My PhD dissertation available now

Just a public service announcement: I have now made my PhD dissertation News on the Web: instantaneity, multimodality, interactivity, and hypertextuality on Danish news websites available here on my website. As most of it is already published and the data aren’t getting any younger, there really is no point in not having it out there.

A large part of the dissertation consists of research articles, and most of those are now published in academic journals (in more or less revised versions):

Furthermore, parts of the theoretical introduction is commissioned as a book chapter for publication next year. I’ll post more on that here on the blog later.

If you want the printed-book version, it is for sale at Publikom at the price of 172.50 DKK (approx. 32 Euros/31 USD). For some reason, they haven’t added the dissertation to their online catalogue even though they sell it, so you’ll have to send them en email.

Hard times and a hard paywall in Kerteminde

On Saturday, one more Danish news website went from free to fee and launched digital subscription. The news website in question is that of Kjerteminde Avis, which is a hyperlocal one that serves the public of Kerteminde in the north-eastern corner of the Funen (approximately 24,000 citizens).

The outlook for the subscription model bringing economic salvation to the pressured local could be better, but American research as well as the development i Northern Norway can lead to cautious optimism.

Like other local or regional news websites, Kjerteminde Avis uses the hard paywall. Subscription now costs 20 DKK per month or 50 DKK for three months.

Being founded in 1879, Kjerteminde Avis has a long history. However, the last couple of years have been characterized by a transition to web-only publication, frequent shifts of editors-in-chief, and serious economic challenges; last year, the news website asked its readers for donations in order to make ends meet. The news website carries ads, predominantly from local businesses.

Donations and advertising, however, seem not to have been sufficient, and so the time has come for implementing proper digital subscription. In a situation of intense economic stress, that decision is understandable.

The news website aims at reaching 1,600 digital subscribers. That’s approximately seven percent of the population, and it’s an ambitious goal. Even if the news website succeeds in reaching that goal, however, it will be difficult to make the news production in Kerteminde economically viable. According to an earlier article in Kjerteminde Avis, the costs of producing the news website is a little more than 60,000 DKK per month. 1,600 subscribers and the current level of advertising will find only barely cover that expense. It will be an extremely tight budget where there’s no room for unexpected expenses or editorial development.

However, Kjerteminde Avis can find support in an experimental study from 2012. Here, Cook and Attari compared news users’ attitudes to the launch of digital subscription when told, respectively, that the subscription was justified in terms of building profits or of securing the survival of the news website in question. The results of the study suggest that users are more likely to accept digital subscription when the news medium communicates that it’s caused by questions of survival.

In its campaign leading up to the launch, Kjerteminde Avis has mentioned its dire economical situation repeatedly.

Furthermore, the small Funen news website can find comfort by looking north. In the Northern parts of Norway, hyperlocal thrive to such an extent that you can speak of a divided media marked.

On the one hand, there are the large newspapers published by national and transnational corporations. And on the other hand, there are small, hyperlocal newspapers that are only published to a very geographically limited audiences and that are owned locally. In their constellation, size, and target groups, these newspapers are very much like Kjerteminde Avis. In a study of this divided media market, Holand argues that the success of the hyperlocal newspapers is caused by support from the local community as well as public subsidies.

And that leads me to the reason why there could be hope for Kjerteminde Avis. The two sources for revenues used by the Norwegian newspapers are namely also the ones that it pursues: the support from local citizens (in terms of subscription) and local advertisers, and support through public subsidies. Later this Spring, the Danish Agency for Culture will announce who gets these subsidies in 2014, and Kjerteminde Avis has applied.

A few years ago, I interview the then editor-in-chief of Kjerteminde Avis for my PhD dissertation. He compared Kjerteminde Avis to the small village in the Asterix cartoons – the village that kept on fighting despite bad odds and a changing world order. The odds have not improved since then, and the hyperlocal news website might not get any more second chances it the economy does not get better (or at least stabilized) now. But as the research shows, that might not be impossible.

This post was written before the launch of the digital subscription on Saturday. However, Saturday afternoon, Kjerteminde Avis announced that it had reached 150 paying subscribers.

This post was originally published on Paywall Watch. A Danish-language and slightly edited version was published on MediaWatch today.

