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Newsrooms are in a makeover process, reflecting the complex changes taking place in the market, along with a shift towards the digital domain within the media value creation chains. Our comparative study monitors convergence and integration processes in newsrooms in Spain (El Mundo), Germany (Die Welt) and Austria (Der Standard). Five years ago, we established three typical newsroom models and a convergence matrix for analysis and comparison: Full Integration, Cross-Media and Coordination of Isolated Platforms. The models and matrix have now been confirmed—and enriched with new details and descriptors regarding newsroom organization, workflows and change management. At the same time, audience participation is becoming a key strategic question in all newsroom models, whereas the traditional logic and rhythms of daily newspaper production are losing ground.
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Journalism Practice
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Media Convergence Revisited
José A. García-Avilés, Andy Kaltenbrunner & Klaus Meier
Published online: 28 Feb 2014.
To cite this article: José A. García-Avilés, Andy Kaltenbrunner & Klaus Meier (2014): Media
Convergence Revisited, Journalism Practice, DOI: 10.1080/17512786.2014.885678
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MEDIA CONVERGENCE REVISITED
Lessons learned on newsroom integration in
Austria, Germany and Spain
José A. García-Avilés, Andy Kaltenbrunner, and Klaus Meier
Newsrooms are in a makeover process, reflecting the complex changes taking place in the market,
along with a shift towards the digital domain within the media value creation chains. Our
comparative study monitors convergence and integration processes in newsrooms in Spain
(El Mundo), Germany (Die Welt) and Austria (Der Standard). Five years ago, we established three
typical newsroom models and a convergence matrix for analysis and comparison: Full Integration,
Cross-Media and Coordination of Isolated Platforms. The models and matrix have now been
confirmedand enriched with new details and descriptors regarding newsroom organization,
workflows and change management. At the same time, audience participation is becoming a key
strategic question in all newsroom models, whereas the traditional logic and rhythms of daily
newspaper production are losing ground.
KEYWORDS journalism; media convergence; newsroom integration; print and digital
Introduction: Media Convergence as a Multifaceted Process
Research on convergence which focuses on the field of journalism has increased
notably in recent years (Erdal 2011; Infotendencias Group 2012; Kaltenbrunner and Meier
2013). While there is no unanimously accepted definition of convergence (Gordon 2003), it
is regarded as a phenomenon which influences the media system, shaping the different
dimensions of communication: technological, professional, structural and operational
(Erdal 2007). Technological convergence implies that almost any digital device with a
displaysmartphone, tablet, video console, etc.enables the sharing of almost any kind
of content, with broad cultural and trans-media implications (Jenkins 2006). Professional
convergence tends to focus on the changes in organization, professional practices and
content production in media houses (Killebrew 2005).
Many media houses worldwide have adopted a multi-platform approach to content
production and distribution. In fact, the process of digitization has obliged news
corporations to migrate from a production model which was constrained by the medium
of receptionthe newspaper, the transistor radio, the television setto another model
which is relatively independent of this factor (Appelgren 2004). Working environments are
changing: editorial teams are being merged together in accordance with the type of
content they produce. Advocates of cross-media argue that coordinated reporting may
enhance the quality of coverage and optimize the use of human resources in newsrooms,
as each outlet provides the information that best suits itwhereas citizens receive the
best coverage at any time or place (Meier 2007). However, as some critics argue,
convergence has brought about operational cost cutting which has had a negative impact
on the quality of the media product (Fagerjord and Storsul 2007).
Journalism Practice, 2014
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17512786.2014.885678
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Models of Newsroom Convergence
New models of editorial organization erode the single medium autonomy: cross-
border cooperation between newsroom departments, programmes and channels is
becoming the working standard. As Erdal (2011) shows, cross-media production enables
coordinated reporting of events via several outlets (press, broadcast, internet, tablets, cell
phones, etc.). The production might take place at a single integrated newsroom or involve
collaboration among newsrooms from various media. The concept can also apply to other
media products systematically designed for different media formats (Westlund 2011).
The first newsroom-wide tests of cross-media production began in the late
twentieth century, as media companies adopted digital technologies, developing a closer
relationship between the production of content for print or broadcast and their online
counterparts (Boczkowski 2004).
