.
the Daily Kansan, the Uni- with his parents and sister “I learn a lot from them,

A Research Report from The Associated Press and the Context-Based Research Group
30
A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

about all kinds of things to a story. did not associate Wikipedia


I wouldn’t know about Because he worked most with user-generated con-
otherwise. Financial stuff, of the day, if he watched tent. Instead, he suggested
for example.” These discus- the news on television, that he did not trust user-
sions were public, because it was usually late in the generated information.
it was not a distraction to morning or in the evening “People who use blogs are
the work of servicing a after work. He also enjoyed probably blobs,” he re-
seafood counter. and depended on his car marked.
Outside of work he and he listened to the radio Overall, he did not rep-
consumed the news largely when he was driving to resent the stereotypical
with friends. This was and from work and around 20-something when it came
particularly true of sports town. to computers. “The com-
news, which was the sub- Interestingly, Max said puter is a time suck,” he
ject of heated discussion that “news is work; you complained. He only went
between his male friends have to work” to access and on the computer during
and himself. With them, he understand it. The faces his “down time. If I happen
watched television, espe- of news for him were the to be on the computer, it’s
cially ESPN. With his girl- social satirists and news because I’m bored.” He did
friend, he was more likely entertainment anchors Jon not see himself as part of
to watch E! Entertainment Stewart and Stephen Col- the wired generation.
news and admitted that bert (cable TV comedians). “I would like to go on
she had gotten him inter- They embody what Max record as saying that I more
ested in celebrity gossip. called “anti-negativity.” or less pride myself on the
But most of his news came When Max was online, fact that I don’t spend all
from friends. “I get more he used Yahoo most often my time on the computer
information from hearsay to search for information. not using my mind … like
or my friends. They’re like “Another thing I like to hit people who aren’t out there
human TiVos.” Hearing up is Wikipedia,” because experiencing what there is
something from one of his “you can type in just about in the world.”
friends would often prompt anything” and get the news
him to pay extra attention you want. Interestingly, he

A Research Report from The Associated Press and the Context-Based Research Group
31
A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

A ndrew, a 20-year-old
man, was finishing his
second year of college at De
Silicon Valley | U.S. The Daily Show with Jon
Stewart, among other parts
of programs, such as the
0 200 mi
Anza Commu- Jerry Springer talk show
nity College. 0 200 km and Family Guy, the ani-
Andrew A business mated situation comedy.
NEVADA
20 major, he Andrew said his normal
Business p l a n n e d Sacramento daily routine involved read-
major to move ing the sports section while
on to the San Francisco eating breakfast and read-
University of Santa Clara ing it again while watching
California in Santa Cruz. San Jose TV over lunch. He usually
He went to school full time Sillicon consumed sports news but
and worke d part time in Valley sometimes he read the front
the hardware section at CALIFORNIA page of the newspaper. The
Sears, a department store. Los main trigger that spurred
Andrew spent some of his Angeles him to check the news was
time at home, but most of Pacific
Ocean boredom. Whenever he was
his time hanging out with bored, he watched TV or
his friends. Andrew lived San Diego looked online for news.
with his family. Staying up to date on
Andrew was an active the news was important to
news seeker. During the ob- Jose Mercury News. When Andrew. He said that when
servation period, Andrew he returned to his room, he went to Israel for two
spent about an hour and a he went online to Yahoo weeks, he did not have ac-
half doing his online class Finance and read an article cess to TV or the Internet.
and homework and then about Netflix and Block- He came back completely
took a break to eat. Dur- buster stocks. Then he con- unaware of what was going
ing that time, he turned on tinued with his homework. on and “out of the loop.”
ESPN and watched sports A while later, he watched He told the story of a friend
news while glancing at the more sports news on ESPN. whose parents canceled
sports section of The San He also caught part of their cable TV, leaving her

A Research Report from The Associated Press and the Context-Based Research Group
32
A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

unaware of what was going that he first started check- his news consumption and
on in the news. ing the news purely out of searched for online articles
boredom, but it had become and sites that interested
a habit. He checked the him. For Frank, news was

F rank, a 19-year-old man,


was living with his
parents in Santa Clara. He
news three to four times a
day: before he left his house
in the afternoon, before he
everywhere and he did
not wait for it to come to
him. The ease with which
was attending his second ate dinner and before he he could access the news
year at a local community went to sleep. He had been was made clear during the
college and was interested doing this for at least a year in-depth interview when he
in political science, local and the habit had begun to stated, “Back in the olden
news and take on a bit more meaning days, people used to pay for
anything that for him. As he explained, newspapers. Now you can
Frank directly influ- “I read the news when I get find everything for free.”
19 enced his life. bored, but then one of the Frank used headlines to
Politics He d i d not reasons I read the news is decide whether or not to
major distinguish because I gain informa- read articles. For example,
between the tion.” on the Digg site, he browsed
types of news Frank shared informa- the headlines and read
he enjoye d . He repeatedly tion with his friends via the paragraph-long sum-
said that anything that af- links he sent them over maries. He estimated that
fected his life in some way AIM, a Web messaging 75 percent of the time he
was news. service. He often sent them continued on with the sto-
Frank’s main source of funny news stories and ries. When he browsed the
news came from the Inter- they, in turn, would send headlines, he was looking
net. He looked at Digg.com him news links. When for something that caught
and any sites that were he regularly met up with his eye, something that
linked from Digg. He also friends at Starbucks the related to his life.
accessed news from Google conversation often began Frank quickly jumped
News, the local television with “Did you hear about from site to site and article
station’s Web site KTVU. …?” to article while consum-
com, as well as Mercu- ing the news. Frank moved
ryNews.com. Frank said Frank was proactive in on when a story got more

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attention than it deserved. quite engaged with local husband might take.
When a story could not go happenings, comment- Sally paid attention to
anywhere else, he stopped ing on some stories, and headlines in the newspaper
paying attention to it. In maintained and online and used them
the case of Paris Hilton an interest in as a guide to know which
going to jail (during the Sally any stories articles to read. If a head-
time of the field study), one 25 that had to do line resonated with her, if
picture of her going to jail Office with her pro- it related in some way to
told the whole story. It was manager fession in the her life or interests, then
enough. health field. she read the article. Verify-
While watch- ing stories was not very
ing the news, Sally checked important to Sally, as she
her e-mail on the laptop she said, “I don’t confirm the
and her husband keep near news I hear unless I want

S ally, a 25-year-old
woman, was work-
ing as an office manager/
the television.
After watching the local
news for about 20 minutes
to know more about some-
thing or find out if it re-
ally happened. There’s too
administrative assistant at she turned on an Oprah ep- much news to do that with
a start-up health insurance isode that she had taped on everything.”
company. She left her house their TiVo machine. While Sally preferred to get
at 8:30 each morning and watching Oprah, Sally was her news from the televi-
had a 30-minute commute checking her e-mail, but sion, particularly ABC and
that she shared with her stopped to take notes on NBC, because she thought
husband. They listened to products that Oprah fea- the content was very good
the local public radio sta- tured on her show. When and she enjoyed the mix
tion that carried NPR for her husband began to use of local and national news
the duration of their drive. the laptop, Sally switched to that could be gathered in
During the evening surfing the Web on her iP- a short time. Sally liked to
observed during the study, hone. Besides checking her stay current with the news
Sally returned home from e-mail, she went to Digg, because it helped her make
work and immediately because she wanted to get judgments and decisions.
turned on the television information about a pos- For example, during this
to the local news. She was sible vacation she and her study Sally was interested

