Posts Tagged ‘University of Texas at Austin’


The social audience

Social media has the potential to help news organizations engage with younger audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

Social media has the potential to help news organizations engage with younger audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

Recently, Dr. Talia Stroud, the director of the Engaging News Project based at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote about a study looking at the role of gender and age in consuming news in the social media and mobile age.

In that post, examining the Mobile-First News report from the Miami based Knight Foundation and the ratings agency Nielsen, Stroud wrote about how women and younger audiences are more likely to engage with news on social media and mobile devices. Stroud added that she hoped this study would start a conversation within news organizations on how these audiences can be catered to, especially through social media.

Indeed, in this evolving age for journalism, there are opportunities for news organizations to make a difference, to enhance their journalism, to help audiences understand the world around them in new ways, especially when it comes to younger audiences.

Some organizations are already at the helm. In the UK, the BBC has a service called Newsbeat, telling the news from a younger audience standpoint, by offering explanation pieces on key events, especially during the UK’s most recent vote on its membership in the European Union.

It also provided unique analysis of the political fallout that followed, from the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and the Conservative Party to the concerns surrounding Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party.

Newsbeat airs two 15 minute editions, Monday to Friday, on the broadcaster’s pop music service Radio 1, and has presences on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat (search for bbc_newsbeat), as well as an app, accessible through its web site. Stories are also sometimes available as links from the main BBC News web site.

In the US, BuzzFeed has utilized video to encourage younger audiences to vote, recently uploading this video to its Facebook page featuring President Obama. BuzzFeed also produces news content on its web site as well as a News app.

Even though younger audiences are being exposed to media through multiple platforms and screens, there is potential for news organizations to make a difference, to help audiences understand issues in new ways. While the BBC and BuzzFeed are two notable examples of what is out there, there is much more that can be done to help younger audiences be informed news consumers.

Social media platforms and news organizations can work together to make that happen. Young people want to be informed, and in order for that to happen, more news organizations must look outside the box for that to happen, in spite of challenges that come.

For them, the ball is firmly in the news organizations’ court.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

How can the Engaging News Project help journalism?

In this Net Worked guest post, Katie Steiner, an SPJ Digital member in Austin, Texas, looks at the role of the Engaging News Project and its work for journalism in the digital age.

The Engaging News Project at the University of Texas at Austin is working to help newsrooms in the new age of journalism. (Photo courtesy of Katie Steiner)

The Engaging News Project at the University of Texas at Austin is working to help newsrooms in the new age of journalism.
(Photo courtesy of Katie Steiner)

To say this is an interesting time in the news industry is an understatement. Incivility runs rampant in comment sections, leading a few newsrooms to remove comments all together. Some outlets are so driven by page views that they’ve traded in their democratic goals in favor of Kim Kardashian stories and puppy photo galleries. And overall, newsrooms are being asked to do more with fewer resources than ever before.

That is why the Engaging News Project launched. We’re a research group dedicated to helping newsrooms meet their business and journalistic goals. To do this, we test web-based strategies for informing audiences, promoting substantive discourse, and helping citizens to understand diverse views. At the same time, we analyze business outcomes, such as clicks and time on page.

One area of online engagement we have explored is online polls and quizzes. Polls are a popular way for news sites to engage with their visitors, but they have downsides. Specifically, some site visitors may believe that online poll results are accurate reflections of public opinion when, in fact, they are not. Further, the widespread use of entertainment-oriented polls may miss valuable opportunities to both entertain and educate.

Our research found that quizzes can be a positive alternative to polls, as they actually test readers’ knowledge while also keeping them on the page. To help make it simple for newsrooms to make quizzes for their sites, we have created a free online quiz tool. We invite you try out the tool by visiting this page of our website.

A hot topic in the news industry right now is comment sections, and what newsrooms should do with them. One possible solution we tested was to have journalists interact with commenters. Through our research, we found that civility improved when a reporter was present in the comment section.

When looking at comment sections, we noticed that many newsrooms use a “Like” button to allow readers to engage with the comments. But what do people do when they see a worthwhile comment that express a point of view with which they disagree? To remedy this, we created a “Respect” button. We found that people were more likely to click on comments expressing different political views when they had a “Respect” button to use, compare to when there was just a “Like.”

We’re fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with some fantastic journalists and news organizations for these projects – none of our research would be possible without their help. By partnering with newsrooms to test our strategies, we are able to get a better understanding of what works (and what doesn’t).

We’re always looking for new newsroom partnerships. At the very least, we would love to hear what you think we should be testing, or what you wish you could improve about your digital presence. We encourage you to contact us via our website.

Katie Steiner, an SPJ Digital member, is the Communication Associate for the Engaging News Project, based at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at the University of Texas at Austin. You can interact with the Project on Twitter here.

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