Cases of media convergence occur with varying degrees of complexity, depending
on the different cultures, companies and countries that are involved (Boczkowski and
Ferris 2005). Some authors propose using a matrix based on a large number of descriptors
designed to measure the stage of newsroom convergence, as we did for our previous
newsroom studies: our matrix analysed the focus of the project, editorial management,
journalistspractices and work organization (García Avilés et al. 2009). In this way, it is
possible to distinguish models of convergence ranging from full integration to the
coordination of isolated platforms, including different cross-media strategies.
Companies should not regard convergence merely as a cost-saving strategy.
Rather, convergence may allow growth, resulting in improved quality and better
coordinated content in the outlets of a media group, fostering loyalty among audiences
(Quinn 2005). However, several scholars point out the risks to news quality and media
diversity if the convergence process is only driven by cost reduction. Newsroom
integration may diminish the diversity of approaches which the separate outlets take
towards a community, may ignore intrinsic differences among media formats that
contribute to a heterogeneous journalistic discourse, and may lead to immediacy
prevailing over analysis (Singer 2004). Multi-skilling appears to be more common in
integrated newsrooms, where journalists produce content for multiple platforms (Wallace
2013; Van den Bulck and Tambuyzer 2013).
While newsroom convergence has become more prevalent, de-convergence
processes have also emerged. As the case of the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant shows,
the lack of a solid business model, along with cultural resistance from reporters, forced the
return to a separation between the print and online newsrooms (Tameling and
Broersma 2013).
Methodology
Our research focuses on professional practices in three media organizations
undergoing newsroom convergence in Austria, Germany and Spain. The case study
method was chosen as a valid tool for analysing a complex phenomenon in its own
context. This type of qualitative method relies on sources such as direct observation,
interviews, written records and other documents to validate its conclusions. Case studies
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have frequently been used as a methodological tool to examine the implications of
newsroom convergence (Erdal 2011; Infotendencias Group 2012).
This analysis is built on our 2008 study of the development of newsroom
convergence in six media houses (García Avilés et al. 2009). We now decided to restrict
our analysis to the most significant company for each country: El Mundo (Spain), Die Welt
(Germany) and Der Standard (Austria). Data for each case study were gathered from
interviews with editors and journalists as well as from direct newsroom observation over
several daysaccompanied by background interviews and observations of change
processes in the media corporations and newsrooms across more than a year. Teams of
two or three international researchers conducted face-to-face, open-ended interviews with
11 selected professionals. Field notes were made on site and relevant documents were
collected, providing data on issues such as website traffic, revenue streams and
advertising rates.
Our initial hypothesis stated that the three models of newsroom convergence
established in our 2008 research had undergone significant changes. Thus, study cases
were analysed and compared according to the following research questions:
.How has each model of newsroom convergence evolved in the last five years?
.How do journalists adapt to the requirements of the convergence strategy?
.What are the new issues that arise in the context of multiplatform production?
.Which essential areas and descriptors have to be identified in order to analyse the latest
convergence developments?
Newsroom Integration at El Mundo, Madrid
The integration process was initiated in El Mundos newsroom in July 2007, and was
gradually implemented in all sections by the end of 2009. The process began when the
print and online sections Science, Communication, Info-graphics and Sports were merged,
to produce content across media boundaries. Newspaper journalists showed a greater
reticence towards working for the Web, because of the traditional importance given to the
print edition in terms of prestige. An assistant editor says that this attitude changed as
print journalists realized the importance of the website in reaching a broader audience,
achieving more visibility and receiving instant feedback.
El Mundos newsroom integration blurred the lines between print and online
operations, since newspaper journalists are now expected to work on online projects.
Multi-skilled journalists gather information using multiple tools (such as audiovisual
recording, photography, database mining) and combine multiple-format elements into a
story or adapt the materials to different outlets. Multi-skilling may give reporters more
control over the final products, but can, on the other hand, overload them with technical
procedures. Editors say there is no difference any more between online and print
journalists.
A deputy editor argues that the integrated newsroom has not drastically changed
the principles of the editorial process. Instead, integration has changed staffers
perceptions of the process: they are now thinking in terms of the contents suitability
for a medium. All print and online sections are integrated. There is a central breaking
newsdesk, where all the information is centralized for rerouting to the various sections.