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in buying a car and she could participate in discus- Overall, Sally was a
found several news reports sions during lunch. She and believer of news. Sally
on car safety to be particu- her colleagues always talk- defined news as an unbi-
larly helpful. News stories ed about the news, although ased source of facts from
that directly impacted her most commonly that meant which she got most all of
life were most newsworthy celebrity gossip. One of her her information. She con-
to Sally. colleagues who was always sidered news to be honest;
The news gave Sally up on such news usually be- something she could use
something to talk about at gan the conversations, and to form her own opinions.
work. She stressed that it if it was something Sally “Newsworthy is something
was very important to be did not know about, she that affects my life.”
well-informed so that she later looked it up online.

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Changing Consumption:
Conclusions and Recommendations
Today’s Model

If the ultimate goal from


ethnographic research
and anthropological analy-
The illustration on page
37 was drawn by the Con-
text team to capture the
fold,” to use a print news
expression, consuming
mostly headlines and up-
sis is to uncover the deep news consumption behav- dates. Meanwhile, “below-
roots of the culture under ior and needs observed the-fold” content captured
investigation, you might in this study group. The much less attention.
consider the structure observations suggested an The fold also can be seen
that emerges from such an imbalance in the compo- as a dividing line between
inquiry as an experience or nents that make up what news that was consumed
behavioral model. might be called the “whole mostly passively (facts and
With an understanding story” behind a particular updates encountered from
of the culture’s roots, it piece or body of news. Par- e-mail, portals or word
becomes possible to map ticipants in the study were of mouth) versus deeper
those roots to people’s receiving and accessing dives that required more
actual and prospective an imbalance of headlines active consumption, or real
behaviors and the products and updates in their daily “work,” as the subjects
and services people use or routines, versus deeper themselves described it.
might use. In this fashion, background, labeled in the People in the study were
a behavioral model can pro- illustration as the back able to articulate the imbal-
vide a company or industry story and future stories and ance of their news diet as
– the news business in this spin-offs. The study showed a problem. They spoke of
case – with a framework for people spending the major- having trouble keeping up
innovation. ity of their time “above the or finding resolution in the

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news. In short, the study news, through unlimited abundance of news and
illustrated a contemporary channels, created an envi- ubiquity of choice do not
news consumption model ronment for excess. The necessarily translate into
where the foundational ele- participants in the study a better news environment
ments for news and jour- were consuming a steady for consumers. In fact, the
nalism – background and diet of bite-size pieces of consumers in this study
next steps – were mostly news in the form of head- exhibited news fatigue as
out of range. Stories “below lines, updates and quick they attempted to navigate
the fold” seemed in danger facts. an information stream that
of becoming vestigial news News consumers do mostly dishes up recycled
organs. have a ubiquity of news to headlines and updates. For
The logical explanation select from at almost any- example, Jack from Kansas
for much of the current time, from anywhere on City said that “news [today]
news consumption be- a variety of technologies is not the full story, but
havior is connected to the and platforms—television, more like a preview—it’s
Internet-driven, 24/7 news Internet, mobile devices, kind of annoying some-
world. In the study, seem- radio and more. How- times. I don’t like to get bits
ingly unlimited access to ever, the reality is that the and pieces of information.”

Today’s model
Faster delivery vehicles
and platforms have cre- Headlines, Consumers say
ated a news model based Breaking they are inun-
on quick delivery and Updates Facts dated with these
quick-scan consumption. aspects …
New generations of news THE ‘FOLD’
consumers seldom dig
deeper – or “below the Back story
… while explain-
fold” – which may Depth, Future stories/
ing they can’t find
explain why they crave Breadth Spin-offs
these
more information. aspects of a story.
* – Larger boxes indicate more available content

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A New Model for News
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And Riya from Hyderabad news” as they tried to un- powerful social currency
said that she loses interest cover the depth of news and in their interactions with
after three days if a story the resolution of stories others. Raj from Hyderabad
has become stale or is just they desired. Furthermore, and Jill from Brighton were
repeating earlier news. they wanted to “work their good examples of this prom-
The study clearly showed news” on their own, putting ising phenomenon. Raj used
a contemporary news diet together their news by pro- a whiteboard to chart his
that was short and getting ducing it (at least in part) prospective conversations;
shorter on journalistic sub- by themselves. Lisa from Jill kept up on sports to im-
stance. For instance, when Philadelphia was a good press her boss at work.
speaking about developing example. To her, news was The most hopeful sign
stories, Robert from Phila- “here and now. If you want that came through in these
delphia said he “does not background, it’s up to you,” observations is that news
want to be fed bits. I want she said. fatigue is not fatal. Energy
to know all the details at That dedication to work- remains for the pursuit of
once.” ing the news also produced news worth sharing, as the
But there are signs of a valuable result. Many following key findings sug-
hope, too. The subjects of the subjects found they gest.
talked about “working their could use the news as

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A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

Field Study Findings


News Is Connected to E-mail
via quick, half-sentences.

A majority of these
subjects digested news
alongside their e-mail.
However, the small doses
of news in e-mail formats
mostly failed to deliver the
The predominant use of deeper content that might
Y a h o o , MSN and other get their news. have produced a richer and
Web-based e-mail services On the surface, the study more rewarding experience
promoted this behavior and suggested that matching for these participants.
likely ingrained a habit for e-mail with news checking Since e-mail is mostly
e-mail/news checking. “I was a perfect marriage. viewed as an update sys-
get my news when I check Delivering simple head- tem, news producers should
my e-mail,” was the most lines fit nicely with e-mail explore new ways to move
often heard response in behavior – pushing small users to deeper content
reference to when people snippets of information from those programs.

