Category Archives: Conferences

Reuters Institute 2017 ICA papers and participation

logoSo proud of the very strong line-up of Reuters Institute papers and participants for 2017 ICA in San Diego.

Robert G. Picard and James Painter, as well as most of our research team and myself, has been at the conference, listening, learning, and presenting some of our work, including a very strong set of papers — some titles and abstracts below.

Online News Video Consumption: A Comparison of Six Countries

Antonis Kalogeropoulos (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford)

Abstract

Online news video is becoming increasingly prominent in the websites of news organizations and social media platforms. Given that we have limited knowledge on online news video use, this study examines the consumption of online news video in six countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom, United States), as well as how online video news use is correlated with other news behaviour patterns. Based a comparative survey of news consumption, we show that online news videos are becoming increasingly prominent in most countries. We also show that online news videos are seen both on the sites of news organisations but especially and increasingly off-site on social media like Facebook and video sharing sites like YouTube. This study is a first attempt in understanding the audience of online news videos. We argue that these findings reflect the power of social media platforms in influencing news consumption habits.

Public Service Media and News in a Digital Media Environment: A Study of Six Countries

Annika Sehl, Alessio Cornia, and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford)

Abstract

In this paper, we examine how the public service media in six European countries (Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and the United Kingdom) are delivering news in an increasingly digital media environment. We aim to explain the demonstrably large differences between how they perform in terms of audience reach (e.g. why the German PSM ARD and ZDF are considerably less able than the British BBC to effectively match their offline reach online). The study is based on interviews conducted between December 2015 and February 2016, primarily with senior managers and editors at PSM in the six countries, as well as a secondary analysis of data. We use our empirical analysis of how a broad range of European PSM are dealing with the new digital developments to advance our understanding of the relative importance of the organizational, economic, and political factors in shaping how PSM are responding to the technological changes.

Incidental Exposure to News on Social Media in Four Countries

Richard Fletcher and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford)

Abstract

People are exposed to news ‘incidentally’ if they encounter it while intending to do other things. Whilst the existence of incidental exposure to news on television has been demonstrated, the same cannot yet be said of social media. We use data from the 2015 Reuters Institute Digital News Report survey to examine incidental exposure on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in four countries (Italy, Australia, US, UK). We find that (i) those incidentally exposed to news use more online sources, and engage with news more, than non-users (ii) the effect of incidental exposure on number of sources used is strongest on Twitter, followed by YouTube, then Facebook, and (iii) only those who intentionally use multiple networks for news use more sources, and engage more, than those incidentally exposed. Our findings suggest that the move to media environments characterized by selective exposure is accompanied by incidental exposure via social media.

Fragmentation and Duplication: A Cross-National Comparative Analysis of Cross-Platform News Audiences

Richard Fletcher and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford)

Abstract

The move to a high choice online media environment has been associated with fears of audience fragmentation, and the end of a shared public agenda and common culture. Others have challenged this thesis by demonstrating high duplication among audiences for the most popular media outlets. However, this challenge has almost always been based on data from the United States alone, and has not fully accounted for cross-platform consumption. Using data from the 2016 Reuters Institute Digital News Report from six countries (Germany, Denmark, France, Spain, UK, USA) we address these shortcomings and find (i) that incorporating significance testing reduces the amount of cross-platform news audience duplication (ii) that cross-platform news audiences vary country-to-country, with audience duplication lower in Northern and Western Europe, and although in some cases the difference is not statistically significant (iii) we find no support for the idea online news audiences are more fragmented than offline audiences.

