The Convergence Newsletter
The Convergence Newsletter

From The Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. IX No. 2 (March 2012)

Take heart, editors: Online readers still value your work

By Chris Frear

Convergence need not be just digital. It can be physical, and it can involve workflows. On copy desks, such convergence has been under way with a vengeance during the past five years as news organizations continue to consolidate copy editing into regional hubs and eliminate desk jobs.

This continues to raise questions about the value of editing. One implication from a new study measuring how readers value editing on news websites is that good editing is most obvious when it's missing.

Fred Vultee reports on an American Copy Editors Society-sponsored study of how readers assessed edited and unedited news stories for professionalism, organization, writing, and value. The work is timely as online news sites increasingly ask readers to pay for access.

Also in this edition, Kristen Fortenberry and Tim Brown of the University of Central Florida examine the potential for location-based services on smartphones by looking at the uses and gratifications that users derive from a few of the prominent apps. Their work suggests that orienting apps toward providing information, rather than games, could be the key to attracting users.

The Convergence Newsletter welcomes articles and feedback on any topic related to digital convergence.

The newsletter is a perfect place for a description of front-line issues or for gestating ideas that have not advanced to being ready for peer review. It also is perfect for those aspects of research that are compelling but that, for whatever reason, do not make it into your journal article or had to be so abbreviated that they deserve fuller treatment.

We are especially interested in work by graduate students.

Please e-mail articles or suggestions to us at You can comment on all articles at The Convergence Newsletter blog. View past newsletters at The Convergence Newsletter Archive.


Featured articles

Measuring the value of editing to online readers

Checking out "checking in": Exploring why people use location-based services on cellphones


Quick Glance Calendar (Details)

April 1: Deadline for submissions to Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference

May 9-11: International Conference on Communication, Media, Technology and Design, Istanbul, Turkey

May 17-19: International Association for Literary Journalism Studies Seventh International Conference, Toronto, Canada

May 24-28: International Communication Association conference, Phoenix

May 30-June 2: 11th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Social Sciences, Honolulu

June 10-13: International Symposium on Language and Communication, Izmir, Turkey

June 15: Deadline to submissions to 11th Annual Convergence and Society Conference: Advancing Business Journalism and Convergence, Columbia, S.C.

Aug. 9-12: Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference, Chicago


Featured articles

Measuring the value of editing to online readers

By Frederick Vultee
Wayne State University

If the material posted by the "early team" at your favorite newspaper's website reads as if it came straight from the police blotter, or if the syntax of a story from a television "news partner" is especially cringeworthy, there could be a reason. The editors who provided the anonymous last pair of eyes on hastily written stories in years gone by aren't there at the levels they used to be – if they are there at all.

In an economic environment that puts a premium on unique content and increasingly demands a tangible value factor for investments of staff time, editing's invisible art has become harder to justify from a short-term financial view A 2008 study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that two-thirds of large newspapers reported cuts in their copy-editing ranks; twice as many papers overall were cutting general editors as adding them. "Copy desk editing" led the list of newsroom duties that were shrinking, reported overall at 42 percent of papers. That's the statistical face of a cultural change: The textbook assumption that editing adds value just by being there is now met by a demand to show its benefits match its costs.

This article describes an experiment that addresses whether the traditional "last set of eyes" makes a quantifiable difference. The short answer is yes. To a diverse audience reading multiple stories in an online environment, routine copy editing makes a statistically significant difference in how readers perceive the professionalism, organization, and writing quality of news reports and in whether they see those reports as worth paying for. More importantly, those effects are found across measures of age, ethnicity, news use, and Internet use. They happen in the audience we will have, not just in the audience we wish we still had.

Two highlights:

  • The biggest influence on the value question – whether "stories like this are worth paying for" and whether the reader would return to a website that carried "stories like this" – appears to be perceptions of professionalism. Editing can make a story seem significantly better written or better organized, but if it doesn't move the professionalism meter, it's unlikely to move the "I'd pay for this" meter.
  • Group differences can mask important similarities. Younger readers, linguistic or ethnic minorities, and light users of news sometimes seem more charitable in their perceptions of story quality than older readers and heavier users of news. Most frequently, though, editing adds value for them at the same pace it does for the audience in general.

The study, sponsored by the American Copy Editors Society, began by collecting news reports that seemed to exemplify a "publish first" attitude. Each story was then edited, yielding in all eight articles, each with an edited and an unedited version.

The 119 participants were drawn mostly from a newly created experimental pool that offers extra credit in a campus-wide basic speech course, so most came from outside journalism, PR or communication. The average age of participants was about 24; 42 percent were white and 37 percent black, with others describing themselves mostly as South Asian or Asian-American. More then three-fourths (77 percent) listed English as the only language they speak at home, but 19 other languages were also listed as first or second language spoken at home. Most (57.1 percent) reported getting their news from "the Internet," followed by TV (23.5 percent) and the websites of newspapers and TV stations (7.6 percent).