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Constant Checking Is Linked to Boredom

A fter e-mail, partici-


pants in the study said
they checked updates and
updates. Their behavior
therefore suggested a “false
positive”; that is, the par-
their habit to check news
out of boredom and were
changing their behavior.
headlines as a way to pass ticipants were checking Frank in the Silicon Val-
time and break boredom. news more frequently but ley, for instance, actively
This behavior appears to not exploring stories in any searched for online articles
be related to the e-mail depth. and sites that interested
connection with news as Some participants in the him. But Frank nonethe-
well as to the ubiquity of study had become aware of less made quick jumps
news access and choice from site to site and article
available online. Overall, to article, suggesting that
participants in the study news producers need to find
constantly checked for ways to keep people like
news and therefore techni- him engaged, so that they
cally consumed news on a can quickly decide whether
very frequent basis. How- a news environment merits
ever, the news they most further exploration.
frequently accessed largely
consisted of headlines and

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A New Model for News
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Contemporary Lifestyles Impact News Consumption

T he contemporary
context for news
consumption helps make
represented in such set-
tings. That is, does the fact
that they are sitting next to
across time and space to
countless other individuals,
groups and information,
sense of the seemingly each other and not talking as well as to each other.
irrational news-checking mean they are anti-social? Understanding how to de-
behavior that was observed Not talking does not mean liver valuable news across
in this study. For example, they are not communicat- such “virtually relative”
consider the living room ing. What is important to environments like Mark’s
in Mark’s Brighton apart- understand is how they living room appears key
ment, featuring a large flat- are communicating. In to making a better connec-
screen TV and a Sky Digital this case, the friends were tion with this audience.
set-top box. A typical scene involved in a multidimen- Popular online search and
in the lounge found Mark, sional infor- sharing mecha-
roommates and girlfriends mation expe- nisms are tools
seated in front of the flat- rience. They that could be
screen with laptops also were physi- harnessed to
opened and online. cally located provide deeper
In order to make sense of in the living access to news
the behavior in the room, room but in content and vi-
it is necessary to first re- reality were ral distribution
define the social behavior connected opportunities.

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Consumers Want Depth But Aren’t Getting It

P articipants in this
study did show signs of
largely shallow and erratic
conditioned to respond to
headlines and updates as
presenting whole news sto-
the fold.”
For the participants in
this study, in-depth search-
news consumption, howev- ries, when in reality they es for news were limited
er the study also suggested do not. We observed con- mostly to crisis situations.
that people wanted more sumers click and re-click For instance, during the pe-
depth and were trying to news updates and head- riod when the field research
find it. Unfortunately, more lines and continue to do so, was conducted in 2007, a
often than not, people did seemingly regardless of major bridge collapsed in
not understand that their the outcome. Unknowingly, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
attempts to substantiate they often clicked through Bess, the receptionist at
and validate stories were a link for more “depth” and the hair salon in Houston,
not actually getting them in reality just got the same clicked on the “interactive”
anything new. Typically, content from a different pieces of the Minneapo-
people in the study were “news brand,” or on a dif- lis bridge story on Yahoo,
just checking the same sto- ferent platform. which digitally recreated
ry through the same source If the news industry con- the fall of the bridge and
(or news “brand”) across tinues to support this ha- pointed out potential areas
different media. Or they bitual response, a cycle of of weakness in the bridge’s
were checking different “above-the-fold” scanning structure.
platforms but unwittingly for headlines and updates The implication for the
reading content coming will likely be perpetuated, news industry is to see
from the same source, such limiting demand for – and crises as times to educate
as A P . ultimately the supply of – news consumers about the
From a psychological more in-depth news cov- tools for digging deeper
point of view, one might erage. In business terms, into stories with the hope
interpret this news con- this could result in the loss that they will use these
sumption behavior as a of potential revenue from tools more often.
classic Pavlovian response. premium content delivery,
In other words, people were or content that lives “below

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News Is Multitasked

U nlike past media


models, where con-
sumers made a scheduled
tention to the news as they
were consuming it. For
example, Mark in Brighton
for depth necessitated more
attention to the activity
than these subjects tended
date with a source of almost always consumed to give it. This argues for
news – the morning paper news in tandem with some the development of more
or the evening news, for other activity, such as driv- interactive news experi-
example – the participants ing or working. ences, such as the bridge
in this study almost always The tendency toward collapse package that en-
consumed news as part of multitasking the news was ticed Bess to engage more
another set of tasks. Multi - another key factor contrib- intently with the content.
tasking kept these subjects uting to the predominant
from giving their full at- scanning behavior. Going

Consumers Are Experiencing News Fatigue

P articipants in this
study showed signs of
news fatigue; that is, they
repeatedly were left unsat-
isfied. Ultimately, news fa-
tigue brought many of the
in the study, the negativity
of news – tragedy, crisis,
war, terror – added to the
appeared debilitated by in- participants to a learned desire to tune out.
formation overload and un- helplessness response. Ironically, satirical news
satisfying news experienc- The more overwhelmed or shows provided an antidote
es. Many consumers in the unsatisfied they were, the for news fatigue by creating
study were so overwhelmed less effort they were willing an “anti-negative.” Ameri-
and inundated by news that to put in. can respondents in the
they just did not know what Adding to news fatigue study noted that the news
to do. Participants with among these participants comedian Jon Stewart
news fatigue would try to was the widespread belief could take even the most
ascertain whole news sto- that “all news today is neg- serious news, spin it and
ries, but they regularly and ative.” Over and over again make it palatable. Robert

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in the United States said helpless to change their watch the morning news.”
he liked Howard Stern, a news consumption at a The implication for the
crude radio show that dis- time when they have more news industry is not to
cusses newsworthy items control and choice than flood the marketplace with
as well as entertainment- ever before. When the news repetitive content, but to
type news. “[Stern] talks wore them down, partici- counter the audience’s
about things in a way I can pants in the study showed anxiety and overload with
relate to. I don’t need an a tendency to passively compelling content deliv-
anchor to tell me a script. I receive versus actively seek ered in innovative ways,
get it. For a lot of news it’s news. As one person put whether it be with technol-
a case of if we don’t laugh, it, “I don’t go hunting for ogy or tongue in cheek. It is
we’ll cry. I’d rather trust a news, I just accept it when important to keep in mind
satirist than a wax-faced it comes.” Or as another that learned helplessness
suit on network news.” said, “News kind of comes is a chronic condition that
The irony in news fatigue to me … from other people can be reversed.
is that these consumers felt who read the paper or

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Television Impacts Consumers Expectations

P articipants in the study


consistently mentioned
TV news as an important
(Stephen Colbert) as “news
sources.” The two are
back-to-back news satire
and entertainment. By
using the old style news
delivery formula, news en-
element in their news diet, shows on cable television. tertainment shows deliver
both as a point of frustra- Jack from Kansas City said a balance of “above” and
tion and relief. On the nega- Stewart was “absolutely” “below” the fold content,
tive side, broadcast televi- the human face of news for and participants in the
sion’s propensity to “tease” him. study ate it up. Participants
the news in promos that The fact that people in in Britain mentioned Sir
break into programming the study were growing Trevor McDonald in a simi-
and throughout newscasts tired of real news and lar vein. Unlike Stewart or
themselves was a major relaxing with fake news Colbert, Sir Trevor plays
contributor to news fatigue would seem to confirm largely a traditional anchor
for many of these subjects. the conventional wisdom role, but he ends shows
Max from Kansas City, for that young consumers with a satirical spot that’s
example, wanted to catch are rejecting traditional entertaining.
“top stories” but felt televi- news formats. But, in fact, The takeaway from these
sion news usually “hides” these American shows cast television trends is that
them at the bottom of an themselves in the formula this young audience had
hour. On the other end of of old-style broadcast news little patience for formats
the spectrum, some of the journalism with simple sets that promise and don’t de-
U.S. participants were obvi- and an anchor behind the liver. They enthusiastically
ous fans of shows that turn desk presenting a series embraced clever presenta-
the news into entertain- of headlines followed by tions that delivered even
ment. Several referenced depth, spin-offs and editori- more than they promised,
“fake news,” specifically alizing. The viewer actually such as the fake news cable
The Daily Show (Jon Stew- gets a significant dose of shows.
art) and The Colbert Report content along with humor

