Deliberative, agonistic, and algorithmic audiences: Journalism’s vision of its public in an age of audience transparency.

CW Anderson
International Journal of Communication

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excerpt Based on data obtained from several years of ethnographic research in newsrooms, this article argues that a fundamental transformation has occurred in journalists' understanding of their audiences. A new level of audience responsiveness is now being incorporated into the DNA of contemporary news work. This new journalistic deference to the “people formerly known as the audience” is often contrasted with an earlier understanding of the news audience by journalists, the so-called “traditional” or “professional” view, in which the wants and desires of audience members are subordinated to journalists' expert news judgment about the stories that audience members need to know. In much of the popular rhetoric surrounding “Web 2.0,” journalists' newfound audience responsiveness is represented as a democratic advance over older professional models, with the increasing journalistic attention paid to audience preferences being framed as concomitant with the general democratizing trends afforded by the Internet. 529 on 6/3/2019, 6:39:49 PM

references Deciding What's News on 6/3/2019, 6:40:22 PM

excerpt Gans argues that multiple factors play a role in journalists’ relative disconnect from their audience—an inability to intellectually imagine an audience of millions of people, a distrust of audience news judgment, and the division between the editorial and marketing departments (creating a situation in which business personnel and news editors create a buffer between journalists and their audience). The key values in tension in Gans’ study were thus professional incentives versus commercial imperatives. Journalists, adds Gans, are reluctant to accept any procedure that casts doubt on their professional autonomy. Within the boundaries of his study, professional values remain strong, and the preferences and needs of the audience were largely neglected during the news-making process. 530 on 6/3/2019, 6:41:11 PM

references Taking Journalism Seriously on 6/3/2019, 6:42:05 PM

references The People Formerly Known as the Audience on 6/3/2019, 6:43:08 PM

excerpt IInstitutionally, public journalism was a professional reform movement that emerged within the American press in the late 1980s, with its heyday in the early to mid1990s, and which, as a distinct movement, can be said to have ended in the first years of the 21st century. Theoretically, public journalism drew on strands of deliberative and participatory democratic theory, arguing that post-Watergate journalism had grown overly concerned with representing the points of view of political insiders, trucked in corrosive cynicism about the meaning and importance of political life, and lacked any meaningful understanding of journalism’s relationship to democracy (Carey, 2002). 533 on 6/3/2019, 6:44:48 PM

references Leaf Group on 6/3/2019, 6:47:13 PM

references Demand Media and the Fast, Disposable, and Profitable as Hell Media Model on 6/3/2019, 6:47:35 PM

references John Durham Peters on 6/3/2019, 6:51:08 PM

cites Witnessing on 6/3/2019, 6:51:31 PM

cites "The Only Proper Scale of Representation": The Politics of Statistics and Stories on 6/3/2019, 6:52:36 PM

excerpt If the audiences' needs and wants are entirely knowable, then why should they not be catered too, particularly if catering to those wants can lead to the implementation of a highly successful business model? The ultimate traceability of audience wants is determined through the algorithm, a complex and mathematically grounded sociomaterial black box that seems to do far more than simply aggregate preferences. In the vision of the audience embraced by Demand Media and its counterparts, the algorithm is a stand-in for journalistic judgment, and it eviscerates the barriers between content production and consumer demand. According to this new generation of algorithm-based news producers, it is in number crunching that the ultimate guarantor of both communicative democracy and business model success can be found. 540 on 6/3/2019, 6:53:47 PM

cites How Newspapers Use Readership Research on 6/3/2019, 6:57:32 PM

cites The Audience in the News on 6/3/2019, 7:00:06 PM

cites Audiencemaking on 6/3/2019, 7:00:26 PM

references Does Habermas Understand the Internet? The Algorithmic Construction of the Blogo/Public Sphere on 6/3/2019, 7:01:01 PM

cites Tracking the Online Audience on 6/3/2019, 7:01:46 PM

cites Newsmen's Fantasies, Audiences, and Newswriting on 6/3/2019, 7:03:26 PM


Content farms mine search engine data to estimate demand for content on various topics, and then produce that content rapidly and cheaply in order to meet that demand (Bakker, 2012). Once again, the process is algorithmically driven. Leading content farm Demand Media, for instance, feeds its algorithm three types of data: (a) popular search terms from search engines, (b) the ad market for keywords (i.e., which keywords are currently being sought and for how much), and (c) the competitive environment (in terms of content that is already available online) (Roth, 2009). The output then represents a prediction of the type of content for which there is the highest unmet audience and advertiser demand, and Demand Media produces that content accordingly (Anderson, 2011a). cites Deliberative, agonistic, and algorithmic audiences: Journalism’s vision of its public in an age of audience transparency. on 6/3/2019, 5:56:23 PM

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Automated Media: An Institutional Theory Perspective on Algorithmic Media Production and Consumption cites Deliberative, agonistic, and algorithmic audiences: Journalism’s vision of its public in an age of audience transparency. on 6/3/2019, 6:34:32 PM

Quantified Audiences in News Production cites Deliberative, agonistic, and algorithmic audiences: Journalism’s vision of its public in an age of audience transparency. on 6/5/2019, 8:35:29 PM