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A Columnist’s Call To Action:
Audience Perceptions of
Credibility and Authority
Online vs. Print
Sue Robinson
University of Wisconsin-Madison
April 2008
The Experiment
2 (interactivity: blog, no blog)
X 2 (multimedia: text, video)
Kristof’s column on Darfur
http://select.nytimes.com/2006/11/26/opinion/26kristof.html?
_r=1&oref=slogin
Kristof’s video on Darfur
http://video.on.nytimes.com/?
fr_story=b1fe27b1121b74a6ca2529cd41184f9f3b989a01&rf=
bm
Kristof’s blog on Darfur
H1: Columnist’s Credibility
H1a: Those people who read the
blog, forced to comment will feel the
author is more credible than those
who did not have this opportunity.
H1b: Those people who watched the
video with Kristof as a character will
feel that the author is more credible
than those who only read the column.
H2: Columnist’s Authority
H2a: Those people who read the
blog, forced to comment will feel
Kristof embodies more authority to
tell this news story than those who
did not have this opportunity.
H2b: Those people who watched the
video will think Kristof is more
authoritative than those who read the
column.
H3: Accept Call to Action?
H3a: Those people who believe Kristof to
be more credible, will be more apt to
accept and advocate Kristof’s main premise
that the United States must get involved in
the Darfur situation.
H3b: Those people who believe Kristof to
be more authoritative will be more apt to
want the United States to get involved in
the Darfur situation.
Credibility
Neither H1a or H1b was supported
All thought Kristof credible
BUT open-ended questions
nuanced analysis
Almost half in text conditions: Kristof
is most credible of all characters
Video: Kristof least credible of all
characters
Text
“I would hope Kristof is the most
credible because if he isn’t then
who knows if the others are even
real.”
“I find Kristof most credible. As a
writer for the largest national
newspaper, his abilities can
generally be trusted in my
opinion.”
Video
Kristof: “annoying,” “sensational,” and
“arrogant,” and who “talks in a
monotone voice.”
Kristof was “only a reporter who was
probably not a 100% knowledgeable in
this area.”
“I especially find the elderly man
credible as we saw evidence of the
burns.”
Authority
Neither H2a nor H2b supported
But H2b’s opposite was true:
Column More authoritative
than video
Columnist's Authority
4.49 4.71
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
Modality
Mean
(1-7)
Video
Text
Column:
“Committed,” “expert,” “advocate,” “activist”
Referenced events of Darfur
Kristof Primary source expert
Video:
“He covers international news”
“I see Kristof as a man who is using journalistic
pursuits to help spread a message”
“A dedicated journalist”
Referenced coverage of Darfur
Kristof Secondary source
A Call to Action
Both H3a and H3b supported
Perception of Kristof’s credibility and
authority accounted for nearly a third
of the variance of the desire to get
involved with Darfur
Furthermore…
People who read the column and
then were asked to blog were
significantly more likely to support
Kristof’s call to action (ß=.88, p<.05)
Modality had no significant predictor
value on call to action, at least not
directly
Call To Action
5.549
5.368
5.295
5.321
5.15
5.2
5.25
5.3
5.35
5.4
5.45
5.5
5.55
5.6
No Blog Blog
Interaction
Call To Action Marginal
Means
Column Video
Blog:
Personalized call to action, more
emotive
“We must do something to stop the
situation in Darfur!”
No Blog:
Less emotion, more third-person
“The need for the US to be involved in
poorer countries affairs…”
Conclusions
Don’t stop writing
Consider video format, video narrator
carefully
Rethink purpose of multimedia
Call on blogs to connect, make it
personal, bring it home

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Robinson. 2008.

  • 1. A Columnist’s Call To Action: Audience Perceptions of Credibility and Authority Online vs. Print Sue Robinson University of Wisconsin-Madison April 2008
  • 2. The Experiment 2 (interactivity: blog, no blog) X 2 (multimedia: text, video) Kristof’s column on Darfur http://select.nytimes.com/2006/11/26/opinion/26kristof.html? _r=1&oref=slogin Kristof’s video on Darfur http://video.on.nytimes.com/? fr_story=b1fe27b1121b74a6ca2529cd41184f9f3b989a01&rf= bm Kristof’s blog on Darfur
  • 3. H1: Columnist’s Credibility H1a: Those people who read the blog, forced to comment will feel the author is more credible than those who did not have this opportunity. H1b: Those people who watched the video with Kristof as a character will feel that the author is more credible than those who only read the column.
  • 4. H2: Columnist’s Authority H2a: Those people who read the blog, forced to comment will feel Kristof embodies more authority to tell this news story than those who did not have this opportunity. H2b: Those people who watched the video will think Kristof is more authoritative than those who read the column.
  • 5. H3: Accept Call to Action? H3a: Those people who believe Kristof to be more credible, will be more apt to accept and advocate Kristof’s main premise that the United States must get involved in the Darfur situation. H3b: Those people who believe Kristof to be more authoritative will be more apt to want the United States to get involved in the Darfur situation.
  • 6. Credibility Neither H1a or H1b was supported All thought Kristof credible BUT open-ended questions nuanced analysis Almost half in text conditions: Kristof is most credible of all characters Video: Kristof least credible of all characters
  • 7. Text “I would hope Kristof is the most credible because if he isn’t then who knows if the others are even real.” “I find Kristof most credible. As a writer for the largest national newspaper, his abilities can generally be trusted in my opinion.”
  • 8. Video Kristof: “annoying,” “sensational,” and “arrogant,” and who “talks in a monotone voice.” Kristof was “only a reporter who was probably not a 100% knowledgeable in this area.” “I especially find the elderly man credible as we saw evidence of the burns.”
  • 9. Authority Neither H2a nor H2b supported But H2b’s opposite was true: Column More authoritative than video
  • 11. Column: “Committed,” “expert,” “advocate,” “activist” Referenced events of Darfur Kristof Primary source expert Video: “He covers international news” “I see Kristof as a man who is using journalistic pursuits to help spread a message” “A dedicated journalist” Referenced coverage of Darfur Kristof Secondary source
  • 12. A Call to Action Both H3a and H3b supported Perception of Kristof’s credibility and authority accounted for nearly a third of the variance of the desire to get involved with Darfur
  • 13. Furthermore… People who read the column and then were asked to blog were significantly more likely to support Kristof’s call to action (ß=.88, p<.05) Modality had no significant predictor value on call to action, at least not directly
  • 14. Call To Action 5.549 5.368 5.295 5.321 5.15 5.2 5.25 5.3 5.35 5.4 5.45 5.5 5.55 5.6 No Blog Blog Interaction Call To Action Marginal Means Column Video
  • 15. Blog: Personalized call to action, more emotive “We must do something to stop the situation in Darfur!” No Blog: Less emotion, more third-person “The need for the US to be involved in poorer countries affairs…”
  • 16. Conclusions Don’t stop writing Consider video format, video narrator carefully Rethink purpose of multimedia Call on blogs to connect, make it personal, bring it home