The Cyberbrains

Research and contemplation in new media

Research for the Newsroom 10.16.08

Clyde Bentley

Sports fans with cash, the unsuspected impact of broadband and words you can count (if not count on) head the research reports this fortnight. And then there is that rumor of bad news for Twitter…
Clyde

– – –

Clyde Bentley
Print & Digital News
Missouri School of Journalism

Who’s on first: Media Life Research produced a fascinating profile of American sports fans this fall. Fans of any sport tend to have high levels of education – 29 percent have college degrees compared to 16 percent of non-fans. Predictably they are more likely male (53%), but have higher income than non-fans. They are more likely to be political moderates than non-fans, half are married, they are much more interested in international events and like to take risks and fix mechanical things.
The report also ranks various sports by demographics. Golf fans are oldest, hockey has the fewest minority fans. It is a good read for both editors and marketers.

Eyes on video: As with other online news content, the biggest challenge facing newspapers as they expand the use of video is finding a workable business model. Media economist Robert Picard, writing in INMA’s Ideas magazine, said news organization face a rising demand for video tempered by rapidly changing technology and a faltering ad-based budget.

Picard said 90 percent of newspapers now offer video on their sites and approximately two-thirds accept consumer-generated video. But Picard says news video has its best value if it is original rather thansyndicated. The primary value of video is not monetary, but an enhancement of the news business.


High speed to nowhere: What caused the sudden decline of the newspaper business? It very well may have been the development of residential broadband Internet service. Speaking at the 2008 International Newspaper Marketing Association World Congress, Alan Mutter reported that the decline of the U.S. newspaper industry is directly correlated with the adoption of high-speed Internet. When broadband reached 23 percent penetration in 2003, the industry started to dive. It continued to fall in pace with broadband’s popularity. Mutter said the phenomenon appears to be global.
For a PDF of the report, e-mail alan.mutter@broadbandxxi.com

Word meter: Academics took note of an inexpensive new computer program recently, but LIWC may have newsroom use. The $90 ($30 for the light version) analyzes texts by the number of times words and phrases are repeated. That’s great for those of us who do content analysis research, but it could also be used to settle arguments on how often a candidate says “you betcha” or the frequency of male or female pronouns in news copy. Designer James Pennebaker of Texas used it to compare Obama and McCain on their wordiness, long sentences, big words, personal tone, vagueness, categorical thinking and other factors. For a small price, it might generate interesting stories. The mouthful version of the software’s name, by the way, is “Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count.”

The online me: Consumers are increasingly nervous about placing personal identity information online, which makes it harder for newspaper to track Web visitors or to e-mail readers. Consumer Reports National Research Center said that 83 percent of consumers worry about online credit card theft and 72 percent fear their online behavior is tracked by companies. As a result, 35 percent use alternate e-mail addresses to hide their real identity, 26 percent have special software that shields their identity and 25 percent have submitted fake ID to a Website. On the other hand, the majority of those surveyed incorrectly believe the law protects them from corporate data collection.
To that end, AT&T and Verizon asked lawmakers to trust them with a voluntary code of conduct rather than legislation on Web privacy.

Good deeds rewarded: Connecting your message to a worthy cause really garners attention, our advertising colleagues found. A study by Cone Research and Duke University found that cause-related marketing can increase sales by as much as 74 percent. The top causes with which Americans want to associate are education (80 percent), economic development (80 percent), health (79 percent) and access to clean water (79 percent). While the study was confined to advertising, it would be worth testing for civic journalism campaigns, special sections and newspaper promotion.

Be careful of what you wish: The dash to add more content to newspaper Web sites may be part of the industry’s latest bad news. The ad revenues that have climbed dramatically each of the past four years put on the brakes. For the second quarter of 2008, it was down 2.4 percent compared to last year, the NAA said. The New York Times speculated that rapid increase of new editorial features created a glut of Web advertising space. The glut forced papers to cut their ad rates. Reuters reported that some publishers reacted by restricting the Web ad space available. (Reuters also used a design format for the story that is worth checking).

No, not my Twitter!: Several communications companies near and dear to journalists are on the CNET list of companies that could close in the current economic downturn. Topping the list is mini-blog service Twitter, which has yet to come up with a revenue model despite becoming an addiction ala Facebook. Speaking of which, Facebook’s old relative MySpace is on the skids, along with virtual reality pioneer Second Life. The killer news for expatriates around the world is that Skype is threatened because it did not live up the expectations of eBay, which purchased it. And me? I’ll have to cry alone in a silent office if music genome site Pandora doesn’t make it.

Push my buttonS: Note the quiet change in Apple’s Macintosh. The newly announced MacBook and MacPro have strange-looking touchpad – but it is rigged for right-click. And the new Apple desktop Mighty Mouse has both two buttons and a scroll ball.

It’s not all bad: The INMA report on what likes ahead for newspapers in 2009 is not academic research, but it certainly quotes enough statistics and surveys to earn a footnote. The good news is that INMA exec Earl Wilkinson thinks we can recover once the general economic troubles end. The bad news is, well we all know most of that. The report includes a wonderful video clip in which Wilkinson extols “cultural bandwidth,” warns of “diabetic” news consumers and lives up to his reputation as a man of mighty quotations:
”We think right now as an industry that we are creating the digital age. But we are like teenagers, we don’t have an idea really where it is going to go, where we’ll be in the middle of the next decade.”

Digital heresy: Nation columnist William Powers today asked participants of World Digital Publishing Conference to pull out a “secret weapon” – paper. Powers, author of “Hamlet’s Blackberry,” said paper is an “emerging strength” for newspapers because it “frees up the brain to think.” He rattled off a litany of paper benefits that would make great research fodder for media scholars.

Check back Oct. 30 for the next edition of Research for the Newsroom

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October 16, 2008 - Posted by | Clyde Bentley

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