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A Study of Public Journalism's Sporadic Consumers

Research in recent decades has indicated that increasing numbers of media users never consume public journalism or only do so infrequently. In the scope of a new Medier & demokrati project, Ulrika Andersson, media researcher at the University of Gothenburg, will investigate how sporadic users in the age group 20-35 are exposed to public journalism.

- It is important to understand whether it is a matter of a generally low level of interest for news or if these are people who actually do consume public journalism, but do so in an entirely different manner than, for example, through news media and social media, she says.

The trend that researchers have observed can be significant for participation in society and for the media as a pillar of democracy. At the same time, the accelerating digitalisation has also changed the media landscape. The ways in which journalism and other media content are produced, distributed and consumed have multiplied.

The project 'Media citizens marginalised from the news,' which starts in September 2020 and will conclude in February 2022, will study the following three questions: 

1) How can sporadic users' consumption of media be described? 

What forms of media other than the traditional news media are consumed and contain material that can be described as public journalism? The studies that have been conducted thus far have had a relatively narrow definition of news media and the project has the intent of taking a broader view. Is public journalism consumed on different platforms than traditional media? And how extensive is the consumption when it takes place?

2) Does the pattern of exposure to public journalism differ in the group of sporadic users in comparison with the group of frequent users in addition to the fact that exposure takes place less frequently? 

The aim is to identify whether the choice of media and content is approximately the same in both groups or if there are any specific differences that are distinctive to sporadic users. 

3) What are the main reasons that public journalism is consumed infrequently or not at all? 

The project should determine whether this is an active choice or something that happens by chance. It should also determine whether there are specific characteristics or features of journalism that give it the perception of not being worthwhile or relevant. There is also an ambition to map out what might stimulate sporadic users to more actively consume - and by extension pay for - public journalism. 

In order to answer these questions, the project is designed with a mixed-method approach, which means different research methods are applied. In this case: a survey study, i.e. questionnaires, experiments and qualitative interviews. 

- This will give us an overall perspective of what is characteristic for this group and at the same time we can dig deeper into the question of what lies behind low exposure, such as any perceived shortcomings of the content that come into play or whether it is more a matter of individual factors, says Ulrika Andersson.

For the benefit of media providers and society alike

'Media citizens marginalised from the news' focuses the age group 20-35. It is the group that earlier studies have shown to be most likely to have low exposure to public journalism. 

- We are very happy about the project that is taking place in collaboration with JMG at the University of Gothenburg, says Martin Holmberg, programme coordinator for Medier & demokrati. Our assessment is that the project will provide new and valuable knowledge for the benefit of media providers and society alike. It also takes a very interesting approach with a combination of investigative and experimental aspects.

ABC about 'Media citizens marginalised from the news'

Partners: Medier & demokrati and JMG – Department of Journalism, Media and Communication – at the University of Gothenburg.

Project time: September 2020 - February 2022.

Researchers: Ulrika Andersson, adjunct professor of journalism, media and communication. Heads of research for the Journalism Panel and the Newspaper Research Programme as well as the deputy director for the SOM Institute at the University of Gothenburg. Including research advisers from Medier & demokrati.

Financing: Anne-Marie och Gustaf Anders Stiftelse for media research provided SEK 1,820,000 in external funding.