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Is news engagement worthwhile?: Studying young audiences’ engagement with YouTuber-like news content


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While traditional media often fails to engage young audiences with news, YouTubers’ content gains popularity and attracts attention with specific stylistic practices. Based on dimensions of audience engagement and a worthwhileness approach, this article examines how young audiences engage with YouTubers’ formats and genres used in news media products. Findings of five focus group interviews with Estonian teenagers show that while specific dimensions of engagement may increase due to a more relatable format, interest in traditional news content remains limited regardless of repackaging to a YouTube-intrinsic production. This article contributes to audience studies by demonstrating to news organisations that trying to engage younger audiences through mere formatting while forgetting content might not be worthwhile. However, making news more entertaining and adopting the youth's interpretation of what news is could prime young audiences to consume news through social media.
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Himma-Kadakas, M., & Ferrer-Conill, R. (2022). Is news engagement worthwhile? Studying
young audiences’ engagement with YouTuber-like news content. Noridcom Review, 43(2),
Is news engagement worthwhile?
Studying young audiences’ engagement with YouTuber-like
news content
Marju Himma-Kadakas & Raul Ferrer-Conill
Department of Geography, Media and Communication, Karlstad University, Sweden
While traditional media often fails to engage young audiences with news, YouTubers’ content
gains popularity and attracts attention with specic stylistic practices. Based on dimensions
of audience engagement and a worthwhileness approach, this article examines how young
audiences engage with YouTubers’ formats and genres used in news media products. Findings
of ve focus group interviews with Estonian teenagers show that while specic dimensions of
engagement may increase due to a more relatable format, interest in traditional news content
remains limited regardless of repackaging to a YouTube-intrinsic production. This article
contributes to audience studies by demonstrating to news organisations that trying to engage
younger audiences through mere formatting while forgetting content might not be worthwhile.
However, making news more entertaining and adopting the youth’s interpretation of what
news is could prime young audiences to consume news through social media.
Keywords: news engagement, worthwhileness, YouTube formats, news production, young
audience engagement
One of the most established narratives about news consumption in the industry and
academia is that young audiences have progressively disengaged from traditional news
media over the last three decades (Loader, 2007). Alternative narratives suggest that such
a decline is not so much indicative of a lack of interest, but rather a signal of signicant
change in the news consumption habits of young people (see Bergström & Jervelycke
Belfrage, 2018; Brites & Kõuts-Klemm, 2018; Costera Meijer, 2007). Moreover, the
apparent disconnect appears to be caused by news playing a different role in young
people’s daily lives, contrasting news moments, emerging news consumer types, and
perhaps most importantly, alternative news sources and formats (Newman et al., 2018).
Tamboer and colleagues (2022) have studied Dutch early adolescents’ views on news
consumption and literacy and found that youth often regard news as boring, repetitive,
Is news engagement worthwhile?
negative, and disconnected from the topics relevant to them. Rather similar are some
results from the US, stating that young people consider news to be boring, and addition-
ally, they are exposed to news mostly through peer recommendations via social media
(Clark & Marchi, 2017). Simply put, younger generations consume news differently
(Kalogeropoulos, 2018). Thus, the predilection of young audiences for online, visual,
and contextually relevant news (Huang, 2009) has rendered the study of news engage-
ment impractical, as news consumption happens differently and elsewhere.
To address this, news organisations are trying to attract younger audiences and
increase engagement by adapting news content to their media interests, for example,
playful approaches and entertainment (see Ferrer-Conill et al., 2020), or disseminating
news where they consume it, for example, social media (see Haim et al., 2021).
This study examines how young audiences engage with these new formats and genres
pushed by the news media as products which they may feel are worthwhile to engage with.
To do so, we collaborated with the Estonian daily nancial newspaper Äripäev, owned by
Swedish media corporation Bonnier Group, which is experimenting with novel ways to
attract young audiences, a trend that is widespread across several Nordic and Baltic media
houses (Bucht, 2018; Östberg, 2018), and with similar news use patterns in Nordic and
Baltic countries (Vihalemm, 2006). In this case, Äripäev is trying to create news products
that disseminate the news in video formats via YouTube, which explains the selection of
the platform in our study. Moreover, news consumption among youth has increased on
social media and in video format (Newman et al., 2020), of which YouTube is the most
established platform. Novel formats and platforms such as YouTube offer possibilities
to soften “hard” journalistic content to catch the attention of those interested in more
entertaining formats (Huang, 2009; Nadler, 2016; Otto et al., 2017).
Young Estonians’ news consumption habits are similar to their peers’ preferences in
other countries – they consume less news on traditional media, but their engagement with
news in Estonia is still quite strong, though highly selective and interest-driven, both
technically and in content (Opermann, 2018). Although for young Estonians, the deni-
tion of news may differ from adults’ perspective, the motivations for news consumption
are similar to those of adults (Brites & Kõuts-Klemm, 2018). According to the Media
Literacy Index 2021 (Open Society Institute – Soa, n.d.), Estonia ranked third between
Denmark and Sweden; therefore, in the context of media and information literacy (MIL)
and news consumption, Estonia belongs to the same cluster as the Nordic countries, the
Netherlands, and Ireland. While there are similarities and differences between countries
in terms of MIL and news consumption, there is also a need for more detailed insight
into what makes news engaging and worthwhile for young people.
We argue that by repacking traditional journalistic content in new formats, news
media may be conating engagement with interest in the format, and unless they align
formats, audio/visual codes, and textual and linguistic expression to the subjective
experience, young audiences’ engagement with news might not be worthwhile. This is
important because the industry’s attempt to reclaim youth’s news engagement through
social media techniques that appeal to the youth, rather than creating content that gen-
uinely promotes a more holistic understanding of news for younger audiences, could
prime younger audiences to consume the news through social media rather than directing
the audience to proprietary content. We support this reasoning with a theoretical bridging
of the news engagement and worthwhileness concepts.