Audience responses were measured on scales developed from answers that editors provided in an informal survey about markers of editing quality and refined after discussions at the 2011 ACES conference. Participants answered questions like "this story looks like it was written in a hurry," "this is the kind of story I expect from a serious news organization" or "this story isn't consistent in how it talks about people and things." These scales produced three editing variables, which I called professionalism, organization, and writing, and a fourth that seeks to measure the value readers place on the stories.

Everybody in the study read all eight stories, four edited and four unedited. (In this kind of study, participants act as their own control group: If a participant automatically downgrades some story because she hates its topic, she'll have three others in the same condition of editing to smooth out the curve.) Average responses to the four bundled variables were then summed, and those sums were used to compare responses to edited and unedited stories across demographic groups.

The research found a broad aggregate influence of editing on all four outcome variables – professionalism, organization, writing, and value – but editing doesn't change perceptions of every story on every variable. Audience preferences do not give a clear signal about what combination of shortcomings leaves them unmoved, and that inconsistency suggests it's risky to predict a category of stories that simply can't be helped.

In addition, media habits made a difference. Heavier TV users (1.5 or more hours a day), for example, found the unedited stories to be significantly better organized and more professional than lighter users (1 hour or less) did, though there were no corresponding differences in how they viewed edited stories. An earlier version of the study found that readers who get their news from "the Internet" consider edited stories worse-organized than unedited stories. The replication found a similar pattern, but not at the traditional level of statistical significance. Those findings call for further study, but for now, they're a reminder that the editing traditions of my J-school days may not hold for the audiences my students will be trying to reach.

Finally, the readers for whom editing makes the least difference – sometimes none at all – are the ones who see their political views and the media's as most similar. Readers who see themselves as off to the right or left of the media are the ones who perceive the biggest improvements from editing.

The study takes an impressionistic view of editing; it doesn't offer a way to measure editing time in the way bylines or blog posts can be counted. It does find that editing affects a general audience's perceptions of the quality of the news read and that some of those perceptions help drive the audience's willingness to come back. Those findings suggest that copy editing should have a place in the convergence process.

Frederick Vultee,, is an assistant professor of journalism at Wayne State University.

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Checking out "checking in": Exploring why people use location-based services on cellphones

By Kristen Fortenberry and Tim Brown
University of Central Florida

Who would want to share that they were at a White Castle restaurant? More importantly, what would they get out of sharing that information?

After my friend Elisha used Foursquare and Facebook to post her dining location at a White Castle in Staten Island, the answers followed quickly on her Facebook page: "You're checking in at White Castle? Do you not know how much I love White Castles and how jealous I am right now?" A string of posts filled the page, and it seemed that everyone had something to say about eating "rat burgers" on Staten Island.

Check-in apps, including Foursquare, Facebook Places, Google Latitude, Urbanspoon, Yelp, and others, can be used to check in to locations, write reviews, earn deals, and get directions to local hot spots. But what do check-in app users like Elisha get out of posting information on their whereabouts?

Existing research has explored why people use cellphones, digital games, friend networking websites, GPS devices, and location-based services [1]. However, there's a lack of in-depth research into why individuals use location-based services in general and why they use specific LBS apps.

Studying LBS App Users

In the summer of 2011, we began to study why people choose to use, or not use, LBS on their cell phones. Our theoretical framework was uses and gratifications and the technology acceptance model. The ultimate goal was to find out what uses of LBS would drive people to local businesses.

We developed an online survey that asked individuals about their mobile phone use, proclivity to use coupons, and information-seeking habits using their cellphones. We focused on responses from smartphone users since they generally have access to LBS apps. We recruited a snowball sample by sending the survey link to individuals via email blast, a Facebook event, and tweets on Twitter. Respondents could forward the survey link to their friends, then to their friends, and so forth. I also forwarded the survey link to three personal contacts I knew as frequent LBS users, including Foursquare fanatic "Elisha."


After two weeks, 413 people had responded. Of those, 210 said they used LBS apps on their smartphones – 21.4 percent used Facebook Places most often, followed by Fandango (a movie information and ticket site, 15.7 percent), UrbanSpoon (a restaurant finder, 13.8 percent), Google Latitude (11.9 percent), other (11.9 percent), Yelp (11.0 percent), and Foursquare (10.5 percent). In keeping with other studies, we looked at specific uses for LBS apps and found two primary uses:

  1. Information seeking – finding information about a location [2]
  2. Information producing – checking in, rating, writing a review [3]

We also found a moderate, significant relationship between sociability and checking in [4]. In other words, it supported the notion that highly social people (like Elisha) might check in to locations more frequently.

