Friday, June 22, 2007

How to write online?

In journalism, one of the main questions is how to write news online? In an interview from Poynter Online with Chris Nodder, one of the group of Jacob Nielsen, some interesting point are discussed.

- The use of text is still very important online. Text gives the online readers the possibility to scan the information and to use it as hyperlinks or even to manipulate it. With video and audio, this is more difficult. Video and audio make online readers frustrated as they can't scan through the video or audio files. Audio and video as richter media can even be poorer in contrast with digital texts, Nodder concludes. In addition, past eye tracking studies did find out that most of the videos online don't work as on television as they make the online news consumers bored.

With regard to my study, this make sense. It's mostly argued that there's a lack of integrated use of video and audio files in online news(papers), mostly assuming that the use of various modalities of information should make the article more valuable. When video and audio files are indeed frustrating online readers because they can't manipulate them, this will have an effect on the information retrieval and the information-processing, probably in a way that an integration of audio and video will make the readers invest more cognitive sources in oriƫntating and frustrating than in elaborating and processing.

- The inverted pyramid is proposed as the best structure to write online, by telling the conclusion at the start of the article so that online scanners are getting fast to the information they want to know. However, this vision is somewhat countered by three articles, one in communication Research by Yaros , that in the European Journal of Communication by Machill and this article from Poynter online. The first two articles are discussed in this article on The conclusion is that both in online and television news, journalist must forget the inverted pyramid structure and start to use a more narrative form of telling the story.
In my study, I'm also measuring the effects of the news structure, but not the use of the inverted pyramid or narrative style. I'm studying the use (and sometimes lack) of internal and external hyperlinks, in order to measure the desorientation and scanning behavior which results from this use of this non-lineair structure.

- The last thing that this article learned me was that online journalist should use sign posts to make their texts more easy to read. Editors can use titles, summaries, bullet lists, bold, ... to get the attention of the reader to the core of the information.

Indeed, the use of advisory cues (as I call them in my study) are important when studying the online reading. I do not focus on features like bullet lists or use of titles, but more on logo's like 'breaking news' and time annotations that symbolise the freshness and value of the news article.

The machine is us: movie about digital texts and web 2.0

Some of you may already know this terrific movie about digital texts and web 2.0. This movie was discussed in some of the listservs I'm a subscriber of; almost everybody found it great piece of artwork!

I definitely going to use it in October in one of my courses as I think it is ideal to get the attention of my students and to make them realise that there's more than just hyperlinks online.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007 goes audio

One of the nice surprises when studying the online coverage of the elections was the use of audio files by Although not so advanced as those used by, the use of these audio files by a digital newspaper must be encouraged. I was not so suprised that one day later, a concurrent newspaper ( introduced the same audio technology to add audio files to the texts.

Unfortunately, the use of audio files stopped two days after the elections. It seems like for online newspaper journalists, the use of integrated audio is not as 'normal' or 'useful' as it may look at first glance. This would confirm the general criticism of the lack of interactivity and multimedia in digital newspapers. But maybe there is much more to come ... suprise me!

Monday, June 18, 2007


Last months, I' ve been very busy doing research for my Phd study. That is why I did not find time to update this blog, my apologies for that.

On the other hand, I'm very happy with past activities. Two months ago, I presented a paper at the GOR-congress in Leipzig. The reactions on my paper about studying online news media were interesting and helped me a lot with my study. Since then, I've been adjusting the concepts and units for my second content analysis of the online coverage of the elections. Last year in october, I studied the structure and form of the online messages that covered the municipal elections. One week ago, I repeated this kind of study, now with the federal elections on June, 10. However it is too early to announce some important conclusions, it is clear that the online news media have been evolving during the past months. Most of the online news media used a greater amount of multimodality, interactivity and hypertext in contrast with last year. The finding of this content analysis will be described in one or more articles about the (evolution of) use of these features in online coverage of elections or political news in general.

In addition, I've put a survey online that questions the use of online news by students and staff from the Lessius University College in Antwerp. The purpose of this study is to determine the digital divide in use of online news by people who belong to the same group, which have more or less the same cognitive development and the same possibilities to access the internet. We assume that the differences in the use of interactive, hypertextual and multimodal features will differ a lot among respondents, even when they belong to the same group and make a plead for the study of divides in use rather than studying differences in access. I will present some of the general conclusion already at the IAMCR-conference in Paris, july, 25. (Attention: you mustn't participate in the online survey if you are nor a student, nor a staff member of the Lessius University College!)

My last anouncement is that next week, I'm going to present a paper which is titled "online journalism and interactivity: studying control, conversation and self-production from an cognitive and methodological approach" at the I3-conference (Informations: interaction and impact) in Aberdeen, Schotland.

To conclude: busy times, but interesting times!
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