New publication: terrorism in real-time

As I hinted in an earlier blog post, I’ve had an important publication coming up.

Now, I’m happy to be able to announce that “Terrorisme i realtid: 22. juli 2011 i danske og norske netaviser” [Terrorism in real-time: July 22, 2011, on Danish and Norwegian news websites] has just been published in academic journal Norsk Medietidsskrift. It’s the second research article of my PhD dissertation on news on the web.

Here’s the abstract:

In cases of emergent crises, news media undertake an important societal function by providing the public with timely and correct information. Using the terrorist attack in Norway on July 22, 2011, as case, this article analyzes how Danish and Norwegian news websites cover emergent crisis in real-time. First, the article analyzes whether this coverage made use of the affordances of news websites (instantaneity, multimodality, interactivity, and hypertextuality). Second, it analyzes the accuracy of the coverage. The conclusion is that the real-time coverage both used the affordances and was accurate, suggesting that digital journalism managed to undertake its societal function during the terrorist attack.

The article is in Danish, but an early, English version can be mail available upon request.

Who will pay for online news?

Today, MediaWatch has published a new article by yours truly (in Danish) about the possible audiences for online news behind paywalls:

Hvem skal aviserne sælge netnyheder til?

Forskning viser, at  de unge læsere er en god og en dårlig nyhed for netaviserne med betalingsmure, skriver ph.d. Aske Kammer.

Efter lang tids forberedelse har Politiken i dag trykket på knappen og rejst en betalingsmur omkring deres netavis, Politiken.dk. Dermed er indholdet på de fleste store danske netaviser nu–  i varierende grad – låst inde, ude af rækkevidde for alle os, der ellers har nydt godt af den gratis adgang til online-nyheder siden netavisernes gennembrud i Danmark i sidste halvdel af 1990’erne.

Spørgsmålet er imidlertid, hvad nyhedsorganisationerne kan forvente sig af betalingsmurene – og det vender jeg tilbage til efter et kort overblik.Men lad det opmuntrende være sagt allerede her i indledningen: Ny forskning peger på, at en specifik gruppe af læsere faktisk er indstillet på at betale for online indhold.

Overordnet kan man skelne mellem tre arkitektoniske stilarter inden for betalingsmure:

  • Den første er den såkaldte metered model, som New York Times er det prototypiske eksempel på. Her er et vist antal artikler gratis for de enkelte læsere i løbet af en vis periode, men hvis de vil vide mere, skal der købes adgang. Det er den model, Politiken.dk kommer til at køre efter. Berlingske arbejder med samme model men har efter lidt startvanskeligheder udskudt rejsegildet et par måneder.
  • Den anden model er den premium-model, som Jyllands-Posten og Ekstra Bladet bruger. Her skal der betales for ekstra indhold af særlig høj kvalitet (dybdeborende journalistik, multimedie-præsentationer, Side 9-piger, osv.). De to aviser understreger, at nyhederne forbliver gratis, mens alt andet koster.
  • Og endelig er den tredje model den ”hårde betalingsmur”, som lokalaviserne i Midtjyske Medier benytter. Her kræver al adgang til netavisernes indhold som udgangspunkt betaling.

Politiken og de andre aviser befinder sig imidlertid, med al respekt, ikke i samme internationale kategori som New York Times – de har eksempelvis ikke et globalt digitalt publikum – og det store spørgsmål er, hvad der nu kommer til at ske.

Kommer betalingsmurene til at generere en højst tiltrængt omsætningsindsprøjtning til de danske nyhedsorganisationer, eller vil de først og fremmest holde læsere ude?

Formår nyhedsorganisationerne at balancere det fald i web-trafik, man alt andet lige må forvente, med den øgede indtægt pr. betalende læser, betalingsmurene vil medføre?

Disse kernespørgsmål for forretningsmodellens fremtid er der, mig bekendt, endnu ikke erfaringer nok til besvare endegyldigt.

En relativ ny undersøgelse giver dog et fingerpeg om, hvad nyhedsorganisationerne kan forvente af betalingsmurene.

Der er tale om et studie, der er udført af de to amerikanske forskere Hsiang Chyi og Angela Lee.

Studiet viser, at særligt to forhold hver især har en ganske positiv afsmitning på betalingsvilligheden ved online indhold.

