Newspaper readers’ participation remains indirect
- Newspaper readers mainly take part in the papers’ activities in the social media by distributing content and helping the paper with consumer surveys, says Mikko Villi, researcher from Aalto University School of Business.
He believes that the view emphasising cooperation between the editors and readers of a newspaper seems to be nothing but a very persistent and fascinating myth. Newspapers regard the role of user-generated content as smaller than what could be inferred from public, and even academic, discussion.
Research results obtained by the School of Business Department of Communication offer a different viewpoint to what has been considered the almost revolutionary possibilities of users to generate content. According to researcher Mikko Villi, the social relationships and links between users are more essential for the operations of media corporations than user-generated content.
- Content works like a social glue that attracts other users and makes them keep in touch, says Villi.
Limited engagement with user communities
So far, there has been little research in media corporations’ attitudes towards user participation in the social media. The findings of Villi and researcher Rita Järventie-Thesleff are based on an interview study conducted with a Finnish newspaper. Through thematic interviews, they studied the views of journalists and marketing and development department employees on challenges faced by media corporations in a changing media market.
- The social media is to a great extent a forum belonging to the users where the newspaper’s active role is limited. It is important that the newspaper and its articles are present and visible in the social media, as this brings the paper closer to its readers, but the newspapers have not engaged with the user community, notes Villi.
Getting closer to the users and more intensive communality and dialogue would require resources, or more working time, from the newspaper makers. Neither is crowdsourcing, or a type of outsourcing of activities to the users, a part of the daily business.
The guiding influence of social media is increasing
- Regardless of the possibilities offered by the social media, the activities of the newspaper and the users continue to be rather separate. The newspaper profits from the users, however, by utilizing their networks. The users are also a target for the paper’s news coverage, they produce interaction, serve as a citizen’s press review and send in news tips, photos and videos, Villi explains.
While the speed and user friendliness of the Internet have revolutionised the distribution of images and text and editors receive more and more material, Villi claims that the readers are kept on their own side of the fence.
- For example, an image is always dubbed a ”reader photo” to preserve the integrity of journalistic content, says Villi.
The results indicate that newspaper makers observe the users and their participation. The users are an important ‘radar’ and a consumer sounding board. This ‘guiding influence’ of the social media is expected to increase over the next few years.
Three-year project to seek solutions for challenges facing media corporations
The results are part of a current research project of Aalto University School of Business, Department of Communication, titled the Strategic Change in the Finnish Media Industry.
This project examines the challenges new technologies and a participatory media culture set on developing the business of media corporations. It seeks answers to such as the following questions: what kind of a strategic actor is the modern media consumer? How can media groups at the same time both continuously improve their existing business and undertake radical changes?
The backdrop to this study is the current media revolution that is setting challenges to media corporations. To develop their business activities, the corporations will have to take new technologies and the participatory media culture in consideration in their production processes.
This is a three-year project, of which one year is remaining. The project is led by Professor of Business Communication Johanna Moisander from the School of Business and funded by the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation.
Post doc researcher Mikko Villi, tel. +358 (0)50 569 2149, mikko.villi [at] aalto [dot] fi
Post doc researcher Rita Järventie-Thesleff, tel. +358(0)40 514 1281, rita.jarventie-thesleff [at] aalto [dot] fi
Professor Johanna Moisander, tel. +358(0)50 312 0904, johanna.moisander [at] aalto [dot] fi
Read more about the Strategic Change in the Finnish Media Industry research project: http://communication.aalto.fi/en/research/projects/mediaconvergence/