Marju Himma-Kadakas & Raul Ferrer-Conill
Our study contributes to a growing body of literature that incorporates audiences in
journalism studies. We explore the relational nature of engagement that is supposed to
establish a nexus between what news young citizens consume and how, and how news
organisations can meet their expectations. Our ndings are based on ve focus groups
with Estonian teenagers aged 15 to 18 after showing them four out of ten YouTube news
videos created and published in cooperation with a daily nancial newspaper in 2019.
We believe this qualitative approach captures a better understanding of the subjective
nature of the engagement experience because it pursues an in-depth investigation by
discussing with young audiences how they engage with news. The ndings show that
while specic dimensions of engagement may increase due to a more relatable format,
interest in traditional news content remains limited.
Theoretical framework
The ways in which young audiences engage with news are measured and interpreted dif-
ferently across the journalistic eld. We believe that a more productive way to scrutinise
engagement is to understand when and how users want to engage with the news. Hence,
we use Schrøder’s (2015) notion of worthwhileness to help us determine the news selec-
tion process that audiences enact daily. Similarly, we employ YouTubers’ techniques
drawn from Himma-Kadakas and colleagues (2018), which show the relations between
YouTube genres, formats, audio/visual codes, and textual and linguistic expression, and
how they may spark willingness in young audiences to engage with news.
Avenues of news engagement with youth
News is often described as serious, well-researched and sourced, and written by experts
for experts (Harrison, 2008). This is a reductionist take on journalism built on the ap-
parent “dissonance between ideal and pragmatic, informational and entertainment” roles
of journalism (Conboy, 2010: 412) and the often-misplaced distinctiveness and serious-
ness of journalism. Embedded in this regime of seriousness that favours hard news and
democratic issues over human-interest stories, several genres of journalism – such as
sports, entertainment, or lifestyle – tend to be classied as sensational, trivial, or sala-
cious, having their legitimacy questioned (for a discussion on other forms of journalism
beyond hard news, see Dubied & Hanitzsch, 2014; Hanusch, 2012).
A broader understanding of news embraces diverse narratives and formats that also
engage a broader audience. As traditional news brands tend to play a small role in young
people’s everyday lives (Kalogeropoulos, 2018), the gap between traditional serious
news and young audiences’ news habits and preferences seems to widen. With regard to
this, Newman and colleagues (2018) identify two essential aspects: 1) traditional news
brands see news as what one should know, and 2) young audiences see news as what one
should know (to an extent), but also what is useful to know, what is interesting to know,
and what is fun to know. Furthermore, though traditional media are the most reliable
source of news (Opermann, 2018; Wolf & Schnauber, 2015), most scholarship points
to a shift away from traditional news sources and formats by young people (Kalogero-
poulos, 2018). This shift is dominated by incidental news consumption on social media
(Boczkowski et al., 2018), and sometimes youth distance themselves from traditional
Is news engagement worthwhile?
news altogether (Kõuts-Klemm & Brites, 2017). What seems clear is regardless of
whether they are news seekers or news avoiders, the patterns of news consumption
among young audiences combine a wide array of media devices, sources, and services,
“resulting in repertoires that operate across and within media devices” and platforms
(Edgerly et al., 2018: 208). Engagement thus manifests beyond techno-behavioural en-
counters, extending to emotional, normative, and spatio-temporal dimensions (Steensen
et al., 2020). Broadening the concept of engagement might be the key to making younger
audiences consider news a worthwhile activity.
The worthwhileness of news for young audiences
Bengtsson and Johansson (2021) argue that any approach to studying peoples’ percep-
tions and consumption of news should consider time, space, and sociocultural relevance.
In everyday life, news consumption may be strongly related to the normative idea of be-
ing a good citizen. Brites and Kõuts-Klemm (2018) showed that traditional news brands
shaped audiences’ understanding of what news is; however, the youth were more open
to interpreting alternative means of production and channels as proper for news. Young
people, especially, appreciate the immediacy and understandable nature of news mediated
by social media (Sveningsson, 2015). On the one hand, this indicates that news discourse
is interpreted from the standpoint of hard news being serious, and human interest and nar-
rative news not. On the other hand, it refers to the uses and gratications that replenish the
spectrum of reasons why people make certain decisions over news content in their media
repertoire. Operationally, the worthwhileness approach (Schrøder, 2015) provides a com-
pelling theoretical tool that extends the uses and gratications approach. Worthwhileness
determines people’s everyday selection of news (Schrøder, 2015), and Schrøder denes
seven dimensions that explain why audiences consume certain content (see Table 1).
Our theoretical proposition is that content scoring high across these dimensions will
maximise young audiences’ perception of worthwhileness concerning the consumption
Table 1 Descriptions of Schrøder’s worthwhileness categories
Category Description
Time spent A medium must be worth the time spent, and the news media that are
experienced as more important are more worthwhile; others are used
temporarily at a convenient time (e.g., mobile moments).
Public connection This helps maintain relations to one’s networks and the wider society.
Schrøder divides public connection into “democratic worthwhileness”
(content that caters to one’s identity) and “everyday worthwhileness”
(content that links one with their personal networks).
Normative pressures Usage or non-usage of a medium depends on how significant others
find the medium.
Participatory potential Participation through (inter)activity, sharing, liking, and creating content
can be meaningful for some people.
Price The news medium must be affordable and worth the price.
Technological appeal The technological features and technical quality potential of the device
or medium.
Situational fit The suitability of the time and place for using the medium.
Comments: The worthwhileness categories are explained and described based on Schrøder’s (2015) outline.
Marju Himma-Kadakas & Raul Ferrer-Conill
of journalistic content. Stemming from worthwhileness, we ask the rst research ques-
tion by which we intend to bridge the concepts of news engagement and worthwhileness:
RQ1: Do young news audience think engaging with YouTube news is worthwhile?
And if so, how and why?