Den første er alder: Yngre voksne (18-34 år) er nemlig mere tilbøjelige til at ville betale for online indhold (herunder nyheder) end ældre aldersgrupper. Og eftersom de unge jo vokser op og bliver ældre og forbliver mediebrugere i længere tid end dem, der nu er ældre, kan dette forskningsresultat tolkes således, at medieorganisationerne på længere sigt vil få et mere betalingsvilligt publikum.

Det andet afgørende forhold er interessen for nyheder i det hele taget: Folk, der i forvejen har en stor interesse for nyhedsstof, er nemlig mere tilbøjelige til at acceptere at skulle betale for online-nyheder end andre (hvilket måske ikke i sig selv er vældigt overraskende).

I kombination med pointen omkring alder stiller dette andet forhold imidlertid nyhedsorganisationerne i et dilemma. For unge mennesker er, som forskerne også skriver, desværre normalt mindre interesserede i nyheder end andre dele af befolkningen. Så dem, der egentlig er mest positive overfor at betale for indhold på web og internet, er samtidig kun i ringe grad interesserede i i første omgang at læse nyheder online. Men hvis de var det, ville de gerne betale.

De konkrete erfaringer med betalingsmure er forskellige, og der hersker stadig tvivl om, hvorvidt de kan løse nyhedsorganisationernes økonomiske udfordringer. Men hvis Chyi og Lee har ret, kan en løsning måske ligge i at gøre de unge voksne mere interesserede i at læse nyheder på nettet – som den amerikanske mediekommentator Ken Doctor siger i dagens udgave af Politiken: ”Jeg anbefaler alle at begynde at lave aggressive planer for at skaffe nye og yngre læsere”.

Det ser nemlig ud til at være dem, der i videst udstrækning vil kunne finde på at finde Dankortet frem i første omgang, hvis de besøger netaviserne.

Defending my PhD tomorrow

Tomorrow, I’ll publicly defend my PhD dissertation News on the Web: instantaneity, multimodality, interactivity, and hypertextuality on Danish news websites. The defense will take place in auditorium 22.0.11 at the Southern Campus of the University of Copenhagen, and I think it’s going to be quite interesting; at least, it will be very satisfying for me. The dissertation is the result of three years of work, and even though I still think the subject – digital journalism and how it’s changing, transforming, and maintaining institutional arrangements – is highly interesting and relevant, it will be good to achieve closure on this project. I need to move forward to something new (but, of course, related) in terms of research work, and the defense marks the first step in such a transition.

I’ll provide a write-up of the defense in a later post. With this one, I actually just wanted to invite everybody to the defense (it is public, after all, and I’d like the results of my work to reach as many people as possible), to show a picture of the dissertation fresh from the press, and to publish the following summary of my work. The summary is taken from the dissertation, and it goes through the main points of it very briefly.

Compared to traditional news media, news websites hold a unique set of affordances in relation to news workers, namely instantaneity, multimodality, interactivity, and hypertextuality. This constellation of affordances constitutes a particular condition for the production and presentation of news. This dissertation is an enquiry into how institutional actors (news workers) appropriate these potentials afforded by new, digital technology (news websites).

The enquiry is conducted with an integration of quantitative and qualitative methods, and the analyses generally support the hypothesis that news workers working on Danish news websites do, indeed, make use of the four affordances, and that they do so in ways so that they maintain journalistic control in the process. The analyses include a content analysis of formal features on 93 Danish news websites, a qualitative case study of real-time coverage of emergent crisis, and a theory-building case study of audience participation in news production for news web-sites. The dissertation propose mediatization theory as a means for contextualizing the current developments within the institution of journalism, arguing that it is an institution which is accommodating the logics and formats of the media institution – but not without some resistance from its actors.

The dissertation consists of introductory chapters (Introduction, Terminology, Theoretical framework, and Research design), four research articles, and a concluding chapter, which outlines the conclusion, identifies the most important contributions to existing knowledge, and points to future research in continuation of this dissertation. Except for one of the four research articles, this dissertation is written in English; the research article in question is Danish-language.

If you want to read the entire dissertation, drop me an email and I’ll forward it to you.

