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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

ISOJ: Websites of top 100 US newspapers are using more multimedia, interactive features



Co-author Robert Bergland presents research paper: "Website Features of the Top 100 U.S. Newspapers." ISOJ. Day two. Beth Cortez-Neavel/For the Knight Center

The top 100 newspapers in the US are increasing their use of interactive and multimedia features on their websites as new technologies and content management tools allow them to improve their digital presence.

Presented at the Saturday research panel of the 14th International Symposium on Online Journalism by co-author Bob Bergland of Missouri Western State University, “Website Features of the Top 100 Circulation US Newspapers,” conducted a study of the website features of the top 100 US newspapers. Other co-authors are Heather Heater, Anti Ford, Jeremy Lyona, and Kris Miller.  Their study follows a similar study from 2006 by the Bivings Group. 

Bergland said the aim of his study was to update the Bivings data, research the use of social media, and provide a baseline for future studies.  His group used content analysis, passing over each site twice, one week apart, to collect data on available interactivity and multimedia features.

The changes in both areas were striking. All features studied saw increases, from self-produced video to allowing comments articles.  Self-produced video saw a 34% increase, reporter blogs saw a 16% increase, comment sections on articles saw a 77% increase, and required registration to comment on stories saw a 43% increase. Many features, such as reporter blogs, video, photo galleries, and comment sections were close to the saturation point, being present in more than 90% of the newspapers studied.

Bergland theorized that the increase in ability to comment and requiring registration to comment are linked, as many newspapers had previously closed their comment sections to prevent vitriolic or hateful comments from harming their brands. By requiring registration, they were able to reopen better-controlled comment sections. Paywalls, an important development in the declining print industry and a possible revenue source for traditional newspapers, have also played a role in allowing websites to reopen comment sections.

Bergland also gave possible directions for future research. He suggested the study could be repeated in 4 to 5 years to update the data again, while also breaking down features and newspapers by ownership and size.



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