News like YouTubers do it
Since studies on teenage media consumption indicate a shift towards human interest,
lifestyle, and personal narrative stories (Bell, 1991; Harrison, 2008), the news discourse
should be revisited through the infotainment prism (Edgerly & Vraga, 2019; Otto et al.,
2017). By looking at the trends of platform use among the younger population, it is of
increasing importance to nd ways to “reform” or “develop” news for social media plat-
forms and make it entertaining and easily accessible for young people, but news also needs
to be authentic, fair, and meaningful (Arriagada & Ibáñez, 2020; Newman et al., 2020).
While talking about perceiving news as journalistic text, we cannot overlook the
codes that shape the understanding of what can be interpreted as news. These codes con-
stitute the genre that helps the audience navigate the media content. The genres bridge
the gap between the producer, text, and recipient, and when encountering new genres,
one must consider the current socio-cognitive understanding of how the recipient and
the producer make sense of them (Lomborg, 2011). The presence of reciprocal codes
makes possible the existence of genres. In this context, formats dene the technical and
audiovisual aspects, and genres represent discursive narratives (e.g., challenges, rants,
highlights, etc.).
Nevertheless, genres also change, which usually happens through exchanges of codes
between genres, and these genres may not always be in the same topical domain (e.g.,
hard news on television versus life-hack feature videos on YouTube). Audiences feel
how language is used and that language is the tool of media messages (Bell, 1991).
The idea of the news story is expressed not through the article written, but through the
story told by news workers. Peer and Ksiazek (2011) found that while most news videos
on YouTube adhere to traditional production practices (e.g., editing techniques, audio
quality), they break from common content standards (e.g., use of sources, fairness),
leading to a higher number of views of videos with relaxed content practices. In that
regard, YouTubers’ formats and genres differ sharply from established lm and televi-
sion and are constituted from intrinsically interactive audience-centricity and appeal to
authenticity and community in a commercialising space – “social media entertainment”
(Cunningham & Craig, 2017: 72).
YouTube formats and genres in combination determine whether the content is per-
cieved as entertaining. At the same time, social media entertainment producers – for
example, YouTubers – are expected to be authentic and rigorously differ from established
professional media (Arriagada & Ibáñez, 2020; Cunningham & Craig, 2017). Combining
an easy-to-follow production style captivates the audience’s interest (Groot Kormelink
& Costera Meijer, 2017). Mixing genre codes of news and entertainment lead to forms
of infotainment, which is a term that sits at the meso level in a multilevel framework of
softening political communication (Otto et al., 2017). Infotainment is related to genre,
and the term describes the emergence of new genres by implementing characteristics
Is news engagement worthwhile?
of two genres, thus combining information and entertainment in one outlet. This is
supported by studies that show how infotainment can enhance political participation
(Moy et al., 2005). However, there is much we do not know about what it means to
judge content as a mixture of news and entertainment codes (Bengtsson & Johansson,
2021; Edgerly & Vraga, 2019). In both traditional newscasts and YouTubers’ videos,
textual, linguistic, and visual techniques (e.g., conventions of performance, narrative
expectations, and intertextual codes) are signicant players in delivering the message.
Each medium aligns with a specic audiovisual language specically crafted to t the
platform. These techniques help the receiver to derive the meaning.
Himma-Kadakas and colleagues (2018) show how YouTubers link specic topics to
genres and formats as well as the platform’s affordance categories that are performa-
tive to the worthwhileness of consuming media. For presenting a particular topic, the
precise format and genre must be selected. However, for news content, not all formats
and genres are suitable.
In YouTuber videos, the news genre gives an overview of a currently newsworthy
topic. News is combined with original performance, in which the YouTuber usually
performs an (original) song, dance, or other creative content presenting their talent. A
how-to format is where the YouTuber teaches how some task or problem is solved, done,
or imitated. How-to videos are designed to teach viewers how to make life easier or to
explain the topic and offer solutions. The sit-down format is usually lmed in a private
room (e.g., in a bedroom), where a YouTuber is framed close-up sitting in front of the
camera facing the viewer. The collab format includes visiting actors or collaborators in
the video. This has similarities with a news video but is more versatile in its actions and
language use. In the sketch format, the YouTuber acts, and the content is usually humor-
ous. In the sketch, various situations are staged to illustrate a topic. The video is usually
pre-scripted and contains several short clips of situations and rapid post-production edits.
To produce the videos and assess our participants’ responses, we borrowed their
framework of YouTubers’ techniques (audio/visual codes, affordances, and textual and
linguistic expression characteristics). We applied YouTubers’ techniques to journalistic
news, and we focused on the teenagers’ responses and interpretations of the techniques
presented in the videos and not on the connotative meanings. We argue that production
techniques that are applied in a systematic way to create content that is worthwhile to
young audiences would eventually leverage higher engagement with news. Accordingly,
our study is guided by a second research question:
RQ2: How do younger audiences respond to the YouTubers’ techniques used in the
news with regard to their news engagement?
For our study, we conducted ve focus groups as the primary data collection method,
following a semi-structured guide as a basis for discussion. Since the group interviews
were centred on four videos created using YouTubers’ techniques, we rst describe how
the videos were created, and Table 2 shows what characteristics each video contained.
Journalists and journalism students created ten videos in cooperation with the Esto-
nian daily nancial newspaper Äripäev. Though teenagers are not the usual audience of
Marju Himma-Kadakas & Raul Ferrer-Conill
this newspaper, Äripäev’s newsroom was interested in experimenting with a new format
that would combine news with social media features to engage younger audiences. We
selected four videos containing different characteristics (see Table 2). In the focus group
interviews, the videos were shown in full length in the order that they are presented in
Table 2, one at a time, followed by discussion. For clarity and economy of words, in
this article, we refer to these videos as “YouTube news”, and to the formats, genres, and
textual-visual aspects of YouTubers as “YouTubers’ techniques”.
Focus groups
Focus groups have been a popular method in northern European research enquiring
into the media use of youth (Strøm Krogager et al., 2015; Bengtsson et al., 2018). The
participants of our focus groups were teenagers from three different high schools in
Estonia. The groups were assembled with the help of Estonian language teachers at the
schools, because this enabled us to surmount the potential inuence of socioeconomic
status, which may inuence news consumption and media repertoires (Lindell, 2018).
