Supply and Demand: A Comparative Analysis of Journalistic and Consumer News Selections on nzherald.co.nz
Taking as its focus the website of the New Zealand Herald (nzherald.co.nz), this study examines the online news selections of journalists and consumers, explores the thematic nature of these selections and looks at the relationship between the two groups, as well as their news selections, in the online context. Its purpose is to explore the thematic preferences of both journalists and consumers while also comparing these preferences is order to establish the existence or non-existence of a ?news gap? in New Zealand ? that is, a significant gap between the thematic preferences of journalists and consumers. Its purpose is also to explore the relationship between these two groups in the online context, examining how they interact and how such interactions might shape news selection decisions. Further, this study considers the role of time and how news selections might shift over the course of a day
A comparative academic study of the news selections or preferences of journalists and consumers has not been conducted before in New Zealand. A combination of content and data analysis methodologies were employed in this study, which is rooted in a quantitative methodological approach. This study also employs theory from the field of political economy to inform its discussion of influences on news selection decisions. Thematic content analysis was used to explore the selection and placement of online news stories on the nzherald.co.nz homepage by Herald journalists, while data and thematic content analysis were used to examine the most popular stories clicked on by consumers on nzherald.co.nz.
An examination of these news selections revealed a focus on soft and non-public affairs news among both journalists and consumers. In this regard, there was only a narrow gap discovered between the preferences of each group ? selections were largely the same. Particular emphasis was placed on sports news by both groups, with stories from this topic making up the largest proportion of both journalistic and consumer news selections. News about politics and public affairs received only moderate attention from both groups. In comparing stories ranked highest on the nzherald.co.nz homepage with the stories most clicked-on by consumers, it was discovered there was a high degree of similarity between the specific news selections of each group. Story-for-story, 62.9% of the news selections of journalists and consumers paired up over the sample period, indicating a high level of agreement between the two groups. A correlation between the journalistic homepage rankings and consumer clicks was also discovered, pointing quantitatively to a relationship between the behaviours of the two groups. An examination of the news selections of journalists and consumers also showed that the thematic nature of selections shifted over time. It was found that the news selections of both groups became softer over the course of a day, with the small gap between selections narrowing over time.
The findings of this research have implications for gatekeeping and agenda-setting theory. Questions are raised regarding the quality of news and information circulating online. Noted also are issues surrounding journalistic and consumer behaviour and the impacts certain behaviours might have on the functioning of a robust, informed democracy in New Zealand.