Study: Papers Unsure of How to Use Convergence Connections

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By: Joe Strupp

Nearly 30% of daily newspapers responding to a Ball State University survey have convergence partnerships with local television stations, according to the study. But while more papers are linking with their broadcast brethren, most remain unsure of how best to use the convergence connection.

“The findings suggest that a few newspapers are relatively committed to their convergence efforts while others are still trying to define their efforts or have adopted partnerships in name only,” the report, released Monday, stated.

“Editors report that their partnerships frequently perform many of the functions often considered to reflect convergence: sharing of daily news budgets, cross-promotion of partners’ content, and appearances by newspaper staff members on broadcasts. On the other hand, some functions are performed by a relatively small number of partnerships,” it said.

Ball State University’s Center for Media Design surveyed editors at 372 U.S. daily papers between June and September. E&P previewed the findings in October.

“The traditional competitive sprit remains intact [between convergence partners],” the study said. “Most editors indicate they are willing to share at least some of their planning budgets with their partners, but they appear to be leery about sharing too much.”

Results seem to bear that out, finding that 16% of newspaper editors say they never share news content, while 44% say they are selective, 17% share most stories, 12% share most stories but hold back those they have “a competitive advantage” with, and 10% share everything.

Other highlights:

? More than 25% of newspapers with partnerships designate one staff member to appear on their partner’s newscasts at least once a week to promote stories in the next day’s paper. But, more than twice as many, 63%, do not.

? Nearly half of those in partnerships, 47%, never have a beat expert appear on their partner’s newscasts, while nearly 30% do at least once per month.

? Most newspapers with partners, 70%, do not discuss promotion of their on-air counterparts during news meetings. But 13% say they spend time at least once a week discussing such efforts.

? Only 8% of editors reported encouraging readers to watch enterprise stories broadcast by their partners, while 23% run their partner’s logos in the news pages at least once per week.

Findings indicate 27% of editors share their entire news lineup with their broadcast partners at least once a week, 42% share a partial line-up more than once a week, and 71% never share all of their news budget. Most editors are glad to share video or photographs if their partner did not cover an event, with 21% reporting such generosity on a weekly basis and nearly 75% doing so at least four times a year.

In addition, 12% of editors reported using a common assignment desk or coordinating editor with their broadcast partner, while 8% of editors say a supervisor working for both news outlets determines how best to use the strengths of each organization on story coverage daily.

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