However, there is a group of countries where the general school system weakens the
relationship between socioeconomic status and academic achievement, providing equity
of different social positions (OECD, 2020). Estonia is one of those countries. For this
reason, we conducted focus groups in cooperation with municipal schools. Lindell and
Sartoretto (2018) have shown that social position matters to the extent to which young
people “buy into” the normative order that regards news as inherently “good”, valu-
able, and worthwhile. Nevertheless, the limited number of our participants would not
have enabled us to make conclusions based on socioeconomic background and gender.
Therefore, we show the gender distribution of the focus groups (see Table 3) and keep
notice of the potential inuence of these characteristics. Maybe due to the sample or the
composition of students in Estonian schools, we did not see any differences attributable
to gender or class, but we refrain from deducing ndings for generalisation.
There are different standpoints on the size of focus groups. Krueger and Casey
(2015) state that six to eight participants are sufcient, but the size may vary from four
to fteen (Burrows & Kendall, 1997). Our ve focus groups varied from ve to twelve
participants (see Table 3).
Is news engagement worthwhile?
Table 2 YouTubers’ techniques used in the focus group videos
Genre, format, and
affordances Audio/visual codes
Textual and linguis-
tic expressions
Brits and EU divor-
cing the marriage
(explains Brexit from
the aspect of possible
personal impact to
the young viewer)
Length: 2’33’
Genre: news + original
Format: sit-down
Affordances: time
spent, democratic and
everyday worthwhi-
leness, technological
appeal, news-ness
Sound effects, back-
ground music
Numerous memes and
pictures, and the writ-
ten text emphasises
the news facts
Editing: jump-cuts to
accelerate the pace of
presentation, no post-
production effects
High technical quality
Explaining to the
Listing of news-rela-
ted facts
Narrative elements:
action, resolution,
Uses slang, includes
few vulgar expres-
Fast speech rate
NOW: robots writing
business news
(about using robots in
journalism; similar to
conventional infotain-
ment news interview)
Length: 6’44’’
Genre: original perfor-
mance + news
Format: sketch +
Affordances: time
spent, technological
appeal, news-ness
Modest sound effects,
ambient background
Video footage from
Simultaneous unre-
lated action in the
Editing: similar to jour-
nalistic feature news,
no post-production
Remarkably low
technical quality
News interview
Narrative elements:
abstract, orientation,
resolution, coda
Everyday word use,
similar to formal news
Speech rate similar to
ordinary conversation
stock market explai-
ned in kitchen
(rises and falls of
investing in stock
market explained
using cooking metap-
Length: 4’49’’
Genre: original perfor-
mance + how-to
Format: sit-down
Affordances: everyday
Modest sound effects,
background music
Few gifs, written
punch lines, bloopers
Editing: few jump-
cuts to emphasise
important facts
Normal technical qua-
lity with minor flaws in
sound and lighting
Explaining to the
Listed facts presented
through acting
Narrative elements:
abstract, resolution,
Everyday language
Slow speech rate
you can prevent the
financial crisis from
(explaining principles
of financial behaviour
in an acted sketch)
Length: 2’57’’
Genre: news + original
Format: sketch + sit-
Affordances: time
spent, democratic and
everyday worthwhi-
leness, technological
Sound effects to
emphasise the facts
or jokes, ambient
background music
Gifs, short video addi-
tions, written punch
Editing: a number of
jump cuts to empha-
sise important facts
High technical quality
Explaining to the
camera using short
sentences, jokes,
punch lines
Narrative elements:
action, resolution,
Everyday language
Fast speech rate
Comments: All ten videos were created and published weekly on
’s news portal ( and YouTube channel (see
Äripäev, 2019a; 2019b; 2019c; 2019d) from January to March 2019. The videos used in this study were all published in January. Focus group
interviews were conducted from April to June 2019. The headlines were originally in Estonian and were translated for this article.
Marju Himma-Kadakas & Raul Ferrer-Conill
Table 3 Overview of focus groups
Number of
participants Age Female Male
1 65 6 16–17 4 2
2 70 7 17–18 0 7
3 45 5 15–16 5 0
4 68 7 16–17 5 2
5 75 12 16–18 10 2
Comments: All participants of the focus groups were recruited from municipal schools in Estonia.
The participants in each focus group were from the same school, mainly classmates;
therefore, they were acquainted. The only criterion for selecting teenagers was age
(15–18 years old), which in Estonia is the age of the high-school students. Naturally,
the teenage age group (e.g., 12–18 years old) contains divergent media preferences,
which depend on age, peer impact, interests, habits, and so on. We chose the teenage
age group because they are soon-to-be adults, and thus their reasoning for news selec-
tion also reects the news preferences of young adults. Though it was not a prerequisite
for participation, all participants in the focus groups expressed consuming content on
YouTube daily; half of them regularly follow local or foreign YouTubers on sports, mo-
tivational coaching, or musicians. For referencing a specic respondent, we use a code
which indicates the gender (male = M; female = F) and age (e.g., 15), followed by an
indication of the participant’s focus group (e.g., /FG1). The focus groups were conducted
in Estonian, as this was the participants’ native language. Focus group transcripts were
later translated into English.
Though having one or several dominant individuals within a group may appear as a
limitation in focus group interviews (Nyumba et al., 2018; Smithson, 2000), our groups
did not noticeably face this issue. Participants in groups were modest in their expression
and were therefore encouraged to talk by the moderators. The occurrence of silence is
quite common in different types of focus groups, since silence itself is an enduring fea-
ture of human interaction (Smithson, 2000). The silence was experienced in all groups,
especially at the beginning of the conversation, but was exceeded on both group and
individual levels with the support of the moderators. We deliberately organised an all-
male and an all-female group to investigate if the conversation dynamics produced a
distinct gendered narrative. The transcripts did not reveal any remarkable disparities in
discourses over the focus topics by age, gender, or YouTube consumption habits, and
therefore the groups are not differentiated by these aspects in the analysis.
A common limitation of focus group interviews is producing normative discourses.
