Convergence Newsletter

From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. V No. 2 (August 2007)


Commenting on Convergence

By Melissa McGill, editor of The Convergence Newsletter


In this issue, Augie Grant contributes several articles. The first features a preview of the exciting events taking place at the University of South Carolina’s “Convergence and Society” Conference on October 11-13, 2007.  The second highlights important lessons in convergence gathered while writing two books on the subject.  Finally, Augie reviews Jean-Marc Lehu’s Branded Entertainment: Product Placement & Brand Strategy in the Entertainment Business.


Also, be sure to look for "converged candy" sponsored by The Convergence Newsletter at the AEJMC Annual Convention in Washington, DC!


View past newsletters at .


Melissa McGill is working toward a Master of Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina. Contact her at .



Feature Articles


Gannett CEO Craig Dubow to Keynote Convergence Conference


Lessons from the Keyboard


Book Review:  Branded Entertainment



Conference Information and Calls for Papers




Convergence and Society: Media Ownership, Control, and Consolidation


Online Fundamentals for Newsroom Leaders


Call for Papers—Special Issue of International Journal on Media Management



---------------Feature Articles


Gannett CEO Craig Dubow to Keynote Convergence Conference

By Augie Grant, Executive Editor of The Convergence Newsletter


Convergence efforts at Gannett Corporation will be in the spotlight during USC's "Convergence and Society" conference, October 11-13 in Columbia, South Carolina. Gannett Chairman and CEO Craig Dubow will be the keynote speaker for the conference, which will feature three days of research, demonstrations, and discussions of the teaching and practice of convergent journalism. Gannett Vice President of New Media Content Jennifer Carroll will also discuss Gannett's "NewsCenter" concept that is being implemented in newsrooms throughout the corporation.


The theme of the conference is "Media Ownership, Control, and Consolidation, with research papers, panels, and demonstrations exploring dimensions of convergence including practical perspectives, regulatory analyses, international perspectives, cultural approaches, and teaching convergent journalism.


The conference opens at 1:00 PM, Thursday, October 11th with a set of sessions exploring practical and regulatory issues at Newsplex, including Carroll's presentation on the Gannett NewsCenters. Thursday ends with our keynote speaker, Gannett Corporation Chairman Craig Dubow, who will also be participating in Thursday afternoon's sessions.  Friday features a full day of sessions ranging from theoretical and cultural perspectives to practical demonstrations. Saturday’s schedule includes a set of sessions on teaching convergent journalism, with adjournment at 12:00 Noon.


Here are a few of the more provocative titles from the agenda:


May I have a bandage please? A decade on the bleeding edge of teaching convergence.  Jeffrey S. Wilkinson, United International College, China.


Copyrights and convergence: Enabling, limiting, motivating, and/or inhibiting? Implications of current trends in intellectual property law and policy on a converging society.  Benjamin Bates, University of Tennessee.


Matching new media content and use to personality and leadership traits.  Tony DeMars, University of Houston--Clear Lake.


Making sense of convergence journalism in Russia and the United States: A cross cultural investigation of what aspiring journalists see in multimedia storytelling and its role in society.  Hans Ibold & Anastasia Kononova, University of Missouri.


Marrying the multimedia mandate with the industry diversity challenge?: A multi-method assessment of convergence at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  George Daniels, University of Alabama & Sunny Smith, Jackson State University.


The full agenda can be viewed at USC's Newsplex Web site:

As in previous years, we are holding a pre-conference, mini-Newsplex training session on Thursday morning, October 11th, from 8:30-12:30 that will explore "New Approaches to Writing Across Media." There is no charge for the training, but registration is limited to the first 15 conference registrants who confirm that they will be attending the training. To reserve a space, email:


The conference also includes USC's "Showcase of Convergent Media Processes and Practices," offering practical insight into tools, techniques, and teaching convergent journalism. Early registration for the conference is $125, which includes the Thursday reception and dinner, and Friday's lunch. To see the complete agenda or to get more information on the conference, please visit the Newsplex Web site: For questions about the conference, please contact Augie Grant:



Lessons from the Keyboard

By Augie Grant, Executive Editor of The Convergence Newsletter


Over the past two years, I've been working with colleagues to integrate the wide range of research, practice, and perspectives on convergent journalism to create two complementary books. The first is a textbook, Principles of Convergent Journalism (with Jeff Wilkinson of United International College in China and Doug Fisher of the University of South Carolina) that provides a practical approach to the wide set of skills needed by multiplatform journalists. The second, Understanding Media Convergence (co-edited with Jeff Wilkinson) is an edited compilation of research, theory, and practice that is designed to provide an in-depth understanding of the processes and implications of the of practices we call "convergence."


