Links of connectedness: A content analysis and industry survey comparing the interactive options of community and metro newspaper Web sites

Cleveland Allin Means

Abstract

As newspapers struggle to redefine their role in a constantly shifting mass media landscape, this research project studies how one of mass communications' historically fundamental mediums, the community newspaper, is utilizing its Web presence to connect to readers in innovative ways that might perpetuate loyalty to the local press. A key question is: How can community newspapers utilize their Web sites' interactive features to maintain useful links of connectedness with local readers, in effect capitalizing on the very technologies that many analysts predict will ultimately render them obsolete? Through content analysis of newspaper Web site home pages and industry surveys, it was found that there exists a possible disconnect between what surveyed online editors believed was important for their newspapers in the area of interactivity and what their newspapers were actually doing to remain connected to their readers online. More than 70% of online editors/Web site coordinators responding to an e-mailed survey agreed that it is important for their newspapers' Web sites to post links that connect with readers and engage them in online discourse, encouraging feedback and consistent interactivity. Also, more than 75% of respondents said their newspapers are connecting to readers through these links of connectedness (LOCs). However, a content analysis of more than 400 newspapers showed that only 4.875 LOCs were offered per newspaper Web site home page.