Is serendipity the new sales argument for newspapers?

eingereicht von: Ulbe Jelluma 25/02/2017

As fake news, alternative facts and the information bubble get headlines the last six months, media types are under the microscope. A recent Conference about Big Data in Media demonstrated the information that is available about online readership.

Newspaper and magazine publishers showed at the Conference how they monitor online reader behaviour and several ways of optimising content to obtain the highest readership. 

Data can help to position various reader segments using engagement and value as main axis. Publications with a high print subscription rate obtain vast sets of demographic data, but often lack data about readership. Data on online readers often doesn't contain these demographics, but do have lots of data about their online readership. This data will include interest areas, views, reading time, scroll time, headline preference and much more. Interest areas, headlines and content is all tailored to their reading behaviour. It seems very difficult to create interest for other sections that those readers haven't viewed before. Most online content therefore recommends related content instead of suggesting a different content area. This strategy confirms the online information bubble. Readers will continue to receive content that fits their prior reading behaviour. This modus fits what was called in communication sciences the Agenda Setting Theory. When asked, publishers acknowledge some transfer of data insights of online readers to knowledge of print readers. But, for example headlines that score well online don't necessarily score well in print. 

Print newspapers and magazines however present content without knowing the interests of specific readers. Readers browsing a printed newspaper or magazine can be confronted with content that would not fit their prior reading behaviour but might be of interest to them. This is very much comparable to visiting a bookshop, instead of going immediately to the relevant shelf, one stops at different tables to see whether books on other subjects might be of interest. The same happens when reading an article. As was mentioned earlier on this website, readers "stumble" across surprising articles. And reading these articles break the information bubble as readers chose what they read. Printed newspapers and magazines play an important role in delivering a mixed content allowing readers a broad view of various subjects. It is based upon the view of a reader being able to master the content choice.