Lack of Resources or Lack of Relevance? How and Why People Avoid News

Benjamin Toff and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford)

Abstract

In this paper, we take a grounded theory approach to examining the role that news plays—and does not play—in people’s lives. While previous work has lamented low levels of news use and knowledge of public affairs, the perspectives of those who regularly refrain from using conventional sources of information have rarely been captured.
Previous surveys have shown news consumption patterns tend to be correlated with socioeconomic status, age, and education, and a range of explanations have been offered for limited news use among disadvantaged groups. These explanations include a lack of interest, efficacy, or sufficient contextual knowledge, as well as a failure of the news itself to address topics relevant to diverse populations. To better develop a coherent theory and assess attitudes toward news and journalism among those disaffected from it, we present results from in-depth interviews conducted in the United Kingdom with people in working class and disadvantaged communities. This qualitative data is supplemented by observations of group conversations, comparisons with quantitative survey data, and local news content analysis, which measures the correspondence between topics in the news and the issues and concerns raised by study participants.
Questions we investigate in these data include: (1) What social function does news play even among those who typically abstain from using it? (2) How does the high choice media environment impact behavioural choices? (3) How do work rhythms and daily routines impact news use? And (4) how do attitudes toward news and the journalism profession affect tendencies to avoid news?Over the last several years, I have conducted a series of in-depth qualitative interviews with people who self-identified as “intentionally and significantly limiting media use,” people I call “media resisters.” Amongst those who specifically limit news, I’ve argued that news consumption hinders, rather than enhances, their willingness to participate in public life (Woodstock, 2013). For news resisters, diminishing their contact with news does not have the negative consequence one would assume, namely that they would be naïve and complacent about public policy and civic life. Rather, with admittedly limited time and resources, news resisters remain engaged citizens.

 

Looking back on ICA preconference on normative theory

Together with Chris Anderson, Daniel Kreiss, Dave Karpf, and Matt Powers, I organized an ICA pre-conference on the role of normative theory in communication research May 25.

It made for a day of really interesting and stimulating conversation, thanks to the presenters, our discussants, invited panelists, and everyone who attended. (I was on a panel of journal editors along with Barbie Zelizer, Claes de Vreese, and Silvio Waisbord talking about the role of  normative theory in the journals we edit — photo below from  Erik Bucy.)

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I won’t try to summarize the many interesting points made, but instead highlight what I though were some of the most important and interesting disagreements where people held different views —

  1. At a most basic level, people embrace different traditions of normative theorizing, mostly deliberative democracy, liberal democracy, and radical democracy. Most of the traditions explicitly mobilized are (a) tied to democracy (and not other normative questions like, say, justice) and (b) are strongly tied to Western countries (with a few notable exceptions), something Barbie Zelizer has pointed out in the past.
  2. There is an implicit and rarely explicitly discussed tension between people who prefer what political theorists would call ideal theories and those who prefer non-ideal theories — illustrated elsewhere by the debate between for example John Rawls (as a strong proponent of ideal theory) and Amartya Sen (as a proponent of non-ideal theory). (I found Zofia Stemplowska’s book chapter a useful guide to the issue.)
  3. Considerable disagreement around what role question of what democratic realists like Bernard Williams call “realisability” should play in normative discussions. What some think of as what Ian Hacking calls “elevator words” that raise us to higher levels of discourse, others think of as being so abstract and distant from reality as to be near-irrelevant. (I have written about this issue here.)

So, the conversations, and the disagreements continued. In advance of the pre-conference, we drafted a reading list (here), ,and I’ll add some things to after the discussions we had.

The Future of News – European Parliament

March 1, I spoke at a workshop on the future of news in the European Parliament organized by MEP Marietje Schaake (Dutch Democratic Party (D66),part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group).

A video of the event should be available here.

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The video should be well worth watching — lots of interesting and important discussion, of fake news, of filter bubbles, and of various policy issues including copyright.

I was particularly struck by the contrast between what I couldn’t help but feel was deep pessimism from Francois Le Hodey (CEO of the IPM publishing group which owns, amongst other things, the daily newspaper  La Libre Belgique) and Rob Wijnberg (co-founder and editor of DeCorrespondent), who had a more optimistic take.