This can be especially critical with teenagers being interviewed by older moderators.
To avoid that, we used journalism students (20 and 25 years old) as moderators. This
younger age enabled the moderators to easily relate the focus group talks to everyday
talk, as Smithson (2000) advises. All moderators were female, which may have impacted
the results to a limited extent. Another limitation with teenage focus groups is peer
pressure, which in our study may have resulted in forming the discourse by dominants
Is news engagement worthwhile?
to some extent. The transcripts of focus group interviews were analysed using qualita-
tive focused coding and theoretical coding (Charmaz, 2006; Ritchie & Spencer, 2002).
Focus group analysis
The text analysis codes were divided into two main groups labelled “engagement and
YouTubers’ techniques” (E&YTT) and “worthwhileness”. The E&YTT category con-
tained subcategories like news-ness (stemming from the news-ness concept of Edgerly
& Vraga, 2019), audio/visual signiers (e.g., memes, music, text, and other graphic
and audio effects), genres, formats (both categories described by Himma-Kadakas et
al., 2018), and language (referring to both language use and linguistic presentation).
Although the main categories for analysis stemmed from theoretical concepts, we ad-
ditionally applied reexive iteration – a systematic, repetitive, and recursive process
in which the categories of analysis emerge from the data (Neale 2016; Srivastava &
Hopwood 2009). As a result, the subcategory infotainment was added to worthwhile-
ness in the review process of codes, since the balance between news and entertainment
frequently rose in the focus groups. The worthwhileness and infotainment subcategories
reect all seven worthwhileness dimensions outlined by Schrøder (2015). Infotainment
indicates the reception of news and entertainment in mixed forms.
The transcripts were indexed by comparing the highlighted quotes between the groups
and cases. The quotes were charted by extracting them and rearranging them into appro-
priate thematic content. In the interpretation stage, the codes were analysed, interpreted,
synthesised, and formed into the results of the study. Two coders coded all focus group
interviews in MaxQDA. The minimum overlap threshold between coded segments,
which refers to coders’ accuracy in highlighting the same segment in MaxQDA when
applying a given code, was 70 per cent. We used the MaxQDA’s quote matrix function
to compare coded segments according to variables.
When engagement becomes worthwhile
Technological appeal
Although technological appeal may embrace several different aspects (e.g., interactivity
and technical participation), the YouTube news shown in the focus groups all triggered
connections to the production quality. In other words, the engagement with technological
appeal of YouTube news was limited to relating with production quality expectations.
The focus groups’ participants discussed and valued the technological features and qual-
ity potential of the device or medium. YouTube provides an appealing arena for news
video productions that are enhanced by platform affordances and the production quality
that low-budget pieces can achieve. Though news media organisations may consider
social media content to be produced with lower quality and limited budgets, our study
showed that teenagers critically and attentively evaluate production quality. The videos
shown in our focus groups were intentionally produced with different technical qualities,
and the respondents were prompt to discuss this feature, noticing unprofessional lighting,
faulty sound, incorrect camera angles, colouring, and so on. Teenagers are accustomed
to consuming content with varying degrees of technical quality, but the distinction and
associations linked to high-quality productions are not lost on them. According to the
Marju Himma-Kadakas & Raul Ferrer-Conill
respondents, a worthwhile video is a high-quality video, with some even mentioning
that they would quit watching a video with low technical quality. All respondents at
some stage of the interview assessed technical quality, and this is well illustrated with
an excerpt from focus group 5:
It depends on whom to compare this content. It [referring to the videos shown in
focus groups] is better than many YouTubers create; they try to copy others, but
sometimes they get out of proportion, they get the editing wrong – too much or
too little. In these videos, it is well done, but compared to professional YouTubers,
there is room for development. (F17/FG5)
However, it also depends on the money, right? If you are successful, you can buy
better cameras, hire a professional team. (M18/FG5)
These two participants were well aware of technical quality standards since they were
both consumers, and many had tried video production. Due to this, retrenchment on
production was recognised instantly. Engagement with news carries a technical aspect
that resides in normative assumptions of quality. News videos produced by legitimate
news organisations, according to our respondents, ought to excel regarding quality.
While YouTube affords effortless, fast, and on-demand access to news content, continued
consumption – in other words, not clicking on another video – is highly connected to
the quality expectation of viewers.
Time spent and situational t
One of the most valued metrics of engagement for newsrooms is time spent. From a
worthwhileness perspective, the temporal engagement with social media news videos
equates to the worth of the medium (Schrøder, 2015), while at the same time, it must
t the convenient temporal timeframe for usage. When time is a resource, the length
of videos becomes relevant. Our focus group respondents unanimously agreed that in
social media, they would more likely watch shorter videos in full length, as one par-
ticipant claried:
Yes, the shorter and more to the point video is better. My attention does not wander,
and I do not get tired during a short video. (M18/FG3)
Some respondents said they bothered to watch the video only because it was relatively
short. If they had seen beforehand that the video was long, they would not have selected
the video for watching. In other words, it is less “costly” in terms of engagement if they
need to invest less time. The participants agreed that the second video (6 minutes and
44 seconds) was too long and favoured the shorter videos (see Table 2).
While time is one of the most dominant dimensions in the decision-making of select-
ing a video for consumption, temporal engagement with the production is not entirely
dependent on video length. Several respondents in different focus groups agreed they
would be willing to watch longer videos if the content caught their attention and did not
become boring, as the following quote illustrates:
If it were on a relevant topic or, you know, interesting, I would watch it no matter
how long it was. […] On some topics, I would prefer more in-depth coverage.
Is news engagement worthwhile?
Therefore, the temporal engagement with the content has a strong interaction with the
emotional engagement of the respondents. Regarding worthwhileness, this means that
the situational t the suitability of the time and place for using the medium – is crucial
to overcome the length of the video and enhance the time spent on content. The narrative
across the focus groups signalled that the YouTube news’ situational t was closely
related to the connection and perceived needs of the viewer, enhancing the participant’s
exposure to YouTube news (e.g., being more likely in school, usually as part of an assign-
ment). Though there were respondents who reected on their willingness to subscribe
to YouTube news, the overall standpoint of the discussions led to the situational t of a
classroom. Participants agreed that school was the most probable environment in which
to be exposed to the news, showing that engagement and worthwhileness is subjected
to the situational and spatial constraints of the viewers.
