Why 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.”