As these books are going to press, I've had the opportunity to examine a wide range of lessons I learned from this process.  The following is a list of the most significant, top-of-mind lessons leaned in retrospect from the creation of these two books.


Lesson #1:  Avoid "convergence."

Almost every piece of research that we studied in preparing these books detailed a specific definition of the term, "convergence," but few of these definitions were the same. As with other generic terms such as "love" and "broadband," the word "convergence" is used to convey meaning specific to the user, but these individual definitions may not correspond to those in the minds of readers. The solution we used was simple:  Whenever possible, we attempted to replace the generic term "convergence" with a more specific, descriptive term, such as "crossownership," "collaboration," "multiplatform journalism," "multimedia journalism," etc.


So, you might ask, why use the term "convergence" in the title of both books? As nebulous as it is, "Convergence" is a useful term to represent the wide range of ideas and behaviors that are changing newsrooms and the practice of journalism. Administrators know that they need "convergence" in their programs (even if they can't define it), and send faculty to the Newsplex convergence training and to the annual conferences so that they can bring "it" back to their campuses. The term therefore remains useful as a catch-all. Consider, for example, the wide range of research described above for USC's "Convergence and Society" conference in October, with sessions ranging from popular culture and regulatory issues to theory and the practice of convergent journalism.


The term "convergence" is appropriate term to identify this global set of processes and concerns, but it should probably not be used to identify a specific process in journalism or variable in research. I shudder every time I see a research project that directly asks whether someone is practicing "convergence"—the answer is invariably "yes," but it is also invariably uninformative.


Lesson #2:  The Audience is Converged

Over the past seven years, the majority of research on convergent journalism processes and practices has focused on news production processes. But, over the past two years, the proportion of research devoted to the audience is increasing. Studies such as Ball State's "Middletown Media Studies" have provided insight into patterns of consumer behavior across media. In my opinion, the most significant findings in these studies are the reports of simultaneous media use. One implication is that consumers aren't as selective about which medium they choose as they are about content they choose to consume. One important impetus for multiplatform journalism and multimedia journalism is the fact that most consumers are significantly "converged" in their use of media, and journalists face the interesting challenge of playing catch-up with the public.


The increasing popularity of user-generated content is another dimension of the degree to which the audience may be considered to be "converged." Increased attention to the role that a person's media repertoire plays in how they glean information from the media is needed in both research and teaching.


Lesson #3:  Inertia is a Powerful Force—and Impediment

An examination of research on the wide range of processes described in the teaching and practice of convergent journalism indicates that changing behaviors, culture, and attitudes toward "other" media is a difficult process that is impeded by the inertia of existing systems. Faculty who have only taught (or have experience) in one medium (print or broadcast) are even more resistant to acquiring skills in "competing" media than journalists themselves. The irony is that the research also demonstrates that, once initial resistance is overcome, there is usually little problem integrating techniques specific to another medium within a reporter's basic skill set of interviewing, writing, and editing.


Inertia is an impediment outside the newsroom as well. U.S. media are among the least converged in the world, for example, because U.S. media regulation maintains a substantial barrier between newspapers and television stations. Inertia is equally strong for the consumers discussed above, as any new medium or media outlet must overcome the inertia of habitual media consumption patterns in order to find a place in the consumer media repertoire. The lesson is that the inertia of existing practices is an important variable to consider whenever a change is contemplated at any level of convergence, through teaching, practice, regulation, and consumer behavior.  


Lesson #4:  Start with a Strong Foundation

One characteristic that successful programs in converged journalism have in common is a focus on the basics:  Interviewing, writing, editing, verification, ethics, etc. Regardless of the type of convergence, these basic skills remain at the heart of the practice of journalism. The time and effort needed to teach medium-specific skills to a student studying multiplatform journalism is significant, but it much less important than the time, effort, and practice at these journalism basics.


These top-of-mind lessons are not comprehensive, but rather reflect ideas that are forefront in my thoughts after spending the past few years engulfed in the study of convergent journalism. My guess is that I'll have a different list a year from now; one that will be influenced by new research and by the maturation of the set of phenomena we refer to when we use the term "convergence."