Public connection and normative pressures
The domain of public connection refers to the affordances that help maintain per-
sonal and societal networks. Schrøder’s distinction between democratic worthwhile-
ness and everyday worthwhileness as functions of public connection relates to what an
adult citizen should know and the extent to which a person can relate to their peers in
daily life, respectively. This is closely related to the domain of normative pressures –
the perceived expectation by society to be informed citizens, as is the example in the
following quote:
These videos are a cool expression of what we should know or what intelligent
young adults should know. (F17/FG3)
The previous quote afrms the normative understanding of what news is, what it is
for, and that it is for an “intelligent” audience. Despite an overall detachment from
traditional news media (and the corresponding social media), respondents showed an
awareness of a particular societal connection to news, as well as a peer connection. In
this regard, respondents established that connection back to the school and mentioned
that they would watch the news if it were part of schoolwork (e.g., a compulsory part
of a school assignment in civic education classes). Therefore, the public connection
and normative pressure are interrelated and caused by the overall understanding of the
discourse function of news in society. Thus, from an engagement perspective, they feel
the overall expectation of being engaged from normative and emotional dimensions of
being connected.
The prerequisite for this may be cooperation between news organisations and schools.
A nal noteworthy point on the normative and connective dimensions of worthwhileness
is the generational aspect of the engagement. The norm that there is certain information
that the adults must know, which somehow differs from the knowledge that teenagers
should obtain, points to different media repertoires that change and evolve with turning
points in life (e.g., becoming an adult, entering the labour market, or going to college or
university). Respondents perceived that “serious” news needs to be useful for everyday
life. In this regard, news engagement depends on nding the media texts, such as news,
relevant and meaningful topics based on the normative parameters set by life contexts,
such as school and society.
Marju Himma-Kadakas & Raul Ferrer-Conill
Price and participatory potential
While price may seem like an apparent dimension of worthwhileness, it rarely emerged
in the conversations during the focus groups. Less clear is the participatory potential of
YouTube news’ videos. Participatory potential refers to interactivity that enables sharing
and creating content. Though these categories are considered relevant in social media,
they did not gain prominence in our focus group interviews. The participatory potential
was referred to by two respondents concerning subscription to the channel:
I would certainly subscribe to this channel because then I would have a notifica-
tion on a new video, and I would watch it. (M17/FG2)
I would subscribe to the channel to stay updated on this news. (M18/FG2)
Engaging with the video in YouTube to facilitate social interactions was practically
ignored by the participants, and we do not have denitive empirical support for why
such a foundational feature of social media was ignored. We believe this is because the
interactivity mechanisms afforded by YouTube are so integral to the relational engage-
ment between the users and the content that they become almost invisible reexes of a
generation accustomed to digital media use.
Teenagers’ response to YouTubers’ techniques in news
Genre and format
Our videos were intentionally hybrids of conventional news genres and YouTube genres,
but in some videos, YouTube genres were also mixed. Since genre is a normative cate-
gory for organising information, we combined formats, narratives, and code elements to
see if the respondents could understand and take a position in interpreting the message.
In video 2, for example, we intentionally used a simultaneous alternative narrative:
There was activity in the background that was not related to the main topic of the video.
The respondents in all groups noticed this activity and highlighted that the background
movement distracted them from focusing on content (e.g., the news focus of the video),
and it occasionally failed to deliver the message:
The pictures in the video should be connected to the news, and you should not
overuse the memes; it confuses the information. The videos should be illustrated,
but you should not overdo it. (F17/FG5)
This refers to the fact that the scene and alternative activities in the video all have func-
tions that either support or confuse the recognition of the genre and understanding of
the information. The sit-down format (usually in the bedroom) supports the intimate
and calm environment in which the message stands out. Explaining through original
performance demands action that supports the news but has no extra narratives, mes-
sages, or connotations. Videos shown in the focus groups employed hybrid formats of
sit-down, collab, and sketch (see Table 2). When the participants were asked about their
favourite video, they mentioned the sit-down format (videos 1, 3, and 4), explaining that
a sit-down video is more straightforward to follow. This format enables the use of both
long and short narratives and is especially suitable for explaining complex information.
Respondents stated that activity (e.g., acting in original performance) helped them keep
Is news engagement worthwhile?
their attention on the content (videos 2, 3, and 4) when the sit-down format could be
monotonous and boring.
Nevertheless, at the same time, they expressed that the unvaried presentation of
sit-down also helped if the topic was complicated and required focused attention
(as in video 1). The fourth video shown in the focus groups was a hybrid of sketch
and sit-down formats, with a bit of sketch at the beginning and the sit-down part at
the end. Some respondents found that to be ideal because the sketch caught their
attention in the beginning, and then the sit-down explaining part afterwards was
easier to follow.
We asked the respondents what topics would gain their interest in the news. The
answers in all groups were unanimously “positive news”, which in conversation were
expressed as news about ordinary (young) people, climate and environment, wellness,
and educational stories – all these are usually categorised as “soft” or feature news. As
Shoemaker (2006) describes, “hard” news relates to negative, harmful, and dangerous
news. This explains why teenagers prefer entertaining or soft news as positive ones.
In soft news, timeliness is a less critical news criterion, since such stories contain less
negative information. This is also what was experienced in the videos’ creation process:
Selecting a genre and format for a timely news topic is complicated, since the YouTubers’
techniques support timelessness.
It’s good that the video talks about important topics, that it’s not like some point-
less trash-talk. Moreover, the pop-ups in the video will definitely catch the eye.
These results show that our respondents recognised the genres and formats indigenous
to YouTube, which refers to the established conventions and norms on that platform. For
the respondents, the recognition of genres and formats formed the basis of evaluation
for other techniques (audio/visual, and textual and linguistic expression) and assessing
their suitability for news.