MEDIA CONVERGENCE REVISITED 3
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Setting the news priorities at any given time, that same central hub issues all decisions on
breaking news and the home page.
The science editor emphasizes the sizeable overlap between these integrated teams,
where reporters and production staff sit side-by-side and produce stories both for print
and the online medium.
The differences between print journalists and their Web counterparts in terms of
their labour contracts have also disappeared: they all belong to the same company now
and are subject to similar remuneration agreements. Print and online journalists have
been grouped together by area of specialization such as health, education, politics or
media and technology, into so-called sections, which can upload their articles autono-
mously, straight on to the website.
It has not been just the younger staff who showed enthusiasm in adapting to
integration; according to an assistant editor, those who have been the best exponents of
different styles of journalism have been some of the more experienced journalists and
correspondents. The picture desk is now fully integrated as a multimedia department
made up of 30 professionals and photographers trained in video. Training is very
important. Journalists have received courses on video shooting and editing, on camera
appearance and speech elocution, he says.
The advantages of open-plan office space were also considered. Offices had
traditionally been associated with hierarchy: the more important the person who occupies
it, the larger the office. But, tradition notwithstanding, the fast world of platform
integration needs to provide for easy, frequent, informal interactions among the staff. By
tearing down many walls, El Mundos managers opted for transparency and cooperation,
thus eliminating any insular mentality and pushing the company away from traditional
comfort zones.
Digital to Print: The WeltMorgenpostAbendblatt Group, Berlin/
Hamburg
Three dailies (Welt,Welt kompakt and Berliner Morgenpost), a weekly (Welt am
Sonntag) and their associated online publications have been centrally coordinated from an
integrated editorial department since as early as 2006. True to the motto online first, the
online department uploaded all articles on to the Web as soon as they were completed.
The scope of products offered has subsequently undergone significant diversifica-
tion: a compact print edition of Welt am Sonntag has been published since February 2011;
in October 2012 the daily Hamburger Abendblatt was integrated into the editorial structure
of the group; in June 2013 the regional newspapers Morgenpost and Abendblatt were sold
to another news company, the Funke Gruppeeffective from January 2014. Digitalhas
replaced onlineover the past three years, with an independent mobile browser range
rounded off by various apps for smartphones, tablets and internet-enabled TVs. The
editorial staff in Berlin and Hamburg consists of approximately 550 journalists. In
December 2013, some 120 journalists moved into a large central newsroom focusing on
digital production in its centre; furthermore, a novel Content Management System was set
up in 2012, which the Chief Editor calls all journalists’“virtual newsroom:Now we all sit
in the newsroom, so to speak, and everyone can see who is working on what and, above
all, we can cooperate.
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The motto online firstgave way in 2012/13 to the digital to printstrategy: We
now first work for digital publishing and also produce daily papers out of what we had
initially written for the Web, says the Chief Editor. The conferences do not focus on
applying printed page logic to newspaper production any longer; instead, it is the topics
that take centre stage.
A task force consisting of a dozen editorial journalists developed, in more than a
years worth of mock editorsmeetings, the new workflow patterns. Mandatory change
management seminars have been organized for this purpose. In the Chief Editors opinion,
the digital approach already inhabits most journalistsminds, but notas yettheir
hearts.
The business model change is at the root of the change in approach: online
publications should reach quality standards so high as to loosen the userspurse strings.
December 2012 saw the introduction of the metered paywall, a purpose-made payment
model for welt.de.We are hell-bent on and fired up about finding a digital business model
for journalism, says the General Manager. The daily print edition is losing significance
within the brand realm of Die Welt.
The new digital to printstrategy called into existence a new actor: the Multi-
Channel Manager (MCM) deals exclusively with the three to six most relevant stories of the
day in her or his section.
The topic of social media is, in the Chief Editors view, overrated: merely 15 per cent
of the traffic that hits the publishing houses websites originates from social networks. He
does see potential in social media though, which is why a social media editor has been
in situ for two years, soon to be joined by a second.
Growing Together: Der Standardderstandard.at, Vienna
After years of separation spent in various stately buildings, the editorial departments
of Der Standard and Der Standard.at moved to new, common premises at the turn of the
year 2012/13. The co-publisher and Chief Editor declared at the inauguration of the new
premises that the guiding principle of the move was cooperation, rather than merging.
