The Newspaper as Community
The market crisis of the newspaper is a fundamental challenge to the public sphere in all Western countries. Not only because the newspaper is a prime supplier of quality journalism, but also because no other content carrying medium – new or old – as strongly as the newspaper has been able to combine two functions, vital to the public debate among citizens in democratic societies:
• Bundling of heterogeneous content.
• Bridging otherwise separate audiences.
The technological development since the 1990’s has unbundled the newspaper on both dimensions. The dynamics of the media market favours personalised use of content and media catalysing social interaction between people, thus creating niches of media catering to specific audiences. These developments are threatening the basic business model and the functions of the newspaper – and thus its value to the public.
Whereas much attention has been given to the question of how to save the production of journalism, the social functions of the newspaper as an institution bridging different groups of citizens have been rather overlooked. However, older studies of the readers’ use of the newspaper reveals that content it self might not be its prime deliverance. In its “golden age” in the twentieth century, the newspaper was equally valued for its social, practical and emotional offers in the everyday routines of the citizens.
Through a reformulation of theories of the value(s) of the newspaper and empirical studies of the relations between newspapers and citizens the project explores the possibilities of the newspaper to strengthen its relations to the audiences. The overall research question is: What are the actual and the potential relations between the newspaper and the citizens in the Western countries in 2015?
The project involves three activities:
• Theories of the newspaper will be explored and in order to create a pragmatic conceptual framework enabling empirical studies of the newspaper under its contemporary market conditions.
• Case studies of Western newspaper companies that have succeeded in strengthening relations to their users will be conducted in order to create typologies of relationships between newspapers and citizens.
• Qualitative and quantitative research of the uses and value of media among Danish citizens will be carried out in order to test the validity and relevance of the typologies developed in the theoretical studies and case studies.
The ambition of the project is to unite these three activities into the construction of a conceptual model.