Engaging the social news consumer - The future of journalism Cardiff 2013


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One of the most common formats of audience participation in journalism consists of online reader comments in response to articles, weblogs or online television and radio broadcasts. Where the audience initially only commented on the media platforms themselves, Facebook made it possible to outsource commenting to a third-party platform. Outsourcing means less maintenance costs, while Facebook- commenting could also lead to more quality because anonymous commenting is no longer an option. The options users have, the rules commenters have to follow, the moderation regime they are faced with could also influence the quantity (and quality) of comments. Nevertheless, this influence has not been tested empirically. With this study we address the question how news media deal with audience comments on Facebook and their own news site and how this influences the quality and quantity of the comments. We compared comments on news platforms and Facebook of 62 Dutch national and regional newspapers, public and commercial broadcasters, newsweeklies, national news programs and online news sites. Subsequently we analysed the content of the comments with the qualitative text analysis tool MAXQDA. The results indicate that news media prefer outsourcing comments to Facebook although commenting on their own platforms is still possible. By discouraging anonymous responses, the quality of comments improved but above all the quantity of comments decreased after outsourcing comments to Facebook.

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  • Good morning, my name is Sanne Hille and I am affiliated WITH the University of applied sciences Utrecht in the Netherlands. Today I will present - Our most recent research project – about user comments on news sites and Facebook. This study is part of my PhD thesis on audience participation in journalism in the Netherlands.
  • What is the situation now Dealing with user comments – Sometimes it can be a real struggle.On the one hand, are user comments a very easy way to involve the audience. On the other hand, Journalists and audience do not always appreciate this form of audience participation, especially the abusive and insulting comments are not appreciated.  That’s why some news media in Europe and beyond switched to the Facebook comment systems where commenting in anonymity is not an option. And maybe, this would kill the trolls and raise the quality of the comments’.
  • And there is another ‘advantages’ of using Facebook. As you see in this table Socialbakers counted 7,5 million Dutch active users on Facebook in 2012.And as you see in the bar chart, the last chart shows that most of the Dutch news media found their way to into Facebook, by posting their content on the so called Fanpages.
  • This brings us to our research question. ’In which way do news media deal with audience comments on Facebook and their own news site - and how does this influence the quality and quantity of the comments?’
  • And these methods we have used. We started with a sample of 62 news media, which represent an important part of Dutch news media on the Internet.  It contains Print, broadcast and online news media.  And 20 of these news media had also a comment section AND reported about two important news events.  The first case was about the inauguration of the Dutch King Willem-Alexander. An historic occasion on April 30,2013 and the second was the disappearance and dead of two young boys Ruben and Julian, which captivated the Netherlands during two-weeksin May 2013.  We made an inventry of the comment management system of these 20 news media to determine the influence on the quality and quantity of the comments.  And, eventually we collected and analysed 3,489 comments. We analysed these with the QUAlitative data anAlysis software program MAXQDA.To determine quality -- we labelled the comments- with indicators of high and low quality.
  • This outcome was veryinteresting I think. Because of the low trash hold of Facebook, we expected more comments on Facebook than on news sites. But we found much more comments on news sites than on Facebook, on the same articles.
  • These are outcomes from the content analysis. There was little to none off-topic response. There were little to none tips provided or leads and material. No story ideas or references to sources.And we found very few abusive comments. It seems that the various Moderation registration systems do their work. We found comments where users identified typos and errors and tips on NRC.nl. NRC is one of the biggest quality news papers in the Netherlands. The general impression of the Facebook comments was that they do not contribute to the content in a positive or negative way. The following quotes illustrate this clearly.  At the top one of the users points out something he has noticed, while the Facebook comment not contribute anything.  And, there was much interaction between the users, but almost no interaction between users and editors.  
  • And lastly, the outcomes of the inventory.  NRC.nl has the most elaborate comment management system. And, received the most tips, comments about errors and typos.  NRC and Nu.nl, a web only news site, had both extensive list of house rules. As you see at 1Vandaag, a national foreign affairs television program relies entirely on the Facebook comment box, but received little to none interesting comments.  And finally, commenting URregistered and anONymus is generaly not possible.
  • I will bring up this conclussion…….
  • Engaging the social news consumer - The future of journalism Cardiff 2013

