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Gamifying the news. Exploring the introduction of game elements into digital journalism

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Abstract

For over a century, crosswords, puzzles, and quizzes have been present in newspapers. Digital journalism has only increased the trend of integrating game elements in news media, often blurring the traditional boundaries between news and games. This dissertation aims to explore and understand how and why news organizations and newsworkers use gamification in digital news websites and to analyze the objectives behind its implementation in news production. The importance of trying to understand this development stems from the different roles that digital games and news have in contemporary democratic societies. While journalism is often regarded as the main source of information for the public to act as citizens, digital games predominantly remain considered as entertainment media. Drawing from media sociology and new institutionalism, this study engages with the literature on converging processes of popularization and professionalization of journalism, and how different institutional logics of gamification and journalism interact. Methodologically, this qualitative multiple case study analyzes four diverse news organizations (the Guardian, Bleacher Report, the Times of India, and Al Jazeera), interviewing 56 newsworkers, and conducting game-system analysis of their respective gamified systems. The findings suggest that while news organizations often frame their motivations within the celebratory rhetoric of gamification, a deeper look into the material manifestations of gamified news systems tend to problematize the empowering claims of gamification. Instead, a complex interplay between the professional and commercial logics of journalism and the hedonic and utilitarian logics of gamification shapes how news organizations and newsworkers implement gamified systems. This dissertation contributes to a larger debate on the friction professionalism and the market, on institutional interaction, and the increasing transgression of journalistic institutional boundaries.
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... Gamification has proven to be useful in attracting younger audiences and boosting news consumption [19], while newsgames provide "more options of informing, sense-making, storytelling and persuasion than simply remediating 'old' forms of news production" [56:12]. Their ability to show information in an experiential way, as well as the possibility of placing the user at the centre of the narrative, allows reaching new audiences accustomed to virtual and participatory environments [44]. ...
... A decade after the popularization of newsgames, a new, playful journalistic innovation found its way into the newsroom. Gamification proposes a different approach by infusing game elements in journalistic storytelling [19]. The main difference between newsgames and gamification is that while the former carry their own procedural rhetoric and a self-contained narrative to transmit editorial information [51], gamification adopts a more traditional journalistic storytelling technique and inserts game elements to enhance the user experience [21]. ...
... Not all instances of gamified journalism, however, share the same priorities. According to Ferrer-Conill [19], when journalists gamify the news, they set in motion an interplay of the professional and commercial logics of journalism with the utilitarian and the hedonic logics of gamification. While the professional logic of journalism provides the democratic norms and values of traditional journalism, the commercial logic establishes the imperative need of journalism to be economically viable [43,48]. ...
Chapter
This chapter explores how innovative narratives, supported by a combination of playful approaches and technological convergence, provide a reconfiguration of digital news storytelling. The use of gamification and newsgames exemplifies what has been called “Total Journalism”. Newsgames seek to integrate two opposing logics: the culture of journalism, based on truthfulness and credibility, and the culture of games, characterized by the creation of imaginary worlds, persuasion, and mechanics. We analyse The Ocean Game (2019) and The Amazon Race (2019), which use different procedural strategies. We examine the development of gamification in journalistic storytelling, which uses game elements to enhance the user experience. The relationship that gamified news products establish with the audience illuminates changes in the rhetorical and structural dynamics between the news organization, the different types of media workers, and the users. Thus, innovation in journalistic narrative through gamification and newsgames might translate into effective ways of producing content that combines rigour in substance with attractiveness in form, while preserving journalistic quality and incorporating the playful elements of games.
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Conceptually aligned with the epistemologies of digital journalism, and in line with the definition of ‘total journalism’, this chapter presents a mapping of the contemporary digital journalist’s professional profile, highlighting the skills for ‘being’ a journalist, and ‘performing’ journalistic activities in the new century. This is based on meta-research conducted on the Scopus and Google Scholar databases, and the Capes Catalogue, for a longitudinal study of the bibliographical framework between 2000 and 2020, combined with the application of a questionnaire with 31 legacy and local digital media editors in Brazil. Evidence indicates that contemporary digital journalistic work is experiencing a trend towards platformization and surrounded by constant adaptability to new technologies, journalism is undergoing a crisis continuum, accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic. With insecure work, and a context of datafication and algorithmization, the journalist needs to address the need for constant innovation and qualification, without neglecting the ethos of the profession.
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Çalışmanın amacı yeni gazetecilik uygulamaları içerisinde giderek önem kazanan veri gazeteciliğini anlamak ve veri gazeteciliği haberlerinin yapısal özelliklerini çözümlemektir. Bu çerçevede çalışma şu sorulara yanıt aramaktadır; veri gazeteciliği nasıl bir bir gelişim süreci izlemiştir ve hangi teknolojik gelişmeler ve dönüşümlerden etkilenmiştir? Veri gazeteciliğinde kullanılan yöntemler açısından farklılıklar bulunmakta mıdır? Tasarım, yazılım ve veri gazeteciliği arasında nasıl bir bağlantı vardır? Etkileşimli haber anlatısı hangi çoklu ortam içeriklerden oluşmaktadır? Bu projelerde sosyal medya ve video paylaşım platformlarından nasıl yararlanılmaktadır?
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Journalism scholars have acknowledged the importance of innovation in journalism. A common finding is that journalism has difficulty adapting to change and uses multiple coping mechanisms, including making excuses for not innovating by relying on their professional norms and practices. However, such research does not more broadly show how journalism studies research has shaped what scholars have learned about innovation practices. The goal of this study is to provide a systematic literature review of news innovation research since the 1990s. This article deploys a qualitative content analysis of peer-reviewed journal articles about news innovation in media and journalism studies. It shows that journalism and media scholars discuss news innovation as normative, participative, and experimentative. Journalism studies scholarship has also focused on innovation as a process, integrating elements of audience engagement, structure, system, and network. The goal of this study is twofold. First, it discusses the methodological and conceptual/theoretical approaches taken in scholarly journal articles about news innovation. Second, it outlines limitations of such approaches and draws conclusions to conceptualize knowledge in this subfield of research. It argues that it is important to take into account those limitations, as they pose problems for the cumulative nature of news innovation research knowledge.
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