Making money from making news

Today, I hosted a seminar on my university department on current and future business models for the news industry – an industry which is under strong pressure from decreasing revenues, falling numbers of circulation, and troubles with monetization of online content. The title of the seminar was “New business models for the news industry”, I have mentioned it in earlier blog-posts here and here, and despite the grim picture which is often painted of the economical situation in the news business, the three speakers all saw potentials for making money from making news in the future.

There were to many good points and observations during the seminar for me to repeat all of them here, but I’ve put together a short summary of the day.

After my short introduction, the first invited speaker was Jens Barland from the University of Oslo who presented key findings from his PhD about how Verdens Gang and Aftonbladet generate revenues in an online environment. His presentation served as a kind of rehersal for the defence of his PhD dissertation Journalistikk for markedet [Journalism for the market] – a defense that will take place on Wednesday next week. If you’re in Oslo there, you shouldn’t miss Barland’s defense for his findings are highly interesting. A key finding of his was that initiatives to develop journalistic products don’t necessarily come from journalists anymore – on the contrary, they are often spurred by the desire to expand the product portfolio of media organizations. As an example, he mentioned Sofis mode, a magazine that Aftonbladet launched in order to reach the audience segment of adolescent girls with relatively good purchasing power. A particularly intriguing possibility, which Barland mentioned, was how news organizations might continue to give away news for free online in the future but that the access to the news might require login. This way, news organizations can generate detailed and personal data on usage and subsequently target their audiences even more directly that today with ads (think Facebook’s advertising model). I guess that when content is free, you (your data, attention, and information) really are the product.

A wrap-up (in Norwegian) of Barland’s conclusions can be found in a recent post on his Journalisten.no blog.

The second speaker was Mads Vad Kristensen from Berlingske Media. Berlingske is one of the largest media organizations in Denmark and is owned by British corporation Mecom which seems, however, intended to sell off its Danish branch. This imminent sale means that profitability is even more important for Berlingske than it used to, and as such Kristensen’s presentation about the organization’s business models related to an agenda of immediate importance. Basically, Kristensen argued that it’s no problem earning money from news – the problem is that news is quite expensive to make, especially in the context of the small Danish-speaking area. But are people willing to pay what the news actually costs? Kristensen actually thought they would be if the news organizations provided them with content that met their demands. In order to do so, the news organizations should focus on five aspects, namely 1) excellence in their products, 2) individualized content where you get what you’re intested in, 3) better service for the customers, 4) testing the limits of own self-understanding, and 5) acknowledging that only the best is good enough.

The last speaker was Stig Kirk Ørskov who is the COO of JP/Politikens Hus and who started his presentation by saying that now was actually the best of times for journalism. According to him, 2010 and 2011 were the most profitable years for his news organization in a very long time, and with a variety of different platforms (print, web, and mobile) the journalistical content could find its way to the audiences anytime and anywhere. However, except for EkstraBladet.dk the websites of the organization are not yet profitable, and paywalls will be introduced as a solution for that; agreeing with Kristensen, Ørskov also expressed confidence in the readiness of the audience to start paying for online content. Speaking of paywalls, Ørskov emphasized that the three major publications of JP/Politikens Hus will probably follow different models: Politiken (the highbrow, liberal, cultural broadsheet) will go for the metered model that the New York Times is also using; Ekstra Bladet (the tabloid) will use the same model as Aftenbladet where some selected parts are within a paywall; and Jyllands-Posten (the more conservative broadsheet) would perhaps be something like the freemium model of the Wall Street Journal where the majority of the content remains available for free.

I think the seminar went pretty well with great speakers and good discussions in the Q&A session. Also, it was well-attended by both fellow researchers, students, and people from the news industry.

Update November 22, 2012: I earlier wrote that Jyllands-Posten would go for a “hard paywall” with all content locked away. This way, however, a misunderstanding from my part, and I have now corrected it.

New business models for the news industry – update

As I advertised in an earlier blog-post, I’m hosting a seminar on the business models of the news industry this November. However, I just realized that I had noted a wrong date in the blog-post – the correct day is November 21, 2012, but it’s still from 1pm to 3.30pm.