This changed faster than the editors themselves expected: in June 2013, only half a
year later and after only a few weeks of internal top management discussion, the
companys owner announced that Der Standard and derstandard.at would fast-forward the
integration of their editorial operations and their business development in all sectors. This
would give the company more mobility and speed.
Der Standard, with a daily readership of 382,000 (see media-analyse.at, 2012/13) was
founded in 1989; its Web edition was launched in 1995 as the first German-language
online newspaper and became an independent company in 2000. Fully owned by
publisher Oscar Bronner, the print and online editions now share the same premises again.
The slow-progress policy, with successive steps taken towards cross-media opera-
tions, can be attributed, to a large extent, to the specific situation of the online Standard.
The publication employs in excess of 50 journalists, the largest internet editorial staff in
Austrian mass media. In March 2013, it boasted a total of 3.5 million unique users
(according to ÖWA, see oewa.at) and reported net profits amounting to 2 million euros in
MEDIA CONVERGENCE REVISITED 5
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2012. DerStandard.at thus represents an exception, a rare caseboth in Austria and
internationally.
After moving to new premises in January 2013 with the hope of growing together,
the Managing Editor of the print edition did not shun irony in analysing the new
cooperation: We share a kitchen. That is working out OK.The pace of change increases
fast, now that editorial and commercial teams are merged and heads of sections come
both from former online and print operations.
The Vice Editor-in-Chief for all channels described the point of departure as an
arduous process ahead: We communicate a lot, but there have been only a few situations
where we have done stories together.Indeed, by moving to shared premises, Der
Standard and DerStandard.at had at first well-nigh developed into a coordination of
isolated platforms. Now, they are hurrying towards a more integrated concept, searching
for an organization matrix for the entire company.
A common grasp of quality is regarded as a precondition for a shared newsroom
culture. A task force comprising both print and online journalists was created to this end.
An important step was taken in 2013: the new collective bargaining agreement in Austria
established a common set of labour law provisions for journalists working for the digital
and printed editions. The enterprise will have to develop more common prospects, says
the Duty Editor pragmatically: We need to prepare for a future in which at least one
model is not going to work. Before that we have to look for ways to cut costs or to
increase synergies.
Convergence Descriptors: Towards an Extension of the Matrix Model
In our 2008 pilot study, we developed a matrix with 32 convergence descriptors. On
the groundwork of the updated case studies, we are now able to augment the dimensions.
Special emphasis lies on new dimensions which could not be identified five years ago. All
in all, this new matrix with 12 descriptors is seen as an extension of the previously
published matrix model. The focus has shifted to five essential areas which have played
key roles in the convergence process over the past five years:
1. Market situation.
2. Newsroom organization.
3. Workflows and content.
4. Change management, skills and training.
5. Audience participation.
In the updated case studies, the media companies awakened to changed market
situationsand reacted with new business models, which had an impact on the editorial
convergence process (Table 1). At the Welt Group, all digital platforms came to the fore
with the introduction of their paywall modelthus putting an end to the editorial
hegemony of the daily print publications. Availing itself of the opportunity of its relocation,
Der Standard react[ed] to the situation of radical change in the media marketto
overcome double economic and editorial structures.
The newsroom organization at El Mundo and Die Welt moved towards sections
empowered within a matrix model and, above all, towards more transparency in the
newsroom (Table 2): editorial staff should interact easily and frequently within an open
space and an open CMS, in order to meet the challenges of a fast, cross-media world.
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The daily production routine is no longer adequate in todays permanently driven
news world (Table 3). The consequence, as we perceived it at Die Welt and El Mundo,is
two-pronged: on the one hand, fast breaking news, with less emphasis on checking and
TABLE 1
Market situation
Full integration Cross-media Coordination
Do the market
situation and
decisions on new
business models
influence the
editorial
convergence
process?
Convergence as a
foundation for
company growth;
digital platforms are
promoted under
different business
models, but with a
common economic
strategy for all
platforms and
distribution channels
Convergence is an
option; discrete
distribution channels
normally do not have
a common strategy;
driven by economic
needs and sales plans,
forces in the
newsroom may be
pooled on a case-by-
case basis
Diversity of economic
strategies is the rule;
diversity of journalistic
strategies for discrete/
isolated platforms in
the newsroom
TABLE 2
Newsroom organization
Full integration Cross-media Coordination
What is the basic
organizational
structure of the
newsroom?