Audio/visual codes
Audio and visual codes support the receiver in understanding the message and interpret-
ing the information. Since the audio (e.g., music and sound effects) and textual-visual
additions (e.g., memes and textual punch lines) are usually apprehended as part of
entertainment, these elements may act as confusing codes to the receiver because a
conventional news story would not contain these elements. Therefore, it would not be
“serious”, “hard”, or trustworthy.
Most focus group participants found that the usage of memes and illustrative material
in the videos aided them in understanding the topic. However, the respondents under-
stood the dominant position of news in the presented videos, but they were also critical
about the ne line between news and entertainment. Mixed codes of traditional news
discourse and YouTubers’ techniques confused the teenagers and hindered them from
interpreting the content – the entertainment contradicted their expectation of news that
was supposed to be “serious” and “hard”. This refers to the fact that their understanding
of news was rooted in conventional discourse that divides news into serious and hard
news, and human interest and narrative news categories.
Marju Himma-Kadakas & Raul Ferrer-Conill
It depends on the person. Some people like to read just introductory textbooks that
do not have illustrations. Others want to search for information on the Internet
because it is more visual and easier to take in. When the girl in the video started
talking, I thought there should have been more memes and pictures; I missed
them. (F18/FG4)
While some respondents concluded that the balance depended on personal preference
– whether one likes a video with much editing and memes – others claimed that the
challenge lies in nding the balance between news content and entertaining supplements,
including the use of language.
Textual and linguistic expression
The way language was used in the textual or linguistic expression set the conditions
for the respondents to assess whether the language was appropriate for news. This also
indicated an expectation for specic expression while interpreting content as news. Some
participants did not like foul language or common humour (videos 1, 3, and 4), which
they considered inappropriate for delivering the news. This refers to the accustomed
understanding of news discourse – news must be in a particular code of language. Other
codes of language will be interpreted as “not news” or inappropriate for the genre. On
the other hand, some respondents found that memes and language common to the youth
makes a news piece more understandable and relatable for them.
The linguistic expression that YouTubers most often use in a sit-down format is ex-
plaining to the camera, which is somewhat different from a traditional news discourse,
where the reporter usually avoids subjective explaining with the purpose of distancing
the author from the content.
However, our respondents favoured the explanatory expression, as it enabled them
to relate to the presenter and supported them in understanding the content. First-person,
subjective, and informal linguistic expression was assessed as a code supporting news
engagement. Linguistic expression was also analysed on the performance level, taking
into account the reception of the presentation (e.g., pace, diction, articulation, etc.).
When the tempo of the video or the speech rate was too fast, the respondents reected
that textual-visual signiers (e.g., text or memes) made it easier to follow the story.
Concluding from the results on textual and linguistic expression, we highlight that the
interpretative and explanatory style intrinsic to YouTubers functions well as a technique
for news engagement.
The results from our study show that repackaging news into platform-driven genres
and formats may result in a limited increase of interest in the video, but this should not
be linearly interpreted as general engagement with the news. In response to our rst
research question, we conclude that young audiences in Estonia think that engaging with
news is worthwhile as long as the quality of the video is high, the length of the video is
short, and the topic is relevant. This complements the current knowledge of factors that
attract youth to news (Tamboer et al., 2022; Clark & Marchi, 2017). The participative
aspects of YouTube for engaging with others is largely uninteresting to our participants.
Is news engagement worthwhile?
Finding interesting topics or content relevant to peers would encourage them to give
the videos a try, but the degree of engagement remains in relation to the platform’s af-
fordances and interface. Even in the setting of a qualitative study, it is difcult to move
beyond the techno-behavioural aspect of engagement. Nevertheless, we see that the
time, genre, and form (how the news should look) become the normative factors when
choosing to watch the news.
Regarding our second research question, we see that the teenagers’ response to the
YouTubers’ techniques used in the news offered on YouTube is positive and that these
techniques assist them in understanding the news content and emotionally engaging
with it. This resonates with Newman and colleagues’ (2018: 5) assertion regarding video
news on social media:
The experience of news should feel as easy and accessible as Facebook and
Netflix. […] News brands need to tell stories in ways that fit the expectations of
young people […] The way the news media covers stories may need to change.
This supports our conclusion: News organisations should reevaluate what news is for the
young generation and how it could be presented to them to reach their attention span.
Making news more entertaining by “speaking the code of YouTubers” may help to engage
teenagers’ attention on news and might be worth trying as a new practice for news organi-
sations – as they are searching for innovative news content (Huang, 2009; Nadler, 2016;
Otto et al., 2017). However, mixing the stylistic codes may confuse young audiences who
interpret the content of news as “hard” and thus may not recognise the content as news.
We clearly see that working on making the news worthwhile by paying attention to
the specic characteristics of the platform in which the news is distributed has the po-
tential to engage younger audiences. However – and despite our initial thoughts – while
YouTubers’ techniques can lead to increasing the worthwhileness of news, this study
mostly points to the fact that making news worthwhile mostly generates a behavioural
engagement with news. Respondents mentioned other dimensions of engagement being
important when choosing the videos to watch, but they seem to be of less importance.
Upon reection, this may be due to the main limitation of this study: its small sam-
ple. However, the results open avenues for further research. While specic dimensions
of engagement increase importance due to more relatable production techniques, the
relation to an interest in traditional news content remains limited, regardless of the
repackaging to platform-intrinsic formats. Though our results provide evidence for
using YouTubers’ techniques in news production, we see potential for further research
on teenage audiences’ engagement with repackaged news on different social media
platforms (e.g., Instagram or TikTok).
The dimension of price deserves more detailed insight in further research. Since
YouTube does not charge a subscription fee, price did not appear to influence engage-
ment, as it was not acknowledged in the YouTube news context. Social media users
often fail to internalise that the price manifests as data, privacy, or time, becoming an
extension of technical-behavioural engagement measured in metrics. Therefore, it is
essential to investigate the relation between different forms of price and engagement
with news.
