The purpose of this article is to shed light on a new phenomenon in the media landscape, namely public organisations taking on the role of news producers. The analysis focuses on the digital news site VGRfokus, which is run by the Swedish county council Region Västra Götaland (VGR). The articulated goal of VGRfocus is to fill a perceived news gap in the county. Using previous literature on hyperlocal media as a lens for the analysis, we discuss how a regional news outlet produced by a public organisation can be characterised and understood. Based on our case study, we show that, while VGRfokus partly resembles other newcomers, it also has features that make it a very special news producer. This distinctiveness relates in particular to the fact that VGRfokus is part of a large, public organisation and holds ambitions to promote the work of the county council and represent its geographical area. This places issues concerning trustworthiness and credibility at the centre of the discussion and raises questions about democratic implications.
Hyperlocal media are increasingly prominent in local media ecologies. However, economic pressures are their biggest challenge and are therefore our main thematic. The study is based on empirical data from 35 hyperlocals in Sweden, the UK, France, the Netherlands and Belgium. We present a conceptual framework of viable, sustainable and resilient models and find that hyperlocals are diversifying their revenues. Drawing on business ecosystems as a theoretical approach, we find these hyperlocals are surviving by forging symbiotic relationships with media, businesses, advertisers and communities in their environment. With its focus on imbalanced and evolving relations, the approach offers a broad framework to explain how hyperlocal business models are developing through a dynamic system of proximal interdependencies. The results contribute to new knowledge by explaining the revenue diversification of hyperlocals in the digital ecosystemic space.
This article elaborates on the prospects for research interventions that repurpose the means of datafication to create possibilities for people to reflect on what it means in their daily lives. The research data consist of qualitative research interviews (n=13) in which media diaries and tracking data from the participants’ smartphones and computers served as prompts for reflection. The experiences from the self-monitoring and the encounters with tracked data by self-identified avid ICT users are analysed to gain a better understanding of the kinds of possibilities for reflexivity that are enabled when people have access to data that are rarely available to them.
In this article, knowledge building through combinations of methods in a digital context is discussed and explored. Two types of digital bigger and smaller data-driven media studies are used as examples: digital focus groups and the combination of internet traffic measurements, surveys and diaries. The article proposes the concept of digital method triangulation. Digital method triangulation is argued to be a way to approach the “meaning problem” to make sense of small and big data. Digital method triangulation is argued 1) to stimulate the innovative use of known methods for unexpected dimensions within the studied topic; 2) with appropriate theoretical and meta-theoretical reflections, to provide more certainty in conclusions; and 3) to assist in constructing a more comprehensive perspective on specific analyses. The conclusion is that triangulation is even more important in the digital realm, as it facilitates dialogue between conventional and digital methods, dialogue that seems crucial to capture the complexities of the onlife.
Making sense of the new Nordic food movement on the web
Anders Kristian Munk
Through the example of a web corpus built to study the emergence of the New Nordic Food phenomenon in Scandinavia, I discuss how quali-quantitative analysis can help us make sense of onlife traces. I propose four styles of analysis that address the meaning problem in different ways, namely 1) through complementarity, a division of labour in which quantitative and qualitative methods are allowed to unfold relatively undisturbed by one another, the latter performing the job of situating and interpreting the insights gleaned from the former; 2) through a single level of analysis, whereby the potential of onlife traces is seen to reside in their ability to be both qualitatively rich and quantifiable at the same time, enabling an analysis of how apparent macro phenomena are produced on the micro level; 3) through curation, a critical practice in which a qualitative understanding of different media environments and their effects on the production of onlife traces becomes integral to the way in which such data should be sourced and quantified; and 4) through algorithmic sensemaking, whereby the relational reasoning typically associated with qualitative fieldwork is emulated quantitatively through techniques like pattern recognition.
This study investigates the Facebook posting behaviour of 922 posting users over a time span of seven years (from 2007 to 2014), using an innovative combination of survey data and private profile feed post counts obtained through the Facebook Application Programming Interface (API) prior to the changes in 2015. A digital inequality lens is applied to study the effect of socio-demographic characteristics as well as time on posting behaviour. The findings indicate differences, for example in terms of gender and age, but some of this inequality is becoming smaller over time. The data set also shows inequality in the poster ratio in different age groups. Across all the demographic groups, the results show an increase in posting frequency in the time period observed, and limited evidence is found that young age groups have posted less on Facebook in more recent years.
On the interpretation of hyperlinks in the study of polarization in blogging about climate change
This article explores the potential and challenges of using hyperlinks as data through a study of polarization in English language blogs about climate change. The purpose of this research is to provide an interpretation of the meaning of the hyperlinks in climate change blogs by coding the functions that the links perform in the given blog posts. Beginning with a set of more than 500,000 blog posts about climate change, we focus on bloggers who actively link to highly visible sources that advocate, respectively, the denial or acceptance of the consensus view on anthropogenic climate change. We find that the bloggers in our sample predominantly link to sources that they agree with and that, if they link to a source with different opinions, the link is part of negative criticism of the targeted source. We argue that, by considering the functions of the links in the blog posts, we obtain a more nuanced understanding of the extent to which the discussion in the blogs is polarized.
Previous research into social media platforms has often focused on the exceptional: key moments in politics, sports or crisis communication. For Twitter, it has usually centred on hashtags or keywords. Routine and everyday social media practices remain underexamined as a result; the literature has overrepresented the loudest voices: those users who contribute actively to popular hashtags. This article addresses this imbalance by exploring in depth the day-to-day patterns of activity within the Australian Twittersphere for a 24-hour period in March 2017. We focus especially on the previously less visible everyday social media practices that this shift in perspective reveals. This provides critical new insights into where, and how, to look for evidence of onlife traces in a systematic way.
Our many online routines leave behind trails of data about our identities, habits, preferences and connections. These data serve as filters when we seek out information, yielding relevant results and content of interest. However, commercial and political parties can use the same data to personalize persuasive messages, and some even use psychological profiles to target individuals. With this revelation come concerns that news can be framed to appeal to individual personalities.
This study investigates the relationship between personality and news engagement among predominantly young Norwegian adults across different news angles. It addresses the Big Five personality traits as well as rational and experiential information-processing styles. The results provide support for our hypothesis on the relation between neuroticism and lowered news engagement, although the effect sizes are small. When exploring isolated news stories, we find greater differentiation among the participants, suggesting that individuals’ news interest really does start at the headline.