Sections and section
heads are responsible
for all platforms;
central desk only for
breaking news and
news prioritizing;
new roles allocated to
organizational
functions
Platform-oriented
division of the
newsroom, but with a
central desk or
multimedia
coordinator in charge
of initiating and
coordinating stories
with cross-media
character;
collaboration
between similar
sections in print and
online is encouraged,
but not obligatory
Platform-oriented
division of the
newsroom; sections
are doubled
What role does
transparency play
within the newsroom?
Philosophy of open
space, open
conferences and
open stories; every
journalist should have
access to other
journalistsresearch
material; CMS as
virtual newsroom,
with focus on stories
and, furthermore, on
all platforms; no
comfort zones
Open planning
process normally
within the platform
departments; open
space and open
conferences as
options
No philosophy of
open planning;
journalists as
authors, with their
ownstories;
platforms as
competitors for users
and readersinterest
MEDIA CONVERGENCE REVISITED 7
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context; on the other hand, a focus on long-term stories with an exclusive character, as a
unique feature of the newsroom and the brand (throughout all platforms).
In training, two challenges have been in focus over the last few years (Table 4): at
Die Welt Group, mandatory change management seminars have been organized, while
courses in blogging and social media platforms (e.g. Twitter) have been offered at Der
Standard and El Mundo. The challenge of audience participation has infiltrated the
newsroomswith a couple of consequences (Table 5): at Die Welt, only some journalists
use social media and two social media editors have been appointed; at El Mundo, social
media have become common practice for all journalists; at Der Standard, where thousands
of daily userscomments have been the norm for years, social media are fostered and the
former Editor-in-Chief Online has been tasked with developing new forms of user
platform interaction in the future.
Three Models Approved
To sum up the results of the updated case studies, the three different models we
developed five years ago have been confirmedand were enriched with new details and
descriptors. The Full Integration model is increasingly characterized by a matrix organiza-
tion with strong sections and a topic-oriented planning process, against the backdrop of
more transparency within the newsroom and also towards the public. A threat to quality is
the ever-growing speed of the fast online world taking over the production rhythm and
defining workflows in the newsroom. Long-term research for exclusive stories could
improve qualitywhereas the daily production rhythms of printed editions have taken a
back seat. The Cross-media model has basically sustained the double structure with an
TABLE 3
Workflows and content
Full integration Cross-media Coordination
Which aims guide the
editorial planning
and production
processes?
The topics/stories take
centre stage in the
workflows; platforms
are secondary and
only in focus at the
end of the production
process
Platforms take centre
stage in the planning
process with long-time
workflow traditions,
but strategic case-by-
case distribution is
possible, sometimes
enforced
With yearsor
decadesworth of
workflow traditions,
platforms dictate the
workflows
What is the character
of speed and
routinesand what
impact can they
have on the quality
of the news content?
Website and social
media as drivers; two
rhythms (independent
of platforms): speed for
breaking news and
long-term, in-depth
stories (investigative/
exclusive); daily
newspaper routines
have taken a back seat
Speed of the
newsroom is split:
timeliness of news data
for online, versus daily
deadline routine for
printbut with several
interfaces (e.g.
managing editors,
central desk, media
coordinators)
Speed of the
newsroom is strictly
splitwithout
interfaces;
workflows support
platform quality
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emphasis on the platforms, but has developed several links and interfaces between the
departments. The Coordination model still focuses on enhancing the quality of the specific
isolated platform by means of a plethora of economic and editorial strategies.
Obviously, none of these models exists in a pure form”—as we pointed out five
years ago. Both the Welt Group and El Mundo have been moving towards a more stringent
Full Integration model, whereas Der Standard, which has for a long time been successfully
located closer to Coordination than to Cross-media, is now bowing to market pressure and
striving to make up for delays in integration processes sooner, rather than later.
TABLE 4
Change management, skills and training
Full integration Cross-media Coordination
Does the company see itself
as involved in a change
process andif sois
change management
supported by special
seminars to give staff the
chance to participate in
the change processes?