Despite (rightly) highlighting that many European publishers have built significant digital audiences and are investing aggressively in digital initiatives, Le Hodey said several times “we have got five years”. He argued that it takes “between €50 million and €200 million” a year to fund and run a proper newsroom, and pointed out that print revenues are currently shrinking much faster than digital revenues are growing.

Wijnberg in a way was much more critical of existing journalism in terms of the quality and public value of much of it (arguing it often doesn’t actually help people understand the world, because it focuses on episodes and exceptions rather than longer-term developments and general trends). But he was also much more optimistic about developing a sustainable business around reader contributions and others sources — as deCorrespondent has done in the Netherlands, now with more than 50,000 paying subscribers. His optimism may in part be about expectations — unlike the figure Le Hodey offered (based on what newspapers have historically been able to invest), he said deCorrespondent operates on a budget around €3 million a year — not easy to generate (as other start-ups have found), but surely easier than €50+ million. His position has, I felt, a lot in common with that Melissa Bell outlined earlier this year in her lecture at Oxford.

I gave a short presentation based on some of our recent research, including our work on private sector legacy news media (this report, with Alessio Cornia and Annika Sehl), digital-born news media (this report with Tom Nicholls and Nabeelah Shabbir), and broader trends in media use, markets, and policy across Europe (this report with Alessio Cornia and Antonis Kalogeropoulos), as well as some of the work we have under way on the notion of filter bubbles (see a short piece Richard Fletcher and I wrote here).

My main points are summarized on the slide below.

future-of-news-eu

The other speakers were Francois Le Hodey (CEO, IPM Group), Rob Wijnberg (Founder, De Correspondent), Marco Pancini (Director Of EU Public Policy, Google), Anne Appelbaum (Columnist, Washington Post), Richard Allen (Vice President Public Policy EMEA, Facebook), and Krisztina Stump (Deputy Head of Unit, Converging Media, Content Unit, Directorate General, Communications Networks, Content and Technology, European Commission).

CfP: Third annual IJPP conference, Sep 27-29 in Oxford (submit by March 31)

IJPPSeptember 27-29 2017, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford will host the third annual International Journal of Press/Politics conference, focused on academic research on the relation between media and political processes around the world. (See the program from the 2015 conference and the 2016 conference.)

A selection of the best full papers presented at the conference will be published in the journal after peer review. The deadline for submission of abstracts is March 31 2017. Attendees will be notified of acceptance by April 28 2017.

Professor Natalie Stroud from the University of Texas at Austin will deliver a keynote lecture on “Engaging Newsrooms in the Digital Age.”

The conference brings together scholars doing internationally-oriented or comparative research on the intersection between news media and politics around the world. It aims to provide a forum for academics from a wide range of different disciplines and countries to discuss the theoretical, methodological, and substantial challenges and opportunities for research in this area. It is open to work from political science, political communication, journalism studies, media and communications research and many other fields.

Examples of relevant topics include the political implications of current changes in the media, the relative importance of new forms of digital media for engaging with news and politics, studies of the role of entertainment and popular culture in how people follow current affairs, studies of relations between political actors and journalists, research on political communication beyond the electoral context (including of government, interest groups, and social movements), all with a particular interest in studies that focus on parts of the world that are under-researched in the international English language academic literature, develop comparative approaches, or represent substantial theoretical or methodological advances.

Titles and abstracts for papers (250 words max) are invited by Friday March 31 2017. The abstract should clearly describe the key question, the theoretical and methodological approach, the evidence the argument is based on, as well as its wider implication of international relevance.

Please send submissions to the email address ijpp@politics.ox.ac.uk with the subject line “IJPP conference submission” including in the email the full title of your paper, the abstract, and your name and professional affiliation. (Please do not send attachments.) Full papers will be due August 25 2017.

Please contact the conference organizer, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (RISJ Director of Research and IJPP Editor-in-Chief) with questions at rasmus.nielsen@politics.ox.ac.uk.