Also, there has been a slight change of the program of the seminar as Pernille Tranberg from Berlingske Media was unable to attend. Instead, I’m happy to announce that Mads Vad Kristensen, who is digital director, will represent Berlingske Media and make us all a little wiser concerning the financial strategies and approaches of the Mecom-owned media organization. An organization, which rumor has it is currently being prepared for sale… Such a move would only make the monetizing capacity of the organization even more important.

All in all, it’s going to be an amazing seminar that brings together the best of Academia and the news industry. Attendance is free, registration not necessary. And here is the short pitch:

For several years, the traditional business models of news organizations have been under pressure; news organizations’ earnings from advertising or subscription have decreased as a lot of the public’s news consumption has moved from print to online sources, and the financial crisis has weakened revenue possibilities further. As such, news organizations have had to rethink their business models, and their conclusions and strategies for monetizing the online audience vary. Even so, it remains an open question what the business models for the future of the news industry look like and how they become economically sustainable.

This seminar, organized by the strategic research area Creative Media Industriesand the research group The Mediatization of Culture at the Department of Media, Cognition, and Communication, University of Copenhagen, presents state-of-the-art research into the evolving business models for the news industry as well as contributions from those practitioners that work with them on a daily basis.

The seminar will be in Danish and Norwegian.

You can also find the event on Facebook here.

Two exciting seminars this November

Earlier this summer, I made arrangements for two exciting research seminars in Copenhagen next November. I will probably post more about the seminars later but I think a little early promotion won’t hurt. The one seminar takes place on November 20, 2012, from 1pm to 3.30pm, is called “New business models for the news industry“, and brings researchers and practitioners together to discuss one of the most urgent challenges to the news industry as we know it:

For several years, the traditional business models of news organizations have been under pressure; news organizations’ earnings from advertising or subscription have decreased as a lot of the public’s news consumption has moved from print to online sources, and the financial crisis has weakened revenue possibilities further. As such, news organizations have had to rethink their business models, and their conclusions and strategies for monetizing the online audience vary. Even so, it remains an open question what the business models for the future of the news industry look like and how they become economically sustainable.

This seminar, organized by the strategic research area Creative Media Industries and the research group The Mediatization of Culture at the Department of Media, Cognition, and Communication, University of Copenhagen, presents state-of-the-art research into the evolving business models for the news industry as well as contributions from those practitioners that work with them on a daily basis.

The seminar will be in Danish and Norwegian. Admission is free of charge and registration is not necessary.

For this seminar, I’ve been so fortunate to be able to get together my dream team of presenters: from Norway, my good friend and fellow PhD fellow for the past couple of years Jens Barland comes to present findings from his PhD dissertation about Norwegian news organizations’ strategies for making money; from Denmark, the editorial chief of development and innovation from Berlingske Media Pernille Tranberg and the COO of JP/Politikens Hus Stig Kirk Ørskov will talk about their organizations’ strategies and considerations. With these people aboard, the seminar will certainly be highly insightful and inspirational, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Before we get to this seminar, however, I have another one arranged in the form of a guest presentation by my good colleague Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford, and Roskilde University). This is a more closed event for colleagues primarily, where Rasmus will share key findings from his impressive and very favourably reviewed book Ground Wars: Personalized Communication in Political Campaigns (Princeton University Press, 2012) about the use of persons as media in political campaigns. This seminar takes place on November 1, 2012 – just five days before the American presidential election. Rasmus is an exceptionally bright young researcher, and I’m glad wo have him on board for this arrangement.

Article in today’s Politiken on interactivity

In a short article in today’s Politiken, I present brand new research results about how Danish news websites use the interactive potential of web technology. The article is apparently not available online, so you’ll have to buy the newspaper or visit your public library to read it in its entirety, but here is a translation of the most important paragraphs:

Journalists and editors on the Danish news websites might be interested in using the interactive potential of the web and involve the public in their work. But first and foremost so in ways that support the news organizations and don’t leave much control to the audience.

[…]

Summing up: it seems that interactivity on Danish news websites is first and foremost a possibility for readers to distribute that material, which journalists have already produced, and to contact journalists. Opportunities for writing yourself are, however, rare.

The article is a spin-off from a large-scale analysis of the use of technological potentials on Danish news websites which will hopefully be published in an academic journal soon. The analysis was generously funded by Dagspressens Fond.