Mandatory change
management
seminars; task force
discusses and plans
the new workflows
and work
conditions. Change
is considered a
permanent, flowing
process
Change
management as-it-
happensand
process
development
whenever new
newsroom questions
ariseno long-term
planning.
Occasional
workshops on topics
like brand quality,
social media future
No organized
change process. If
need be,
participation in
seminars to observe
integration
development in
other newsrooms.
No dedicated
change task force or
manager needed
What kind of training is
offered?
Training on new
tools such as
platform-neutral
Content
Management
Systems, audio-
visual recording,
data mining, digital
storytelling, social
media
Currently, social
media training is
offered frequently
and often cross-
platform (voluntary),
cross-over interest in
training is welcome
but participation
is not enforced
Training focused on
platforms (e.g.
traditional writing
courses, search
engine optimization
for online
editors, etc.)
What percentage of
journalists is multi-skilled
and works for more than
one platform?
90100 2070 020
Skills and quality? Multi-skill roles give
reporters more
control over the final
product and boost
their creativity in
storytelling, but may
overload them with
technical
procedures and
increase time
pressure
Multi-skill
capabilities are
required in leading/
co-ordinating staff
depending on
personal interests or
background, some
are more proficient
than others
Skills focus on
improving the
quality of one
specific/isolated
platform
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Conclusions and Prospects
Newsrooms are in a makeover process, whose main catalyst is the complex changes
taking place in the market: general crisis scenarios within shrinking national economies,
along with a shift towards the digital domain within the media value creation chain,
engender new debates on improved newsroom strategies. Early adopters of printonline
newsroom integration environments are completely remodelling their workflows, gearing
them to content and section logic, following the commandments of ultrafast digital
dissemination. At the same time, however, new high-quality formats are being developed,
involving longer research and production time, more profound content investigation on
the Web and more elaborate graphic processing, as is the case with background reporting
and analysis in bolstered weekend print editions. In all the models we have analysed, the
traditional logic and rhythm of daily newspaper production are losing ground. In the
Coordination of isolated platformsmodel, the tendency is towards migrating reduced
and redundant resources from print to digital publications, which also leads to discussions
on stronger cross-media cooperation in the future.
As a new challenge, audience participation is becoming a key strategic question in
all models, at the nexus of cross-media strategy development within the company and
interactive competence enhancement in journalists from all dissemination channels. The
TABLE 5
Audience participation
Full integration Cross-media Coordination
How are journalists
using social media?
Is there a social
media policy in the
company?
Almost every
journalist uses social
media in a
professional context;
process journalism is
fostered; strategy/
guidelines for the
handling of social
media in the
newsroom
Social media platforms
are mainly organized
by one or several
social media editor(s)/
community manager(s);
other journalists are
encouraged to use
social media, subject
to individual decision
Social media are part
of the online
department; print
journalists are not
encouraged to use
them, but do so on an
individual basis
How do journalists
use social media to
spread the
mediums content?
Almost every
journalist uses social
media to spread his/
her story; authors
struggle for
transparency on an
individual level
Specialized social
media editors select
content to be spread
The online
department spreads its
content
How do newsrooms/
journalists deal with
userscomments,
contributions
(information,
photos, videos) and
feedback in the
newsroom?
Policy on user-
generated content for
all channels; general
strategy towards
transparency to the
public; individual
journalists are
encouraged to discuss
with audience on the
website and in social
media
Userscontributions,
comments and
feedback are handled
in the online
department in
collaboration with a
special desk or
news desk
Userscontributions
are handled in the
online department
10 JOSÉ A. GARCÍA-AVILÉS ET AL.
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formulation of a common social media strategy and bolstering motivation towards user-
generated content will become the universal bonding agenteven in companies which
have so far relied on the strict separation of print and online journalists.
FUNDING
Subsidies from the Austrian Communications Authority (KommAustria) made this
research possible.
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... TransMedia uses a cross-media model where they do not use a shared newsroom but exchange content to meet the needs of the news on the platform. In his continued research in the digital era, García-Avilés (2014) emphasizes that audience participation is becoming a key strategic question in all newsroom models, whereas the traditional logic and rhythms of daily newspaper production are losing ground [8]. ...
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