From Community to Commerce?

Analytics, audience ‘engagement’ and how local newspapers are renegotiating news values in the age of pageview-driven journalism in the United Kingdom

Authored by: James Morrison

The Routledge Companion to Local Media and Journalism

Print publication date:  April  2020
Online publication date:  April  2020

Print ISBN: 9780815375364
eBook ISBN: 9781351239943
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781351239943-36

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Abstract

Local newspapers were once bastions of their communities – reporting everything from church fetes to factory closures and speaking truth to power to councillors and business leaders. However, growing competition from online media, combined with advertising downturns, technological challenges and repeated consolidations in ownership, has seen a steady drift away from conventional community news values towards a hard-nosed approach to story-telling, as ever-dwindling resources have forced editors to focus on audience-driven content. A recent manifestation of this market-driven local journalism has been the rise of analytics-focused newsgathering, in which articles receiving the most web ‘clicks’, online comments and Facebook ‘likes’ determine decisions about how future stories are selected and framed. Drawing on in-depth interviews with five local web editors from around the UK, this chapter explores how journalists are increasingly ordered to embellish and follow up tales that engage and enrage audiences the most – turning the newsgathering process on its head, as commercial ‘clickability’, not public interest or normative news values, determine what is covered (and how).

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