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Story Resolution Is Key and Sports and Entertainment Deliver

P articipants in the study


consistently mentioned
the importance of sports
get a series of updates and
headlines balanced with
in-depth back story, future
an end or clear next steps.
Games are won and lost;
movies are released and
and entertainment news in story and editorializing. reviewed; stars are born
their lives. People enjoyed and followed everywhere.
their sports and entertain- The behavior of the par- General interest news, poli-
ment news regardless of ticipants also suggests that tics in particular, cannot
format, and it is worth people loved their sports always offer such resolu-
noting that sports and and entertainment news be- tion, but building that kind
entertainment news on TV cause of the level of resolu- of storytelling into other
borrow heavily from old- tion that this type of news content areas could have an
school broadcast journal- offers. Stories tend to have impact on this audience’s
ism formulas. Audiences a beginning, middle and engagement level.

News Takes Work Today But Creates Social Currency


S everal people in the
study were able to
articulate the concept that
to re-balance the relation-
ship between “above-the-
fold and “below-the-fold”
many said just that. Raj
diagramed the news for
himself on a whiteboard
news takes work today. news on their own terms. routinely. As people came
They might be called the “News is shallow today,” to understand the reality of
“enlightened news con- one participant said, “If contemporary news offer-
sumers” – people who saw you want background, it’s ings, they showed signs of
through the fog of their up to you.” By saying that wanting to take matters
news fatigue and were do- news was up to them, the into their hands. If news
ing something about it. In consumers in this study was going to take real work,
essence, the enlightened were suggesting that they, then it should also work
news consumers in this the consumers, were the for them and help them
study were actually trying “face of news today.” And meet their personal needs.

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Any news that did not meet and updates, did not offer platforms. Sharable infor-
these needs was ultimately people in the study enough mation was the key. In this
deemed unhelpful and value to create the cur- study, people were observed
ignored. rency they needed in their in constant communica-
The enlightened con- lives. They longed for more tion with their extended
sumers turned news into news they could use. social networks. Following
“units” of social currency a particular news story
that could be used in a Several participants was in large part depen-
variety of interpersonal sought help, not from the dent on whether the news
situations – to look smart, media, but from their own was worth sharing with
connect with friends and networks of friends, family a trusted member of the
family and even move up and co-workers. Not sur- network. As one member
the socio-economic lad- prisingly, sports and enter- of the study said, “News
der. But the news as it is tainment news was quickly helps me maintain relation-
predominantly delivered shared and transmitted, ships.”
in digital formats today, in checked and re-shared over
the form of quick headlines varieties of media and

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Recommendations
T he competing notions
of “news fatigue” and
“news as social currency”
At a high level, the chal-
lenge for news providers is
two-fold: Create appealing
answer that more diffi-
cult question for the news
industry, but the value
stand out among these content, designed to satisfy proposition is clear for both
findings. This study dem- all four news needs in the producers and consumers:
onstrated across cultural consumption model (Facts, Young people are tired of
boundaries that the news Updates, Back Story, Future the same old news and want
can turn consumers off, Story) and then deliver something better. They
just as easily as it can turn it across all the channels just need some help. Many
them on. The key value these consumers use. But have lost sight of what to
point to the audience was even if you create news do once they get “below the
news they could use. They people can use, how do fold.”
understood that aggregat- you reach consumers who The following pages con-
ing their own personal spurn established packag- tain some summary recom-
news reports could involve ing and consume informa- mendations to the news
real work, but they were tion in haphazard, non- industry based on these
willing to do it if the effort linear fashion? findings.
produced real currency. Anthropologists cannot

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Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

One: Delivering Depth


C urrently, news con-
sumption is frequently
connected with e-mail, but
venues should be explored
to deliver depth. In this
time of “virtually relative”
behavior to be more proac-
tive about news consump-
tion. News producers have
the preponderance and environments, multiple a unique opportunity to
overwhelming nature of channels are a necessity. re-engage this enlightened
e-mail have begun to make Some participants in the segment of the audience
it less relevant as a deep study became aware of by designing innovative
information source. E-mail their habit to check news formats and creating easier
may work best as an alert- out of boredom and have pathways to deep content.
ing mechanism, and other consciously changed their

Two: Addressing News Fatigue and Balance


T he irony surrounding
news fatigue is that,
at precisely the time con-
as a way to balance their
news consumption, perhaps
without realizing it. The
sumers by improving the
discoverability of deep and
relevant content, eliminat-
sumers have gained more “fake” news programs are ing as much repetition and
choice and control over providing all four pieces duplication as possible in
their news consumption, of the news consumption their news and bringing
they are actually feeling model and adding enter- closure to stories whenever
more and more helpless. tainment on top of it. possible.
The younger generation News producers can give
has turned to “fake” news control back to the con-

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Three: Creating Social Currency


C onsumers are using
news as social curren-
cy in a variety of ways: to
the dynamics of this new
environment and creat-
ing mechanisms to enable
age will not automatically
enable satisfying connec-
tions with the news, as the
stay connected with loved better search and sharing experiences of these sub-
ones, to be the hub in their of news will harness the jects attest.
circle of friends, to advance power of this emerging The clear conclusion of
in their careers and to en- social currency system. this work commissioned by
gage with others they don’t Although consumers AP is that the mix of strate-
know. Current technolo- have gained more control gies for content and distri-
gies and globalization have over where, when and how bution will require continu-
led to changes in the value they consume the news, the ous fine-tuning to restore
chain for news. Is it the task of restoring balance to the power once delivered
news industry or consum- the news consumption mod- by the packaged media of
ers of news who produce el identified in this study the analog era. That fine-
social currency from news? requires active engagement tuning, in turn, relies on a
Today, it is both. News is from news producers. Deep- sophisticated understand-
no longer simply delivered, er news resources, beyond ing of the value proposition
in a one-way transaction, the oversupply of Facts for this new generation of
from producer to consumer. and Updates, must be built consumers, who will draw
Communications are two- out, and the routes to those currency from the news – if
way, and news is widely resources need to be con- they can find it.
shared among consumers structed. If left to chance,
themselves. Understanding the machines of the digital

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‘AP 2.0’ – Embracing a


New Model for News Delivery
How AP Mapped Behavioral Patterns to Digital Strategy

