A comparative ethnography across platforms, media and contexts
Signe Sophus Lai, Jesper Pagh and Fiona Huijie Zeng
This article outlines a research design for a qualitative comparative study of communication across platforms, media and contexts – in China, the US and Denmark. After addressing the limitations in previous research on digital media in everyday life, we argue in favour of a comparative ethnography of communication that emphasizes the study of intermediality by taking a people-centred approach. The methodological design combines network sampling and maximum variation sampling with communication diaries and elicitation interviews. This design makes it possible to collect small and deep communicative trace data, to capture individuals’ unique linking of all the communication tools and channels available to them and, in turn, to identify the role of the internet as it interacts and intersects with other forms of communication.
Spatial metaphors have long been part of the way we make sense of media. From early conceptualizations of the internet, we have come to understand digital media as spaces that support, deny or are subject to different mobilities. With the availability of GPS data, somatic bodily movement has enjoyed significant attention in media geography, but recently innovations in digital ethnographic methods have paid attention to other, more ephemeral ways of moving and being with social media. In this article, we consider three case studies in qualitative, “small data” social media research methods: the walkthrough, the go-along and the scroll back methods. Each is centred on observing navigational flows through app infrastructures, fingers hovering across device surfaces and scrolling-and-remembering practices in social media archives. We advocate an ethnography of ephemeral media mobilities and suggest that small data approaches should analytically integrate four dimensions of mediated mobility: bodies and affect, media objects and environments, memory and narrative, and the overall research encounter.
This article compares the “continuity” produced by private- and public service television companies and discusses whether it can survive in the digital era. In broadcast television, “continuity” carries the industry’s dominating business model: the commercial break. The present disruption to this model, caused by digital technology, over-the-top companies like Netflix and social media like Youtube, has made the television industry eager to adapt to new television viewing habits. However, based on a comparative analysis of the communicative strategies of four television companies in Denmark, the article argues that a traditional delay economy still governs the temporal structures and constructions of continuity. This delay economy draws heavily on the patience of its implied viewers. The article discusses this conceptualization of the audience in the context of an emerging impatience culture in which instant access to personalized audio-visual content and gaming on different devices are part of the viewers’ media experience.
Disruptive technology in book and local newspaper industries
Linn-Birgit Kampen Kristensen and Mona Solvoll
Digitalization is both a major cause of the challenges now faced by several media industries and a source of their potential solutions. Within the book and newspaper industries, the value of the physical product is about to be surpassed by that of digitally delivered content, disrupting the distribution system that these industries have relied on for many decades. In particular, digital distribution has radically changed the way in which consumers engage in unpaid and paid media consumption.
Anchored in the notion of disruptive innovation, and more specifically related to the idea of distribution as disruptive technology, our study investigates Generation Z’s unpaid and paid consumption of digital books and online local newspapers. Drawing on two Norwegian audience surveys, we find that both industries involve at least one disruptive actor. Generation Z relies heavily on Facebook as a distribution channel for news. Pay-walls have a negative effect on the usage of paid online local news, despite the belief that paywalled news is better than free news. In the Norwegian book industry, paper books still have a very strong position among Generation Z. Audiobooks have greater usage than e-books, and we conclude that the real disruptive actor in the Norwegian book industry is the streaming of audiobooks by actors such as Storytel.
Outlining the figure of the entrepreneur–journalist in four French pure players
This article follows on from previous research by questioning the disruptive character of four French online media: Les Jours (2016), Le Quatre Heures (2013), Médiacités (2017) and Brief.me (2015). In an attempt to identify what has changed and what may have settled to become standards of contemporary pure players today, this research investigates the way in which work is organized and revenue is made and, consequently, what this may mean for the journalistic profession in general. The findings suggest that building these pure players from scratch offers the opportunity for journalists to renew their skills in a framework in which they have control over the values and the means developed to maintain them. In a precarious professional context, it appears that journalists adapt by developing an increasingly entrepreneurial profile.
A diachronic affordance analysis of Steam’s platformization strategy
This article analyses the disruptive potential of Valve’s game distribution platform, Steam, focusing specifically on how Steam has evolved into a de facto online social network and how Valve uses constant feature changes as part of its corporate rhetoric. Despite its profound influence on the video game industry, scholarly inquiry into Steam has focused on analyses of user or value creation. However, Steam arguably derives its long-term disruptive potential from combining the gamification of digital distribution with the formation of ephemeral public spheres around the games that it distributes, thereby becoming a de facto online social network. To investigate this strategy, the article employs a historically comparative affordance analysis, drawing on a small data set of Steam blog posts and tech blog coverage from 2007 to 2018 to map patterns of affordance change.
The technocultural disruption triggered by digitization has radically changed the way in which we consume films outside cinemas and transformed content providers’ business models. In Norway, between 2010 and 2016, DVD/Bluray and subscription-based streaming services switched places as major and minor platforms for home video consumption. Hence, home video consumption has migrated from a high-yielding platform at the head of the home video release cycle to a low-yielding platform at the tail end, where films also face tougher competition from drama series and international content tends to surpass local content. A case study of the earnings generated by local films released by a major distributor in this period suggests that home video revenues have diminished, making local films much more dependent on theatrical revenues and vulnerable to changes in cinema-going behaviour.
How private media managers talk about responsibility to society in an era of turmoil
Trine Syvertsen, Karen Donders, Gunn Enli and Tim Raats
Digitization, new entrants and the disruption of business models prompt concern about the media’s societal mission. The article investigates how media managers conceptualize societal responsibility in an era of turmoil. Based on 20 semi-structured interviews with executive managers of private media companies in Norway and Flanders, the study reveals important differences in the definition of the public interest. While Flemish media managers emphasize brand value, Norwegian managers emphasize societal values, such as educating the public. When comparing managers of traditional and newer companies, a third, more straightforward market logic is also elicited, illuminating the vulnerability of traditional values.