More about the journal, the Reuters Institute, and the keynote speaker:

The International Journal of Press/Politics

IJPP is an interdisciplinary journal for the analysis and discussion of the role of the press and politics in a globalized world. The journal publishes theoretical and empirical research which analyzes the linkages between the news media and political processes and actors around the world, emphasizes international and comparative work, and links research in the fields of political communication and journalism studies, and the disciplines of political science and media and communication.

Keynote Speaker – Natalie Stroud

Natalie (Talia) Jomini Stroud (Ph.D., Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania) is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies and Assistant Director of Research at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at the University of Texas at Austin. Since 2012, Stroud has directed the grant-funded Engaging News Project, which examines commercially-viable and democratically-beneficial ways of improving online news coverage. In 2014-15, she is a fellow at the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton University. Stroud is interested in how the media affect our political behaviors and attitudes and how our political behaviors and attitudes affect our media use. Her book, Niche News: The Politics of News Choice (Oxford University Press) explores the causes, consequences, and prevalence of partisan selective exposure, the preference for like-minded political information. Niche News received the International Communication Association’s Outstanding Book Award. Her research has appeared in Political Communication, Journal of Communication, Political Behavior, Public Opinion Quarterly, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, and the International Journal of Public Opinion Research.

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism marks the University of Oxford’s commitment to the comparative study of journalism around the world. Anchored in the recognition of the key role of independent media in open societies and the power of information in the modern world, the institute aims to serve as the leading forum for a productive engagement between scholars from a wide range of disciplines and practitioners of journalism. It brings the depth and rigor of academic scholarship of the highest standards to major issues of relevance to the world of news media. It is global in its perspective and in the content of its activities.

Take-aways from Google’s DNI Berlin

November 17, I attended a Google Digital News Initiative event in Berlin, where a new round of €24 million in grants was announced and developments in media discussed with various publishers from across Europe. (More on the winners here – lot’s of interesting initiatives.)

30 minutes took me from Tegel airport and its abundant offer of local printed newspapers to a conversation focused on the future of media and news.

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It was an interesting event with very good group of attendees, lively discussions during the sessions and even more so during the breaks.

My take-aways (check #dniberlin for more discussion)—

Journalism remains challenging and news a tough business, but both are important and I take 3 positive things from what I heard and conversation with various publishers.

  • First, it is great to see a gradual move beyond vague talk of “innovation” to how leaders can encourage it, how everyone in an organization needs to engage for it to succeed, and to how new and more diverse skills are needed. This is in line with what Lucy Kung’s research has found and others working on change and innovation too and it is good to see more publishers embrace these ideas—even as innovation and change in practice remains difficult and the environment continues to change faster than many publishers have been able to change themselves.
  • Second, more and more news media are embracing the idea that you need to try things, test them, evaluate, and repeat to constantly adapt and learn. This is a move away from the tendency to talk about and perhaps in practice focus on big-bang type initiatives that takes months to develop and require lots of resources and often in-fighting and resistance, to a greater focus on all the little things one can do to constantly try to improve and adapt, and how one can both empower decentral teams to try things while also having ways of deciding what to go ahead with and what not.
  • Third, there is obviously competition and even conflict between different actors in the wider ecosystem, but also a real interest in collaboration, in identifying synergies and win-win scenarios. No one can “go it alone”, so news media, technology companies, and other actors including foundations, non-profits, and universities need to find each other and find ways of working together.

News media are frequently criticized for being conservative and slow to change. Many of them are, and the pace of change and the pain of collapsing revenues in itself neither explains nor excuses this.

But it is also important to recognize that, as Alessio Cornia, Annika Sehl and I have found in our research on how private sector media and public service media across Europe are adapting to change that some of them have both (a) invested a lot in digital media and (b) build very significant audiences, produced great journalism, and in some cases found promising business opportunities.

