ISOJ 2017: Researchers share developments in journalism, media practices and audience building

Kathleen McElroy, associate director of the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, chaired the research panel “Diving deep into the layers of journalism, the journalism practice and its audiences” where panelists discussed new journalism practices and strategies to build audience. The panel took place during the second day of the 18th International Symposium on Online Journalism (ISOJ) held in Austin, Texas.

Maria Clara Aquino Bittencourt, post-doctoral researcher at the University Unisinos in Brazil, conducted research on how English and Portuguese media publications structure their posts in Medium, a rising platform for journalism and journalists. The resulting paper is “An Exploratory Exercise on Journalistic Initiatives on Medium.”

Findings of the research by Aquino showed that publications in English and Portuguese were  published in irregular frequencies and long-form content were common on the platform.

L to R: Maria Clara Aquino Bittencourt, James Breiner, Kathleen McElroy, Saif Shahin and Terry Britt. (Mary Kang/Knight Center)

Aquino’s main research finding was that an author’s popularity has the biggest influence on posts made in Medium.

“The circulation of stories on Medium depends on the number of followers of the publications and the profiles that are linked to them,” she said. “This means that in addition to a battle of recommendation, there is a new fight for the gaining of followers.”

James Breiner, visiting professor at the University of Navarra in Spain, discussed the benefits of using social capital to fund journalism ventures with the paper “Social Capital to the Rescue of the Fourth Estate: A Playbook for Converting Good Will into Economic Support.” Social capital is the value connections and networks hold, he said.

For independent journalism startups, social capital has been a key element in funding the organizations.

“You never know how much (social capital) is worth until you try to activate it. And how do you activate it?,” he said. “Well here (at ISOJ) you may ask somebody for a job, a collaborator for a project, or seek funding for a project.”

Breiner looked at eight journalism start ups, De Correspondent, Mediapart, El Español, Malaysiakini, La Silla Vacía, El Diario.es, The Texas Tribune, and Nómada as examples where successful fundraising or loyal subscriptions were influenced by high social capital.

“Trust is a new currency, and these news organizations are trying to provide that,” he said.

A fundraising success included The Texas Tribune.

“(The Texas Tribune) are generating $3 million from events, corporate sponsorships, and contributions. They get face-to-face with their users,” he said. “They create this kind of social capital, a kind of loyal support. They get people willing to pay for a news medium that is doing something different.”

Some media outlets with loyal subscription bases are Mediapart…

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