Those who were likely to look for and redeem coupons using their LBS app taught us that they were also likely to get enjoyment out of doing so and likely to see the social aspect of LBS (such as using Facebook Places or Foursquare). These were moderate but significant connections.

The reasons people chose not to use LBS, even though they had the ability to, is eye-opening as well. More than 80 percent (n=89) of non-users said they can find information in other ways, and more than 60 percent (n=87) of non-users said they had no need for LBS in the first place. This does not appear to be a situation where people don't know how to use these apps or aren't familiar with them. They just don't seem to want to use them.

What Does It All Mean?

The highest means for motives of using LBS were usefulness [5] and seeking consumer information [6]. These were highly correlated [7], which suggests that people who look for and find consumer information like it. That tells us that while most users are pretty ambivalent about their reasons for using LBS, they primarily want something in return. However, users don't see a connection between coupon redemption and usefulness. It appears people are more focused on finding information about what they want to do than they are on getting a deal. Nonusers know about LBS, but don't see the apps as useful and think they can get information in other ways. If businesses want to use LBS as a marketing tool to get consumers in the door, they will need to go beyond engaging them with coupons and badges. They must turn information into use.

Next Steps

It appears from this early work that usefulness is a key factor in LBS apps use. While that may seem obvious, it does lead to more threads of research about what users consider useful. It appears that deals or apps that provide users with money savings are not popular or seen as effective; however, apps that help users determine whether they will save money or find exactly what they want to spend their money on appear to be more useful. While this research doesn't answer the question directly, it does appear that users are much more focused on making their own decisions based on the information they get through their mobile apps. It could be that the users of these apps are much more focused on information seeking and that they are goal-directed toward using that information for its purpose – to make a purchase. In other words, more social types like Elisha may be fond of checking in to spread the news of their whereabouts, but they view LBS apps more for having fun and finding information than for getting a deal.

Whereas casual users may be more oriented to entertainment uses, focused users are more likely to have specific goals in mind when they search for information. Future studies should look for a more direct connection between the user and the information he or she desires.

Kristen Fortenberry, a master's student, studies with Associate Professor Tim Brown in the Nicholson School of Communication at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Fla.

[1] Wei, R., & Lo, V.-H. (2006). Staying connected while on the move: Cell phone use and social connectedness. New Media and Society, 8(1), 53-72; Korhonen, H., Montola, M., & Arrusvuori, J. (2009). Understanding playful user experience through digital games. Proceedings of DPPI; Raacke, J., & Bonds-Raacke, J. (2008). MySpace and Facebook: Applying the uses and gratifications theory to exploring friend-networking sites. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 11(2), 169-174; Cobanoglu, C., Ciccarelli, S., Nelson, R. R., & Demicco, F. J. (2010). Using Global Positioning Systems as a Marketing Tool: An Analysis of U.S. Consumers' Use and Perceptions. Journal of Hospitality Marketing & Management, 19(6), 556-574; and Schoendienst, V., Dang-Xuan, L., & Guenther, O. (2011). Investigating early adopters' use of location-based social networks: Implications for local businesses and service providers. Wirtschaftinformatik Proceedings 2011. Paper 3. Retrieved from (Return)

[2] M=.62, SD =.63 The means of these two uses are below 1 because respondents were allowed to rate "don't know/doesn't apply" as "0." (Return)

[3] M=.84, SD=.81 (Return)

[4] r=.48, p< .001 (Return)

[5] M=3.4, SD=.95 (Return)

[6] M=3.3, SD=.93, just above the midpoint of 3 (Return)

[7] r=.70, p<.001 (Return)

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Conferences, Training, and Calls for Papers (Return to top)

ACES Award for Research on Editing
Newspaper Division, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
Deadline to submit paper: April 1, 2012


International Conference on Communication, Media, Technology and Design
May 9-11, 2012


International Association for Literary Journalism Studies 7th International Conference
May 17-19, 2012


International Communication Association conference
May 24-28, 2012


11th Annual Hawaii International Conference on Social Sciences
May 30-June 2, 2012


International Symposium on Language and Communication
Izmir, Turkey
June 10-13, 2012


11th Annual Convergence and Society Conference: Advancing Business Journalism and Convergence
University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C.
Deadline to submit research papers: June 15, 2012


Annual Conference, Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Chicago
August 9-12, 2012


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: Doug Fisher

Editor: Christopher Frear

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The Convergence Newsletter provides an editorially neutral forum for discussion of the theoretical and professional meaning of media convergence in all forms including technological, organizational, operational, psychological, and sociological. We welcome articles of all sorts and encourage those addressing the subject in new ways and with new perspectives. We also accept news briefs, book reviews, calls for papers and conference announcements. Our audience is both academic and professional; the publication style is AP for copy and APA for citations.

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