    1. 1. Engaging the social news user Comments on news sites and Facebook Sanne Hille & Piet Bakker University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, School of Journalism Future of Journalism Conference, 13-14 September 2013, Cardiff
    2. 2. User comments “By requiring a Facebook registration, it will cut down on the mean- spirited, profane and sometimes useless responses because one's friends will also see the comments in their newsfeeds”. Jimmy Orr, LA Times 3 Journalists and audience do not always appreciate this form of audience participation
    3. 3. Facebook in the Netherlands 4 Population Facebook users Penetration online population 16 million 7,5 million 50 % Socialbakers.com 18 22 38 39 58 46 42 26 25 6 Yes No
    4. 4. Comments on news sites and Facebook Research question: In which way do news media deal with audience comments on Facebook and their own news site and how does this influence the quality and quantity of the comments? 5
    5. 5. Methodology 62 news media 20 news media 3,489 comments Representing Dutch news media on the Internet: ✓Dutch national and regional daily newspapers ✓News magazines ✓National news programs ✓Regional broadcasters ✓Web only ✓ Comment section on news site ✓ Posted about: ✓ Content analysis of the comment management systems ✓ Analysed with MAXQDA ✓ Indicators of high and low quality: Defamation, incitement, a busive content, racism and hate speech, detected sources, story ideas and material follow up leads provided by the commenters (Singer, 2011). 6
    6. 6. The amount of comments 7 76% 24% News sites Facebook N=3,489
    7. 7. The quality of the comments • Little to none off-topic response, provided tips, leads and material, story ideas and sources. • Little to none abusive comments • Little Identified typos and errors on NRC.nl • Comments on Facebook do not contribute to the content in a positive or negative way ”Something I noticed today; Willem-Alexander wore his wedding ring in recent years on his left hand / finger (Catholic way). Also during the ceremony of the abdication. Immediately after the abdication, balcony scene and Inauguration of the New Church, he wears his wedding ring on his right hand / finger (Protestant way). Something worth knowing?” Jon, NRC site 8 “She looked beautiful.... Hollywood you are too late” Mo Adag, NRC Facebook page • Strong interaction between users on Nu.nl and NRC.nl • Little to none interaction between news media and users
    8. 8. Friends House rules Registration Post-mod Pre-mod Report button Social plugin Nu.nl 71,712 ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Hart van Nederland 30,150 ✓ ✓ ✓ RTL Nieuws 20,999 ✓ ✓ ✓ NRC Handelsblad 19,033 ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Omroep Brabant 13,579 ✓ ✓ ✓ Omroep Gelderland 13,343 ✓ ✓ Metro 12,589 ✓ ✓ Leeuwarder Courant 9,224 ✓ ✓ ✓ EenVandaag 5,520 ✓ ✓ BN/de Stem 4,110 ✓ ✓ ✓ RTV Oost 3,712 ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Elsevier 3,499 ✓ ✓ ✓ Eindhovens Dagblad 3,174 ✓ ✓ ✓ RTV Noord Holland 2,750 ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ De Gelderlander 2,130 ✓ ✓ ✓ PZC 1,184 ✓ ✓ ✓ Trouw 1,111 ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Haarlems Dagblad 857 ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Noordhollands Dagblad 771 ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Nederlands Dagblad 538 ✓ ✓ ✓ Total 17 14 14 6 5 11
    9. 9. Conclusion/discussion Facebook will provide fewer comments, will kill the trolls but also will make the conversation hollow 10
    10. 10. Contact • Sanne.hille@hu.nl • @sannehille • www.journalismlab.nl • @JlabHU • https://www.facebook.com/JlabHU 11