Not everyone is equally conservative. And some of those who have tried more aggressively to change have done demonstrably better. A few media companies seem content to die with their current aging (print/broadcast) audience without fighting to build a digital future, but that is, thankfully, not the general outlook.

On the technology side, Google gave short presentations of various products, including the Accelerated Mobile Pages project, YouTube player for publishers, and various products around monetization.

The two most interesting things gauging from what people were buzzing about during the breaks were—

  • Rudy Galfi (Product Manager for the AMP Project)’s presentation on the development of “Progressive Web Apps” that aim to combine the discoverability (through links, search, social etc.) of the open web with the engagement and good user experience of native apps. As publishers think about scale versus niche, and about building reach and converting people to loyal (and potentially profitable) users, this is an important area.

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  • The demo by Behshad Behzadi (Director of Conversational Search) of Google Assistant, an attempt to “build the ultimate assistant” by developing a personal virtual AI assistant that can be controlled by voice and provide highly contextual, personalized, interactive information and services. It is being rolled out initially via the Google Pixel smartphone and the Google Home smart speaker, but will be available across smartphones, wearables and more in the future. As Laurence Kozera (Google Global Product Partnerships) put it, “as news publishers, you should be thinking ‘voice’ right now, and how you can integrate it into assistants”. And from December, developers can build “actions” for Google Assistant. As the content  will be delivered via the assistant, publishers will wonder about the usual issues around distributed content–recognizing the opportunity, but also wonder about editorial control over brand identity, access to data, and opportunities for monetization.

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Platforms and publishers – my 2016 ECREA keynote

I was honored to be one of the keynote speakers at the 2016 ECREA conference in Prague. I spoke on the basis of research I am doing with Sarah Ganter on the relationship between news media organizations and digital intermediaries like search engines and social media.

Extended abstract and my slides below.

Publishers and platforms

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, keynote lecture at ECREA 2016 in Prague

What does the continued, global rise of platforms like Google and Facebook mean for public communication in a new digital media environment, and for how we research and understand public communication? That is one of the central questions facing the field of communication research today. In this lecture, I examine the relationship between publishers and platforms as one key part of how the rise of digital intermediaries is playing out, and show how news media—like many others—are becoming simultaneously increasingly empowered by and dependent upon a small number of centrally placed and powerful platforms beyond their control (and with whom they compete for attention and advertising). I develop the notion of “platform power” to begin to capture key aspects of the enabling, generative, and productive power of platforms that set them apart from other actors. As a range of different intermediaries including search engines, social media, and messaging apps become more and more important in terms of how people access and find information online, and in turn restructure the digital media environment itself, communication research is faced with a set of interlocking questions concerning both our intellectual work and our public role. The intellectual questions include the need to understand how people use these platforms to engage with public communication, but also institutional questions including how different platforms engage with other players (like publishers) and how these other players in turn adapt to the rise of platforms, as well as political questions concerning the implications of their rise. The question concerning our public role concerns how existing ways of doing and communicating communication research fits with our ability to understand—and help others understand—an opaque and rapidly-evolving set of processes profoundly reshaping our media environments.

Normative Theory in Communication Research ICA pre-conference

We are at it again — with Chris Anderson, Daniel Kreiss, Dave Karpf, and Matt Powers, I’m organizing an ICA pre-conference on the role of normative theory in communication research. Conference website here. Call for papers below.

Call for Papers

Normative Theory in Communication Research Pre-conference

2017 International Communication Association Annual Conference

May 25, 2017 – 8:00am-4:30pm

Department of Communication, University of California, San Diego

https://democratictheorycommresearch.wordpress.com/

Normative theories of democracy in communication research across its various subfields rarely receive explicit treatment. Often, researchers simply imply their normative standpoints through the research questions they ask about ‘participation,’ ‘civility,’ ‘two-sided information flows,’ ‘knowledgeable citizens,’ ‘rational debate and deliberation,’ ‘polarization and partisanship,’ ‘interactivity,’ and ‘quality information.’