T he idea seemed fasci-


nating but unbeliev-
able: Research had uncov-
scientists to participate in
the study.
The goal of the project
ered a young man in India was relatively mundane.
so obsessed with the news AP pursued the research
that he committed his to put a human face on the
analysis of current events growing universe of data
to a whiteboard every night about the shifting media
before going to bed. habits of the digital genera-
“Raj” didn’t just consume the
The existence of such a tion. The anthropological
news; he diagramed it.
newshound seemed much study was to be combined
too good to be true. Could with other market and
it be that untapped demand from obscurity last year for trend analysis to inform
actually remained to be an in-depth study of news AP’s strategic planning for
harnessed in the oversup- consumption around the future news services.
plied news marketplace? world, commissioned by Thanks to Raj and the
The behavior of Raj, a AP. He was not discovered other subjects in this study,
young engineering student by an AP journalist. He AP got much more than it
in Hyderabad, seemed to surfaced, by chance, among bargained for. In addition
suggest there was hope. 18 men and women in six to telling detail about indi-
Raj (identified here by cities (four U.S. and two vidual consumer behavior,
pseudonym) was one of the abroad), who were solic- the powerful conclusions
real, live people plucked ited by a team of cultural of the study helped define

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a new framework for think- example, said he used his didn’t have quite as much
ing about how the news nightly whiteboard analy- at stake, but they also
meets – or mostly misses – sis as a foundation for his said they used the news to
this audience. interactions the next day to inform their choices and
As the cultural experts win friends and influence support their personal
from the Context-Based people. He said he hoped interactions. In general, the
Research group have ex- that, over time, his mastery news served as a basic form
plained in their analysis, of events would help him of “social currency” in all
the young consumers in rise above his hereditary of their lives, the Context
this study group were eager caste and move up in the researchers concluded.
to consume news and found world.
great value in it. Raj, for Others in the study

News Diet Out of Balance


W hile that conclusion
was reassuring, the
most urgent finding was
and electronic word of
mouth shared over mobile
devices or instant messag-
The over-consumption of
facts and updates is un-
derstandable in the con-
not. The research team dis- ing. Indeed, many of the text of these young lives.
covered a deep strain of fa- facts and updates they were These subjects, whether
tigue among these subjects seeing seemed repetitive or, in Hyderabad or Kansas
that traced to an overload worse, promised more than City, mostly encountered
of basic staples in the news they were delivering in the the news opportunistically,
diet – the facts and updates form of real news. meaning they ran into it
that tend to dominate the The anthropologists, via computer or mobile
digital news environment. viewing the phenomenon device. Their television
The subjects were be- from a cultural perspective, viewing and newspaper
ing bombarded every day concluded that the subjects’ reading were sporadic in
with news in small bursts news diets were therefore most cases.
– headlines in e-mail pro- out of balance. They were Those observations wor-
grams, snippets on portal eating too many chips and ried the anthropologists
pages or in search results not enough vegetables. and led them to conclude

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that informed societies which the young people The anthropologists


would be threatened – let were either already finding used the arrangement and
alone the news business or looking for. The com- relative size of the boxes
– if this snacking habit ponents were laid out as to communicate the imbal-
were allowed to persist. stacked boxes labeled Facts, ance they observed. The
With that, the stakes were Updates, Back Story and subjects were generally
suddenly raised for what Future Stories. overdosing on Facts and
started out as a business Facts and Updates – what Updates – represented by
strategy project. happened? -- are the staples the bigger boxes – and
In their report to AP, of breaking news and the yearning for, yet not find-
the researchers created a predominant form of news ing, more breadth and
simple illustration to sum online. The concept of Back depth in the news.
up their findings. The il- Story represents the con- As the researchers de-
lustration sought to break text of a news item – what scribed it, using an old
down the consumption does it mean? Future Sto- newspaper idiom for em-
of the subjects into four ries represent the resolu- phasis, the subjects were
basic components of news, tion – what happens next? mostly skimming the news,

Context’s Headlines,
model Breaking
As the researchers Updates Facts
described it, using
an old newspaper THE ‘FOLD’
idiom for emphasis, Back story
the subjects were Depth, Future stories/
mostly skimming Spin-offs
the news, rather than
Breadth
diving more deeply
“below the fold.” * – Larger boxes indicate more available content

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rather than diving more that same editorial confi- the tidy packages that news
deeply “below the fold.” dence continues to inspire providers produce. News
Furthermore, the research- the production of front pag- gets split apart into atomic
ers noted, the behavior was es, television broadcasts, pieces for today’s digital
strikingly similar across news Web sites and news consumption – headlines,
geography and cultures. wire services the world 25-word summaries, stand-
Perhaps it is no coinci- over. And based on the suc- alone photos, podcasts and
dence that the four pieces cess of those established video clips – all of which
of the news model identi- vehicles over the years, the can be easily e-mailed,
fied by the anthropolo- four-box model might seem searched and shared be-
gists align closely with the to suggest that there’s an yond the confines of their
traditional definition of the easy fix to the problem of original packaging.
news that journalists carry restoring lost context and The all-too-familiar result
around in their heads. resolution in the digital is that newspapers, broad-
Those four components news age: Just build it and casts and Web sites are be-
have shaped some of the consumers will come. ing outpaced by the quicker
iconic models of modern But clearly, based on the hits and easier access to
journalism – the newspa- experience of the subjects news that is mostly unpack-
per-of-record approach of in this study, it’s not that aged and aggregated by the
The New York Times, for easy anymore. users themselves through
example, promising “All the The critical difference in any number of digital
news that’s fit to print.” today’s news environment means.
To one degree or another, is that technology can undo

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From Containers to Entry Points


T he visual model with
the four boxes provided
an initial trigger for think-
for news. (Recalling a bit
of elementary science, the
spheres could be thought of
The new
ing through a response as four essential pieces, like
model
to the market challenges the geosphere, hydrosphere,
Facts
this consumer behavior atmosphere and biosphere
presents. Where the anthro- of news. The spheres also
pologists saw a map of the evoke the atomization of Updates
news from the consumers’ the news in the digital
perspective, it followed that space, where headlines,
news providers might find a photos and video clips can
path to creating new prod- be pulled from Web sites Back story
ucts. and re-distributed through
But a new brainstorm e-mail, search and sharing.) Future stories/
was needed, since the origi- Facts (!) and Updates (+) Spin-offs
nal boxes seemed literally are the entry points that
to suggest that packaging take up most of the current
could solve the problem digital space, with the Back The “boxy” model seemed
– that bigger, better pack- Story ( ) and the Future to indicate a solution was
ages for the Back Story and Stories ( ) fighting for at- in packaging. The rede-
Future Stories, for example, tention. How the audience signed AP model moves
news into the new space –
could attract more audience navigates these four points,
a universe of stories made
attention. across platform and brand, up of different spheres,
To encompass the idea is nowhere near as straight- each ranging in size and
that the world was differ- forward as opening up the scope – and consumers
ent today, the journalistic old media containers, where interacting with the story
minds at AP turned the one simply subscribed, from different entry points
and platforms.
stacked boxes into free-float- tuned in or logged on.
ing spheres, or entry points, Based on the behavior ob-

