One of the struggles in talking about relationships between journalists and their audiences is that we too often stay philosophical and talk from our gut.
This morning at South by Southwest, Doreen Marchionni presented her dissertation research on how audiences perceive conversational news. I’ve talked to Doreen about her work before and have learned a lot from it, but I haven’t written about it. I apologize to her for the brevity of this post — her work deserves much more detail.
These are the variables that her research attached to the idea of conversational journalism, which she defines as a deeply collaborative relationship between journalists and audiences. Conversation consists of:
Coorientation/homophily, which is perceived similarity between audience and journalist. This has to do largely with demographics. (Is this person like me?)
Interactivity, which is the smart use by the journalist in using Web tools to interact and collaborate with audience. (Are they taking advantage of all the ways they can involve me in the journalism?)
Social presence, or the perceived humanness of the journalist.
Friendliness, or the perceived openness and accessibility of the journalist.
Informality, or the perceived casualness of the journalist.
Damon Kiesow at Poynter wrote a preview on the session that did a great job summarizing Doreen’s main tips for journalists. I suggest you take a look. Some really simple things — like including really short biographical videos of journalists — can go a long way in categories like perceived similarity, friendliness and openness.
If improvement in these areas makes your audience feel more connected to you, that could lead to more return eyeballs and more time on site, Doreen said when asked how to sell the importance of conversational journalism to publishers.
The data back us up on that.
(Doreen’s nuanced, complex research deserves a more sophisticated explanation. I hope she’ll forgive this oversimplified post, and add to it if she wants to.)
This was originally posted on the blog of the Reynolds Journalism Institute, where I am a 2010-2011 fellow.