The normative implications of many of these concepts rest on implicit assumptions about democracy, how it works, and more importantly, how it should work. When communication scholars explicitly discuss their normative models of democracy, they tend to be deliberative, following the guiding theorist of the field, Jurgen Habermas, and rich veins of deliberative research work by scholars such as James Fishkin. More common, however, is research that implicitly holds up rational debate among disinterested, non-partisan citizens premised on quality information as the normative ideal. Meanwhile, when scholars do not explicitly embrace deliberation, they tend to hold up an ill-defined, procedural idea of participation as the ultimate democratic value, often without any consideration of the ends towards which it is directed.

While deliberative theory and vague ideas of participation continue to hold significant appeal in communication research, are they the only models?  And, indeed, should they be? In the past two decades there has been a tremendous flowering of normative work in other fields that casts new light on democracy itself.  Social movement scholars have argued forcefully for the importance of contentious politics, emotion, identity, and culture to the practice and promise of democracy. Sociologists have argued that ‘civility’ often serves to cut-off critique and frankness should be valued as an alternative. Political theorists have embraced the normative importance of spectatorship in contrast to deliberation and participation, invoking communication research around media events. Others have worked to reclaim the value of partisanship in an era of extremist, single-issue civil society organizations. Meanwhile, some scholars have sought to re-establish the value of representation, while others have argued strongly for the value of agonism as the proper domain of the political.

With few exceptions, communication research has not explicitly engaged with its underlying normative models of democracy. In this pre-conference, we seek to bring communication scholars together to spark a conversation on the normative foundations of scholarship and move the field towards more sophisticated models of democracy. Through invited speakers, peer-reviewed papers, and critical discussants, we seek to make democracy and normative theories our object of analysis.

Confirmed participants include Cherian George (Hong Kong Baptist University), Claes de Vreese (University of Amsterdam), Michael Schudson (Columbia University), Jennifer Stromer-Galley (Syracuse University), Talia Stroud (UT Austin), Silvio Waisbord (George Washington University), and Barbie Zelizer (University of Pennsylvania).

Call for Extended Abstracts

We are looking for submissions that interrogate the democratic foundations of communication research across its various subfields. These can include articles on the history of normative models of democracy in the field, original theoretical papers that propose democratic frameworks or synthesize work in adjacent fields, or empirical papers that made a significant theoretical contribution to democratic theory in the field of communication.

Extended abstracts (up to 4,000 characters including spaces) should be submitted via the Normative Theory in Communication Research website by January 15, 2017.

The organizers – C.W. Anderson (CUNY), David Karpf (George Washington University), Daniel Kreiss (UNC-Chapel Hill), Rasmus Nielsen (Oxford University), and Matthew Powers (University of Washington) – will make decisions on accepted papers by February 15th. Full papers will be due in advance of the pre-conference on May 25, 2017.

There is no cost to attend this pre-conference and lunch and refreshments will be provided. Registration is required.

Sponsors

Department of Communication, University of Washington

Department of Media Culture, CUNY-CSI

Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford

School of Media and Journalism, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

School of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University

ICA Communication and Technology Division

ICA Journalism Studies Division

ICA Political Communication Division

Draft Schedule

8:00 – 8:15am

Arrival and coffee

8:15 – 9:30am

PANEL 1: Reviewed Submissions, Paper Presentations

9:45 – 11:00am

PANEL 2: Reviewed submissions, Paper Presentations

11:15 – 12:30pm

PANEL 3: Reviewed Submissions, Paper Presentations

12:45-1:45pm

Lunchtime Journal Editors Panel on the Role of Normative Theory in Research

2:00 – 3:15pm

PANEL 4: Reviewed Submissions, Paper Presentations

3:30-4:30pm

Plenary Panel on Democratic Theory in Communication Research