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served in the study group,


a consumer might start his Editors as ‘information officers‘
or her day by opening an Editors must find ways to connect a story’s entry points for us-
e-mail news headline pack- ers – providing them with more information than they could find
age, then click on a head- by searching or scrolling.
line and move to a story.
But then what? What hap- Each story is
made up
pens later when the story
of different
develops? How do critical entry points.
questions about the back
story get answered? Where
can the user go for a look
ahead, or for spin-offs that
are more personally rele-
vant? These were all ques-
tions to which the consum-
ers in the study lacked clear Consumers will come … and news
answers. to the news from a providers can create
A key issue, demon- variety of perspectives links and pathways to
strated in this study, is that and platforms … different points.
consumers are accessing
the entry points to news
as much by chance as by to take through the news. appealing content for the
design. Human editors at a Hypothetically, new value key entry points. Second,
particular site can set paths can be created if news and more difficult, build
from one story to another producers and distributors the connections that will
and add links to other me- can figure out ways to help transport consumers to that
dia coverage, buttons for consumers connect the dots content across both media
sharing with a friend, etc. more coherently. But where platform and brand. As AP
But that activity only cov- do you start? This study has discovered, that’s a job
ers a small fraction of the confirmed the need to main- for both people and ma-
many circuitous routes con- tain two parallel tracks of chines.
sumers are now empowered work. First, create more

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AP’s Own Transformation

T he AP emerged from
this and other research
with a renewed com-
display in newspapers.
The model even worked
for new media as they came
to eschew a scheduled date
with packaged media. Add
the capability of viral shar-
mitment to new content along through the 20th cen- ing to the mix, facilitating
development and digital tury. AP created services electronic word-of-mouth
technology. The new model, based on newspaper stories interactions among con-
splitting the news into its to supply news for radio, sumers, and the utility of
fundamental atomic parts, television and eventually packaged media appears
provides a conceptual the Internet and mobile increasingly limited. News-
framework for that work, platforms. Even today, it paper stories, packaged as
much as the old “inverted does not seem out of place a snapshot in time, struggle
pyramid” once did for news to read “newspaper” stories to connect with an audi-
writing. online. Indeed, the news ence that is being condi-
Born of an earlier tech- Web sites of newspapers tioned to aggregate and
nology revolution in news around the world are often manipulate unpackaged
production that introduced seen as online editions with information on their own.
high-speed presses, the in- better deadlines. For AP, these trends
verted pyramid conditioned But as the study con- delivered a clear directive
journalists to organize firms, the increasing to adjust the newspaper-
the information in their movement of the audience story-first mentality. A shift
stories from most impor- online is rapidly changing to fastest-formats-first had
tant to least important to the environment. Consum- already been made at the
beat the competition. That ers, like those in the study agency well before the con-
model drove the journal- group, have grown up using sumer study. That shift has
ism and the business of the digital tools and view the now accelerated with key
AP news cooperative for old packaged news products new initiatives to enhance
more than a century and a as much less efficient. The the differentiation of ser-
half, as the news was pack- ability to search for news vices to match platform and
aged day in and day out for and information makes it market needs.
competitive, space-efficient even easier for consumers Chief among those initia-

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tives is a fundamental new


process for newsgathering
in the field called “1-2-3 Fil-
ing.” The name describes a
new editorial workflow that
requires first word of a text
story to be delivered in a
structured alert (headline
format) to be followed by a
short, present-tense story
delivering the vital details
in step 2. Then, in a final
step, a story takes whatever
form is appropriate for dif-
ferent platforms and audi-
ences – a longer form story
The Top Stories Desk sets the direction on big stories – focusing on
or analysis for print, for
faster formats, then following with more depth.
example. Other media types
are coordinated along the
way in similar fashion. said, “not what has hap- and updates, followed by
As one of the editorial pened.” deeper dives for print as
leaders instituting the new That subtle, but powerful, well as online, are designed
process around the world, change is all-important to to answer those calls. In the
Special International the digital audience, as the past, one story destined for
Editor Deborah Seward has study group told the an- print moved through the
described the shift as pro- thropologists. Those con- filing process, amassing de-
found for both journalists sumers said they wanted to tail for new developments
and consumers. A report see real updates, not dupli- into a structure built for
built for constant deadlines cative stories presented as next-day newspaper read-
is becoming even more updates, and they wanted ing.
dynamic. “We’re reporting some coverage to go much The biggest stories of the
what is happening,” she deeper. Present-tense alerts day get even more attention

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from a new “Top Stories ment projects have been new revenue opportunities
Desk” at AP headquarters launched in entertainment, for news providers in the
in New York. The editors on sports and financial news years ahead, as demand
that desk are urged to con- to create more entry points grows in the digital mar-
sider the big-picture signifi- for consumers with ap- ketplace for specialty and
cance of a select number petites for broader, deeper premium content.
of stories each day and to content in those categories. A fourth initiative from
provide the perspective and In addition to the obvious AP aims to deliver news
forward-looking thinking appeal of the subject mat- content, across category, to
that can enhance their de- ter to young consumers, the a platform most likely to be
velopment across all media big three news “verticals” in the hands of the young
platforms. This attention also represent important target audience.
to key stories also plays out A comprehensive mobile
on a slightly smaller scale news service was launched
at regional news desks in the United States in May
situated in three locations 2008, aggregating the cover-
outside the United States age of AP and its constitu-
and, by the end of 2009, in ent member newspapers.
four U.S. cities. The Mobile News Net-
Taken together, these work – www.apnews.com
changes in workflow di- – is optimized for the Apple
rectly address the needs to iPhone and other “smart-
both tighten and deepen the phones.”
news report that consum- On a smaller, everyday
ers, like those in the study, scale, AP has been actively
can find as they surf and pursuing the creation of
search for information. content with more “social
A third major initiative at currency” for consumers.
AP responds to the need for A special unit in the news-
more variety in the news. AP’s Mobile News Network was room was created to launch
Major new content develop- created for smartphones. many of these efforts in

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2005 and the work has since story. One AP interactive


been integrated into the created for the start of last Audience views: At
daily routine. The unifying year’s hurricane season, selected news events, AP
theme: Each piece of jour- for instance, allowed the has given cameras to by-
nalism is designed to give user to move a slide along standers and/or partici-
news consumers something the Saffir-Simpson scale pants, then asked them to
worth discussing in inter- of storm severity, while take photographs of the
actions with their friends, simultaneously displaying event from their perspec-
acquaintances and co-work- an animated demonstration tives. This approach has
ers. A few examples: of the damage that would been used for everything
result from such a storm. from the music industry

Ask AP: This regular


feature unites newspaper
readers and online news
consumers with AP report-
ers who are experts in their
fields. Readers with news
questions are given direct
and personal answers from
AP journalists.

Interactive explainers:
Interactive Web graphics
take users more deeply into
the news without requir-
ing them to read a long text This interactive graphic showed how a hurricane’s destructive force
increased with the storm’s intensity.

