Center for Citizen Media Rotating Header Image

Collaborative News Survey: Hype versus Reality

hsingpic.jpgWhy are collaborative news, commenting and blogging sites such as Newsvine, Slashdot and Global Voices attracting users and visitors? Who are these folks? What do they want from their interactions?

According to a just-released survey — “The Hype vs. Reality vs. What People Value: Emerging Collaborative News Models and the Future of News” — by Hsing Wei (pictured left) from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, they are (among many, many other things):

  • mostly young and male, especially those who visit technology-related sites.
  • very active in their use of the sites.
  • looking for “a fix of unique, informative fun.”
  • and “filling in the blanks” left by traditional news sources.
  • sharing what they know.
  • looking for and finding multiple perspectives.

I was especially intrigued by some of the data about why people participate. From the summary:

Participation is not a simple picture. Of those who did not write, 25% still flagged/tagged/rated content and 13% still contributed to discussion of site’s development. Similarly, of those who neither wrote nor contributed to the site’s discussions on development, 22% still flagged/tagged/rated content.

* For the sake of meaningful sharing. A desire to share knowledge and area of expertise was the top motivator, conveyed by 78.3%. A particular dimension of sharing revealed in the “Other” response option was exposing a larger narrative and set of opinions. Another primary motivation for writing and/or editing was to further action or attention on an important issue, 40.5%. A good number, 29.7% stated they were “professionals with first-hand knowledge that can enhance public information about current issues.” Only a small percentage, 7.9%, mentioned any interest in pursuing journalism.

* Side perk of good company. Confirming earlier observations, the social aspect while not the primary motivation, is still important with 26.3% indicating “finding and connecting to others with similar interest” as a reason for contributing. Within the 13% who specified “Other”, related responses fell into the category of “giving back to the community/helping others”. Although they likely do not think of their intentions in terms of providing a public good, a handful also indicated motivations beneficial to the larger community: a desire to correct, fact check, and/or make articles more clear.

* Individual differences. Writers were more likely then non-writers to be interested in journalism, want to share their expertise, and further action/attention on an important issue or cause. While similar in most motivations, women were more likely then men to express “to find and connect to others with similar interests” (35.8% vs. 25.4%) as a reason for writing and/or editing.

* Impact of the model on the motivators. There was noticeable contrast in motivations on a few dimensions between websites. Most significantly, 68.8% of OhmyNews respondents expressed an interest in pursuing journalism. Global Voices likewise stood out from the average on several dimensions: a high percent of respondents characterized themselves as professions with firsthand knowledge (57.9%), motivated by the potential to find and connect to others with similar interests (42.1%), and further action/attention on an important issue/cause (63.2%).

People running collaborative sites will also find intriguing some of the reasons why visitors didn’t participate, including:

  • Busy, No time.
  • Hostile atmosphere and low quality conversation.
  • Just want to “listen” because I am unqualified.
  • Prefer to “listen” for information, not to “teach.”

This is fascinating stuff. Anyone who cares about collaborative online activity, especially in the news category, should take a long look at the survey.
HTML version | PDF (about 500k)

14 Comments on “Collaborative News Survey: Hype versus Reality”

  1. #1 David Newberger’s Blog » Blog Archive » More on the Community
    on Jul 17th, 2006 at 8:50 am

    [...] Dan Gillmor writes about a new study that was just released entitled “The Hype vs. Reality vs. What People Value: Emerging Collaborative News Models and the Future of News” — by Hsing Wei. Hsing is from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. [...]

  2. #2 More on the Community at Rez Times
    on Jul 17th, 2006 at 8:54 am

    [...] Dan Gillmor writes about a new study that was just released entitled “The Hype vs. Reality vs. What People Value: Emerging Collaborative News Models and the Future of News” — by Hsing Wei. Hsing is from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. [...]

  3. #3 Weblogsky
    on Jul 17th, 2006 at 10:02 am

    Collaborative news survey…

    Dan Gillmore reports a very interesing collaborative new survey conducted byh Hsing Wei from Harvard Univiersity’s Kennedy School ov Government. Good data about why people participate. [Link]A desire to share knowledge and area of expertise was the to…

  4. #4 Jake Shapiro » links for 2006-07-18
    on Jul 18th, 2006 at 1:23 am

    [...] Collaborative News Survey: Hype versus Reality | Center for Citizen Media: Blog (tags: prxteam ddcgroup beyondbroadcast)   [...]

  5. #5 Boing Boing
    on Jul 18th, 2006 at 6:35 am

    Why Slashdotters slashdot…

    A Harvard Kennedy School of Government Study called “The Hype vs. Reality vs. What People Value: Emerging Collaborative News Models and the Future of News” analyzes why people participate in sites like Slashdot and Digg, and what they do there: * mos…

  6. #6 pudge
    on Jul 18th, 2006 at 9:46 am

    There are serious methodological problems with this survey (which, to her credit, she noted, although I think she too easily dismissed them). Take the results with a very large grain of salt.

  7. #7 Ponto Media » O futuro das notícias
    on Jul 18th, 2006 at 10:33 am

    [...] [dica de Center for Citizen Media: Blog] [...]

  8. #8 life inchoate » Blog Archive » wired
    on Jul 18th, 2006 at 7:09 pm

    [...] In the interesting news department, the Center for Citizen Media: Blog has posted Hype versus Reality. [...]

  9. #9 The Pro-Am Revolution » Why people Slashdot
    on Jul 19th, 2006 at 3:55 am

    [...] [via Dan Gillmor, via BoingBoing] [...]

  10. #10 Jeff’s Thoughts » Ramblings about life, tech, and working in prisons
    on Jul 19th, 2006 at 9:51 am

    [...] LINK to the full paper [...]

  11. #11 Why contribute online ? at UbiKann
    on Jul 19th, 2006 at 10:03 am

    [...] From a link on boing boing I came across an article on citimedia’s blog. The post covers a recent study from Harvard University called “The Hype vs. Reality vs. What People Value: Emerging Collaborative News Models and the Future of News“. Even though the study itself is not a short blog post it is really interesting and worth reading if you have the time. [...]

  12. #12 Bright Meadow » Sunday Roast: women! act cool! no son, that isn’t cool
    on Jul 23rd, 2006 at 4:06 am

    [...] It’s been a while (seven months) since I officially stopped research in the field of social computing when I handed in the Demon Thesis, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still interested in the topic. The following crossed my radar earlier this week (you might have spotted it tagged in my del.icio.us feed): The Hype vs. Reality vs. What People Value: Emerging Collaborative News Models and the Future of News. If the full thesis looks a little scary to read (it is quite long), here it is in digest form. I quote the bottom of the digest “This is fascinating stuff. Anyone who cares about collaborative online activity, especially in the news category, should take a long look at the survey.” [...]

  13. #13 Confluence: Technology News
    on Jul 23rd, 2006 at 5:50 pm

    Wikis…

    What Brings Users to Blogs?…

  14. #14 newsBreaks.net » Why Slashdotters slashdot
    on Aug 3rd, 2006 at 9:54 pm

    [...] Link [...]