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DID YOU GET THE
BUZZ?
ARE DIGITAL NATIVE MEDIA
BECOMING MAINSTREAM?
Lu Wu
University of North Carolina-Chapel
Hill
BACKGROUND
• Digital native media were born, and grown
entirely online.
• Some started as online content aggregators.
• Some digital native media are taking actions in
repositioning themselves to be original
content generators.
• They are known for creating viral content
online.
• They are popular among Millennials.
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
• Digital Native sites are fledgling in the news reporting business.
• They need to build a trustworthy news brand.
• Media ecology scholars suggested that nascent media would
adopt organizational forms in order to survive the uncertainty in
the media environment (Lowrey, 2012).
Organizational
forms
Hiring skilled
employees
Adopting
routines
Creating rules
and regulations
Specializing
workforces
HYPOTHESES
• Some of the changes can be observed, but some are internal and
are embedded.
• If the media organization did adapt news production routines, we
can expect to see:
– a greater number of sources per story
– a greater number of official sources
– more hard news than soft news
– more political news in hard news format
METHOD
• A content analysis of news articles published by BuzzFeed.
• Two constructed weeks of each year from January 1, 2007 to
October 31, 2015.
• The final sample consists of a total of 912 articles.
FINDINGS
0
50
100
150
200
250
300
2007 2009 2011 2013 2015
Total Source
Total Source
0
50
100
150
200
2007 2009 2011 2013 2015
Official Sources
Official Sources
1. Changes in News Sourcing before and after 2012
Topics Years Total
Before 2012 (%)
(n=104)
After 2012 (%)
(n=808)
Politics 52.9 49.8 49.4
Economy/business 18.3 10.5 9.5
Technology 15.4 5.8 4.6
Crime 2.9 10.4 11.4
War and related crisis 2.9 4.2 4.3
Lifestyle 2.9 2.1 2.0
Entertainment 1.9 6.5 7.1
Accidents/disasters 1 3.5 3.8
Human-interest 1 3.3 3.6
Science 1 0.8 0.7
Sports 0 1.6 1.9
Education 0 1.5 1.7
Total 100 100 100
2. Changes in News Topic before and after 2012
Hard
News
36%
Soft
News
64%
Before 2012
Hard
New
s…
Soft
New
s…
After 2012
3. Changes in News Categories before and after 2012
Hard
News
31%
Soft
News
69%
Before 2012
Hard
News
67%
Soft
News
33%
After 2012
4. Change in Political News Reporting before and after
2012
Source
25%
No
Source
75%
Before 2012
Source
96%
No
Source
4%
After 2012
5. Change in Political News Sourcing before and after 2012
DISCUSSION
• This study shows that BuzzFeed, though it is in the early stages of
establishing status as a news organization, has made significant
progress.
• BuzzFeed has gradually adopted routines resulting in more hard
news stories, and more official sources.
• The increasing amount of news coverage after 2012 is consistent
with the anticipated result from increasing newsroom resources:
more beat reporters were hired to cover news in culture, and
society; more international bureaus were opened to provide on-
the-ground news feeds.
• BuzzFeed News has demonstrated the opposite of the trend toward
a “softening of news.”
• This study provides a unique look at the organizational norms
and rules adopted by digital news media. It’s promising that
they will keep growing into a much bigger force in news
business especially online and targeting younger users. It is
important to continue learning more about those news
organizations and learning about how they will influence the
democratic process from time on.
THANK YOU!
Lu Wu
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
luwu29@live.unc.edu

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Lu Wu

  • 1. DID YOU GET THE BUZZ? ARE DIGITAL NATIVE MEDIA BECOMING MAINSTREAM? Lu Wu University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  • 2. BACKGROUND • Digital native media were born, and grown entirely online. • Some started as online content aggregators. • Some digital native media are taking actions in repositioning themselves to be original content generators. • They are known for creating viral content online. • They are popular among Millennials.
  • 3. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK • Digital Native sites are fledgling in the news reporting business. • They need to build a trustworthy news brand. • Media ecology scholars suggested that nascent media would adopt organizational forms in order to survive the uncertainty in the media environment (Lowrey, 2012).
  • 5. HYPOTHESES • Some of the changes can be observed, but some are internal and are embedded. • If the media organization did adapt news production routines, we can expect to see: – a greater number of sources per story – a greater number of official sources – more hard news than soft news – more political news in hard news format
  • 6. METHOD • A content analysis of news articles published by BuzzFeed. • Two constructed weeks of each year from January 1, 2007 to October 31, 2015. • The final sample consists of a total of 912 articles.
  • 7. FINDINGS 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 2007 2009 2011 2013 2015 Total Source Total Source 0 50 100 150 200 2007 2009 2011 2013 2015 Official Sources Official Sources 1. Changes in News Sourcing before and after 2012
  • 8. Topics Years Total Before 2012 (%) (n=104) After 2012 (%) (n=808) Politics 52.9 49.8 49.4 Economy/business 18.3 10.5 9.5 Technology 15.4 5.8 4.6 Crime 2.9 10.4 11.4 War and related crisis 2.9 4.2 4.3 Lifestyle 2.9 2.1 2.0 Entertainment 1.9 6.5 7.1 Accidents/disasters 1 3.5 3.8 Human-interest 1 3.3 3.6 Science 1 0.8 0.7 Sports 0 1.6 1.9 Education 0 1.5 1.7 Total 100 100 100 2. Changes in News Topic before and after 2012
  • 10. Hard News 31% Soft News 69% Before 2012 Hard News 67% Soft News 33% After 2012 4. Change in Political News Reporting before and after 2012
  • 11. Source 25% No Source 75% Before 2012 Source 96% No Source 4% After 2012 5. Change in Political News Sourcing before and after 2012
  • 12. DISCUSSION • This study shows that BuzzFeed, though it is in the early stages of establishing status as a news organization, has made significant progress. • BuzzFeed has gradually adopted routines resulting in more hard news stories, and more official sources. • The increasing amount of news coverage after 2012 is consistent with the anticipated result from increasing newsroom resources: more beat reporters were hired to cover news in culture, and society; more international bureaus were opened to provide on- the-ground news feeds. • BuzzFeed News has demonstrated the opposite of the trend toward a “softening of news.”
  • 13. • This study provides a unique look at the organizational norms and rules adopted by digital news media. It’s promising that they will keep growing into a much bigger force in news business especially online and targeting younger users. It is important to continue learning more about those news organizations and learning about how they will influence the democratic process from time on.
  • 14. THANK YOU! Lu Wu University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill luwu29@live.unc.edu