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The Measure of a Nation series looks at the election through the prism of American culture.

Grammys to an earthquake mix. The result garnered cans expect of the next
anniversary in Mexico to more than half a million president.
the family of a dead soldier hits after going viral and These initiatives at AP,
meeting with President getting passed along from large and small, have
Bush in the White House. the customer sites that dis- sprung from a concerted ef-
played the piece. fort to think about the news
Alternative story forms: A Measure of a Nation: For from an end-user’s per-
key question for news plan- 2008, the AP has undertak- spective, re-emphasizing a
ning today is “How can this en a yearlong multimedia dimension to news gather-
story best be told?” Increas- project to look at the elec- ing and editing that can get
ingly, the answer can be tions through the prism of lost in the relentless rush
found outside traditional American culture, rather of the daily news cycle. The
storytelling formats. In one than simply the candidates consumer study provided
popular example in the 2006 and the horse race. This important validation for
U.S. elections, an AP mul- involves identifying key that approach, as well as a
timedia producer “mashed themes and exploring how continuing framework for
up” excerpts from political they play out in the culture thinking about future in-
attack ads with a musical and influence what Ameri- novation.

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Importance of Linking Mechanisms

On their own, how-


ever, new content
initiatives cannot ensure a
AP began moving to a da-
tabase platform in 2003, as
it became clear that media
chived content on demand,
opening up opportunity for
the transactional sale of
connection with the digital customers of the agency deep photo and video con-
audience. The fragmented wanted more and better tent by topic or time period.
and unstructured approach access to AP content than Visit www.apimages.com
the study members took to the old system of one-way, and www.aparchive.com.
their daily news consump- “wire” feeds could deliver.
tion illustrates the chal- The agency had long relied The key to success with
lenge. Distribution now on the feed model, deliver- the database model is to
requires a new kind of con- ing news content by tele- make sure the content is
nection with consumers. graph and phone lines and well-organized and search-
This cannot be accom- later by satellite. The sys- able. The job requires
plished on a large scale tem required customers to creation and implementa-
without some new and catch the content and sort tion of a system for tagging
sophisticated distribution through it on their end. content with digital coding
mechanics, meaning an Once all forms of content that describes it in great
infrastructure that smartly could be rendered to digi- detail. In the jargon of the
connects the audience to tal formats, it opened the age, that means creating a
available, relevant content way to a new model, where system for metadata – or
in virtually unlimited content is maintained in data about the data.
ways. At the core of such a database that enables AP began work in this
an infrastructure are two customers to come and get area as part of its shift to
concepts AP has strongly what they need when they the database. Now in place
embraced – database access need it. By extension, the is a classification system
to content and metadata database model also is mak- for subjects, or categories
mark-up. ing it possible to access ar- of news, and a related sys-

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tem for identifying entities,


or famous people, places
and things in the news.
Also included as part of the
metadata system are tags
for originating sources (AP
or a member newspaper
contributor) and authors
(writers), among other at-
tributes. Most important,
links to related content are
created based on the inter-
section of these attributes
across the full range of the
database. Effectively, the
system makes it possible
to surface and link all text,
photos, graphics, audio and
video that are related to
each other.
The impact is twofold: AP Images – on demand and in demand.
Within the database, con-
tent can be easily organized
and searched. Once in use ultimate goal of making all that goal: standardization.
online, the content carries parts of the news – break- Unless many – indeed, most
the necessary digital coding ing news, background – news providers adopt a
to automate its flow to the and spin-offs – linkable in standard set of digital tags,
right entry point for con- cyberspace in ways that content will not be auto-
sumers and to enable links would delight young digital matically linkable across
from one piece of content consumers. both brand and platform.
to another. Such a system But yet another big step As the digital consumers in
takes a big step toward the is required to accomplish the behavioral study dem-

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onstrated, the audience is operation, on a very large part of the shared infra-
looking to be transported scale, would have to occur structure that supports the
to relevant information no to ensure that outcome new Mobile News Network.
matter its source. Where across the worldwide In- Long term, the shared tag-
online consumers once ternet. For its part, AP is ging system could provide
surfed and bookmarked offering to apply its meta- information to guide search
news sites, users now data tags to the content of algorithms, widget technol-
wonder why a logical trail its member newspapers in ogy and other digital infor-
through the news can’t the United States, so that mation agents that power
simply unfold, link by related news can be linked content discovery around
link, across a multitude of across provider. In addition the Internet and mobile
sources. to enabling such links, the space.
Significant human co- metadata initiative is also

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Unanswered Questions

S till to come are the


business models that
will drive this new distribu-
to award display to local ad
sellers who offer the high-
est rates of return for the
has proven so definitively,
a business built on clicks
requires a network of
tion system of entry points network. Ad revenue will massive numbers, not just
and links. be aggregated and shared a single Web site. When
For AP’s Mobile News among all the providers. information is available
Network, national and local All the content and adver- any time, any place, as it
advertising is being pur- tising is being presented will be for generations of
sued to support display of outside the packaging of news consumers to come,
headlines, stories, images the news companies’ own models must be constructed
and video clips. Constituent Web sites in a format de- to connect huge numbers
newspapers will contribute signed especially for smart- of people with personalized
both news and local adver- phones. bits of information. Those
tising to the network, and Such cooperative mod- models will require the
one paper’s ad can support els may provide a way to aggregation of content, ad-
the display of another create the scale that online vertising and audience on
paper’s news, linked by and mobile businesses a very large scale – perhaps
geographic coding and will require to generate not all in one place, but all
other metadata. Business significant revenues. As connected.
rules have been established Google’s advertising model

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Case Study: The Telegraph


O V ER V I E W

N ew approaches to
audience engage-
ment can have real impact.
facing declining circula-
tion, a challenging advertis-
ing environment and mass-
the vanguard of the Euro-
pean transformation. AP
has had a window on The
That’s the lesson to be scale audience migration to Telegraph’s work, as strate-
learned from a brief case digital platforms. Changing gists for both companies
study of The Telegraph, a demand has caused venera- have shared their insights
leading news company in ble news institutions across with each other at various
Britain that has taken the the continent to reconsider points over the past year. A
shift in news consumption editorial and marketing brief summary of The Tele-
patterns very seriously. strategies. graph’s ongoing work is
Like their American Notable for its huge jump added here as a case study
counterparts, most major in online traffic year over in how to put new models to
European newspapers are year, The Telegraph is in work.

The Telegraph’s Transformation


The Telegraph, in print, many features of a compre- presented in an interactive
remains a broadsheet. hensive news portal: up-to- and engaging way.
Nonetheless, the company the-minute news, regular In a year’s time, the Tele-
has embarked on a strategy updates, story background, graph has become the third
that is transforming the and other archived content, most-visited national news-
daily newspaper, read only video, cartoons, celebrity paper Web site in Britain
once a day, to a round-the- news, etc. The Web site of- – 17 million unique users
clock news outlet that read- fers readers multiple entry visited Telegraph.co.uk in
ers check continuously. points for exploration of its March 2008, compared to
Telegraph.co.uk has the broad selection of content, 7.2 million in March 2007,

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according to electronic
audit bureau numbers.
The paper attributed the
sharp increase not only to
the impact of the month’s
news, but also to the tacti-
cal moves it has taken to
execute its strategy.