As I put these two books to bed and look for my next challenge, my thoughts keep returning to the observations about the history of journalism education that Tim Bajkiewicz shared in his contribution (summarized in his April 2007 article in this newsletter). Over the century since journalism education was formalized in the U.S., academics and practitioners have continually faced the challenges of new media, new technology, and new processes for gathering and reporting news. Accordingly, it is fitting that we conceptualize convergence as a continuing process that is as old as journalism itself, allowing us to always be prepared to evolve as journalists and journalism educators.


(Note:  Oxford University Press will publish Principles of Convergent Journalism in late 2007 and Understanding Media Convergence in early 2008.)



Book Review:  Branded Entertainment

By Augie Grant, Executive Editor of The Convergence Newsletter


This newsletter focuses primarily on convergent journalism, but we've also taken the liberty of expanding our conceptions of convergence a few times a year. Such an opportunity presented itself when we were asked to review a new book on product placement from Jean-Marc Lehu, Branded Entertainment: Product Placement & Brand Strategy in the Entertainment Business. (London: Kogan Page)


This book provides the most detailed examination to date of the convergence of advertising and media content represented by product placement. The primary strength of the book is the manner in which it integrates large numbers of examples of product placement in a variety of media with systematic research on economics and impact of product placement. As expected, there are chapters on history, legal and ethical issues, practical considerations, and the future trajectory of the practice of produce placement.


The primary weakness in the book is that it presumes that product placement is an accepted practice throughout the media, offering comparatively little discussion of the ethical challenges that emanate from a producer's desire to manipulate a plot or setting in order to help finance production. In an age of DVRs and commercial avoidance, product placement may indeed be unavoidable, but a more comprehensive discussion of the ethical implications of product placement would have strengthened the book.


Journalists may find it interesting that the practice has worked its way into some newsrooms, specifically in the wardrobe credits that sometimes accompany television newscasts, but that is the extent of the direct relevance to the practice of journalism—so far.


So why should a journalist care? Branded Entertainment provides a clear indication of how the economic basis of many media is changing. If we presume that journalists' salaries are paid in part by advertising revenues, some understanding of the role that product placement will play in the future is critical for managers, publishers, and others responsible for making sure that revenues exceed expenses. On a more basic level, product placement represents a convergence in advertising that is as important to that field as multiplatform journalism is to traditional journalism. This is a well-timed book that provides insight and perspective using abundant illustrations.


(Editor’s Note: We review and publicize books related to convergence in all its forms. Please send descriptions of your books, along with information about publishers and availability to: Or you can send a copy of a book to be reviewed to this address)


The Convergence Newsletter

c/o Augie Grant

School of Journalism and Mass Communications

University of South Carolina

Columbia, SC 29208


We look forward to reviewing your book!



---------------Conferences and Calls for Papers



Washington, DC, August 9 – 12, 2007



Convergence and Society: Media Ownership, Control, and Consolidation

University of South Carolina October 11-13, 2007



Online Fundamentals for Newsroom Leaders


October 30, 2007November 1, 2007

Deadline: August 27, 2007



Call for Papers—Special Issue of International Journal on Media Management

Deadline September 1, 2007



International Conference on Information & Communications Technology

“Media Convergence: Moving to the Next Generation"

Information Technology Institute

Cairo, Egypt

December 16-18, 2007  



BEA 2008: The New Communications Frontiers

Las Vegas, Nevada

April 16-19, 2008

Call for Papers deadline: December 3, 2007



---------------Publisher and Editorial Staff


The Convergence Newsletter is free and published by The College of Mass Communications and Information Studies at the University of South Carolina.


Executive Editor

Augie Grant, Ph.D.



Melissa McGill



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The Convergence Newsletter is Copyright © 2007 by the University of South Carolina, College of Mass Communications and Information Studies. All rights reserved.


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The Convergence Newsletter provides an editorially neutral forum for discussion of the theoretical and professional meaning of media convergence. We welcome articles of all sorts addressing the subject of convergence in journalism and media. We also accept news briefs, calls for papers and conference announcements. Our audience is both academics and professionals and the publication style is APA 7th edition. Feature articles should be 750 to 1,500 words; other articles should be 250 to 750 words; announcements and conference submissions should be 200 words. All articles should be submitted to The Convergence Newsletter editor at Please include your name, affiliation and contact information with your submission.


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