Assessment 1 – online news sites critique

Resource Critique

Analyse and critique 2 On Line News sites. Pay particular attention to how sites use the characteristics and capacity of the internet to engage their target audiences. Discuss story presentation, production and trends in technology. Fully referenced.

Word count: 569

Convergence is a term widely used to describe online news sites. One way of summarising convergence is “the merging together of previously distinct technologies and most commonly used when referring to the convergence of computer, communication and broadcast technologies” (Hearn & Mandeville 1998, p. xi). However, it is important to consider convergence as a means, rather than an end state (Jenkins, 2001): a constant evolution. This constant evolution is something particularly important to online news sites, in order to effectively engage their target audiences: not only in the short term, in terms of constantly updated content, but on the larger scale of changes and trends in technology.

News.com.au and Crikey.com.au are both examples of convergence; merging text, video and audio, and providing interactivity – allowing feedback from readers. However they are quite different sites, particularly in terms of story presentation and content. Being a global corporation with a big audience attracting huge advertising contracts, News Limited’s news.com.au is much more conservative and has much more of a plain, hard-news style. Crikey however, publishes more opinionated pieces, or as they purport, “the stories insiders are talking about but other media can’t or won’t cover” (Private Media, 2009). They are a much smaller company who openly claim to both advertisers and their audience to be a “showcase for information that might otherwise remain suppressed” (Private Media, 2009). Because of this, they have a relatively small target audience, which does not attract the big advertisers aiming to gain broad reach. However, it is precisely because of their smaller audience and lack of big advertisers that they can remain a small company and have the editorial policy they do.

Research by Stanford University and the Poynter Institute shows that “online news readers read shallow but wide, while at the same time pursuing selected topics in depth” (Stanford Poynter Project, p.1). They tend to scan the page, picking out words and sentences, and noticing headlines, clicking through if a headline seems interesting to them (Stanford Poynter Project, p.1; Neilsen 1997, p.1). Good websites have easily scannable text with highlighted keywords, meaningful subheadings, bulleted lists, and a smaller word count (Neilsen 1997, p.1).

Both news.com.au and Crikey make use of sub-sections and headings on their sites, and are both quite easily scannable, providing a brief, meaningful, clickable title (and description in some cases) to grab the attention of their readers. Both sites are divided into sections, with main news stories at the top, and sub-sections further down the page. These sub-sections are slightly different on each site, suiting each site’s target audience. For example, news.com.au features a prominent sport section, which is only present as a sub-tab of a section on Crikey. News.com.au also features a clickable map for the reader to choose their state, which then links through to the local News Limited newspaper’s site. The sections of Crikey show a more political and media focus, without specialised sites with news by state.

Both sites make good use of current technologies, with text, photos and video. However, podcasting is an increasingly popular format for internet news, but both sites are lacking in this area. Both sites do however include prominent ‘blog’ sections, providing their audience with plenty of opinion pieces alongside their more ‘hard news’ style articles. This may be a trend that grows both within these sites, and across other news sites as “the line between weblogs and journalism begins to blur” (Hiler, n.d).

Hearn, Greg; Mandeville, Tom & Anthony, David 1998, The Communication Superhighway: Social and Economic Change in the Digital Age Allen & Unwin, St. Leonards

Hiler, John, n.d. ‘Are Bloggers Journalists’ accessed 24 December 2009 from Learning@Griffith CJR330 Online Course Content

Jenkins, Henry 2001, ‘Convergence? I Diverge’ Technology Review accessed 14 June 2007 fromhttp://www.technologyreview.com/Biztech/12434/

Neilsen, Jakob 1997, accessed 22 December 2009 from http://www.useit.com/alertbox/9710a.html

News Limited 2009, News.com.au, accessed 17-24 December 2009 from http://www.news.com.au

Private Media Pty Ltd, 2009, Crikey, accessed 22 December 2009 from http://www.crikey.com.au

Stanford Poynter Project, accessed 22 December 2009 from http://www.poynterextra.org/et/i.htm

 

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