What the Telegraph Does


The Telegraph has built
a multi-layered news pre- Smart links and multi-layered content give users of The Telegraph’s site
sentation by cross-linking a choice to interact with content or move on to bigger subjects.
current news stories with
other relevant content as- entry points. the topic.
sets – background, analysis, The breaking news This interactive, non-lin-
video, etc. story link, which was ear presentation strategy
By extending the user’s published on the front page drives the business model,
time on its Web site, The leads to the actual story, as well as the journalistic
Telegraph is able to display which is published in the model. As Edward Roussel,
more targeted and contex- Earth section. Several Telegraph’s digital editor,
tual advertising and con- links, embedded in the text, points out, success is being
sequently generate more offer readers the option to measured against targets
revenue. interact with the content or for visitor traffic and cor-
As illustrated by the ran- explore the bigger topics of responding revenues. “We
domly selected story, “Glob- Earth and ecology. want to make our content
al warming may ‘stop,’ In addition to tradi- visible to the widest pos-
scientists say” from April tional text and photos, the sible audience,” he said,
30, 2008, the Telegraph of- site offers video, produced summing up the goal at the
fers its readers a variety of in-house, that is related to center of the strategy.

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How they Do It always assigned a supervi- ment. “Text, imagery and


Ironically, the re-invented sory editor with commis- user-generated content,”
Telegraph is following a sioning responsibilities, he said describing the new
strategy not unlike that of who is accountable for the formula. “We tell the story
a television news channel. overall coverage and pre- with that combination.”
With the mindset of a sentation of the story. “The story-building pro-
broadcast-news produc- High-impact news stories cess begins in a relentless
tion center that has to feed are developed into micro- way as news breaks,” he
dynamic demand for “new” Web sites, offering readers said. “First, alerts, then 150
news round-the clock, The a plethora of options to to 250 words within 15 min-
Telegraph has replaced its explore related topics. The utes, invite user-generated
newspaper process with a goal is to offer Web readers content and fold in multi-
new approach that delivers a live and dynamic news media.”
news as events unfold. product. While the Telegraph re-
Editorially, the Telegraph The commissioning- lies on Web 2.0 technology
has a simple-to-manage editor function is central solutions, such as meta-
news strategy: headline to the success of telegraph. data, tagging, cross-linking,
first (via any available com- co.uk. The editor is contin- semantic searching, etc.,
munication method – SMS, uously charting the cover- there is still a lot of room
e-mail, phone call), followed age, just like a live news for human editor interven-
by a 150-word brief, and, producer, commissioning tion to vet the links and
within an hour, a 450-word, editorial content from mul- make sure that the content
multimedia story. Follow- tiple units, improving the package is relevant to the
ing that, assigned editors presentation of the story news story itself. A rede-
decide whether to com- on the Web page. sign of the site and its basic
mission analyses, opinion User-generated content infrastructure will be insti-
pieces, additional multime- (UGC) has become increas- tuted this year to introduce
dia, etc. ingly important, Roussel enhanced content manage-
As Roussel told AP, big said, and not simply to ment tools for editors and
breaking news events are enhance audience engage- better navigation and UGC

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tools for users. organized by category, not Viral distribution oppor-


As always in transforma- by “the means of distribu- tunities, beyond search
tion, the biggest challenge tion,” he said, so that key engine optimization, are in
to overcome is the rooted “content executives” can the early stages of experi-
culture of an organization make decisions across the mentation. The site offers
more than a century old. boundaries of media for- e-mail services, desktop
The move to a new home mats. alerts and news on the go to
(a former market trading For Roussel, there is still mobile devices.
floor), with a new floor a lot work to be done. The
plan for the newsroom, archives are only partially
has eased the transition, digitized (about 10 years’ Roussel is nonethe-
Roussel said. Moreover, the worth so far) and the site less confident that The
news managers are now redesign is eagerly awaited. Telegraph is on the right

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A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

track to be reborn as a it, as the paper morphs into erything will be published
full-fledged digital news a more analytical, thought- to the Web,” he said, “and
medium. As for the print provoking and in-depth the best of it will be in the
edition? Roussel said there news product. newspaper.”
would always be room for “In two to three years, ev-

A Research Report from The Associated Press and the Context-Based Research Group
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A New Model for News
Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption

ACKNOW LEDGEM ENTS


We are deeply grateful to the Context-Based Research Group of Baltimore,
Maryland, for transporting us to a new level of understanding of young-adult
news consumers through anthropology. Our work with Context spanned two
engagements in the past year – first, for our own strategic planning and second,
for this report to the World Editors Forum.

Managing Director and Principal Anthropologist Robbie Blinkoff and his team,
news junkies themselves, were able to translate their cultural science into terms
that resonated throughout our organization as we put the information to work.
Thanks also to Tracy Pilar Johnson, research director for Context, for her many
contributions to both rounds of this study, and to analyst Shannon Gray and
Stephanie Simpson, director of strategy and client services.

What you see in this document is a compilation of the ethnographic field re-
search and several review and brainstorming sessions conducted over the past
year with Context. We also have integrated other learning acquired along the
way, including several insightful discussions with our friends at The Telegraph,
particularly Edward Roussel, who is leading that media company’s digital trans-
formation. We included a look at their work as a coda to our own.

At AP, many minds and hands have helped to craft the information in this
report and, more important, to put it to work in our own news operation and
business. Thanks especially to Kathleen Carroll, executive editor; Andon Balta-
kov, deputy director of strategic planning; and Scott Johnson, art director; who
helped drive the thinking, writing and editing for this report. Scott gets credit for
turning the graphic model into atomic spheres, which has provided a lasting im-
age to focus on.

A long list of others at AP also played a part in this project, including the News
department’s Michael Oreskes, Ted Anthony, Eric Carvin, John Daniszewski,
Debbie Seward, Amy Sancetta, Alicia Quarles, Niko Price, Dan Perry and Patrick
McDowell. Contributing from the business side were Laurie Morris, Lisa Singha-
nia, Hetti Haarklau, Maria Gillen, David Saabye and Ruthie Shek. Leslie Marable
and Brenna Sniderman, former members of the AP strategy team, get the nod for
connecting us with Context in the first place. Finally, a thanks to CEO and Presi-
dent Tom Curley, who believes in doing what needs to be done to get the com-
pany strategy right, even if it means hiring a team of anthropologists.

Of course, our greatest thanks are reserved for the young subjects of this
unusual study. Their unstructured paths through the news have helped us to re-
think and restructure our own approach to serving them and others like them.

– Jim Kennedy | Director of Strategic Planning | The Associated Press

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