Marju Himma-Kadakas & Raul Ferrer-Conill
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To function as well-informed citizens in democracy, early adolescents (12–16 years old) should become news literate news consumers. In this time of fragmented media use and evolving conceptions of (the importance and relevance of) news, this is not easy. Therefore, this focus group study investigated news consumption and news literacy through the eyes of early adolescents. Results showed that early adolescents have broad definitions of news. Their news consumption is predominantly passive, possibly due to a lack of intrinsic motivation. They see news as important, but often as boring, repetitive and negative, and disconnected from youth. Participants had knowledge of news content and effects, and stressed the importance of reliable news. However, for the majority, this did not translate into critical evaluation of news. For early adolescents, the key factor in becoming more news literate news consumers is motivation. Moving forward, motivation should be better incorporated in both research and practice.
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From crossword puzzles and quizzes to more complex gamification strategies and serious newsgames, legacy media has long explored ways to deploy playful approaches to deliver their content and engage with the audience. We examine how news and games fit together when news organizations, game creators and news audiences welcome gameful forms of communication and participation. Moreover, we reflect on the theoretical and empirical significance of merging news with games as a way to reformulate normative assumptions, production practices and consumption patterns. As a result, the boundaries between journalism and game’s logics start to erode, and they begin to find new ways of converging.
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How do young people and adults define news? What motivates them to consume news? These questions guide this research, based on interviews with Por-tuguese and Estonian young people and adults. The motivations for news consumption can be related to normative pressures to fulfil particular social roles and personal needs related to one's life-world. The diversity of the definitions of news seems to be broader in Portugal, whereas in Estonia, news definitions are based on professional concepts of news and are regarded as synonymous with educational content. The results indicate stronger age differences in news definitions in Portugal than in Esto-nia. However, considering the massive changes in Europe over the past three decades, including varied integration processes and the advent of the In-ternet, we contend that digital media are continually producing more similarities in news consumption by audiences in different countries. This influence is relevant to understanding the media options in other European countries.
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Traditional news media are not engaging young audiences and there has been a decline in the number of consumers of traditional media. The main news sources for teenagers in Europe and North-America are social media and friends. Our research project outlines YouTubers' content production strategies in order to apply them in conventional news content production to attract young audiences. In this study we profiled the top YouTubers in the world, in Europe and in Estonia based on their profiles, networks, topics, genres and formats. We developed a model of analysis based on the uses and gratifications approach by Katz et al. (1974), and McQuail (2000). This framework was used in the standardised content analysis of YouTube videos. The results present the "food chain" of different levels of YouTubers; the "food chain" refers to the copying of innovative ideas from less experienced peers, while promoting their content. The food chain also shows how most popular YouTubers generate new production practices and discursive genres. There are noticeable variations in the diversity of genres and formats between different levels of YouTubers. Diversity of content is important for sustaining and increasing audiences. YouTubers utilise specific combinations of genres and formats for certain topics across levels of the food chain. This makes it possible to develop a typology of techniques that YouTubers use to engage audiences.
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Traditional news media are not engaging young audiences and there has been a decline in the number of consumers of traditional media. The main news sources for teenagers in Europe and North-America are social media and friends. Our research project outlines YouTubers’ content production strategies in order to apply them in conventional news content production to attract young audiences. In this study we profiled the top YouTubers in the world, in Europe and in Estonia based on their profiles, networks, topics, genres and formats. We developed a model of analysis based on the uses and gratifications approach by Katz et al. (1974), and McQuail (2000). This framework was used in the standardised content analysis of YouTube videos. The results present the “food chain” of different levels of YouTubers; the “food chain” refers to the copying of innovative ideas from less experienced peers, while promoting their content. The food chain also shows how most popular YouTubers generate new production practices and discursive genres. There are noticeable variations in the diversity of genres and formats between different levels of YouTubers. Diversity of content is important for sustaining and increasing audiences. YouTubers utilise specific combinations of genres and formats for certain topics across levels of the food chain. This makes it possible to develop a typology of techniques that YouTubers use to engage audiences.
In order to reach its audiences, journalism regularly turns to social media to promote its articles. This study sets out to ascertain competing communicative logics of Facebook posts as opposed to article teasers on news outlets’ websites. We look at Scandinavian news outlets as a most-similar three-country case with at least a third of all news consumers regularly using Facebook for news. The study builds on an extensive data collec- tion of all Scandinavian news outlets’ Facebook posts including their respective websites’ article teasers over the course of 11months. We investigate the use of news text grammar (e.g., punctuation or the use of pronouns) and social media features (e.g., hashtags or the use of emojis) alongside structural influen- ces from individual countries, outlet reach, and ownership. Findings show Facebook posts to include less punctuation while employing more calls to action through the use of question and exclamation marks. We conclude with a reinvigorated call for hier- archical considerations when investigating news outlets’ social media endeavours through editors’ experiences, available resour- ces to a news outlet, and institutional willingness to align with audiences.
Digital media transform news. First, we see this in changing use patterns. Young people today show a decline in interest in traditional news formats and practices, such as watching the evening news on TV or reading a daily newspaper. But digital media also transform production and distribution of news, leading to new ways to conceptualise and understand news. In the light of these profound transformations in audience behaviour many have started to question the concept of news in news research. In the light of such altered production and distribution contexts which are likely to fundamentally impact on audiences’ definitions and perceptions, this article sets out to explore alternative ways to understand and conceptualise news, beyond traditional news research. What is news today, and how can we study it from the perspective of news audiences, without resorting to preconceived notions? We propose a theoretical approach based in classic phenomenology which, we argue, will open up for further reconsideration of the concept as well as providing a potentially fruitful basis for research on digital news consumption. Phenomenology takes human existence as its vantage point and explores how human subjects exist and create meaning in their everyday lives in relation to basic categories such as time, space and (sociocultural) relevance. We argue phenomenology to be particularly relevant for exploring new meanings of news as the basic dimensions of phenomenology not only coincide with the basic dimensions of news consumption, but also of those of news values; time, space, and (sociocultural) relevance.