The Convergence Newsletter
The Convergence Newsletter

From The Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. IX No. 4 (May 2012)

Convergence Reaches Beyond the Merger of Devices into Departments

By Chris Frear

Digital convergence has reached beyond news departments into the business office, suggests Augie Grant, our newsletter's founding editor. As a result, he writes in this edition, journalists must learn the basics of business to thrive in the changing environment.

But even as convergence reaches beyond the traditional newsroom and outside the traditional audience bound by geography, reporters must consider who is being missed in the process. Amanda Sturgill of Elon University explains an exercise she conducts with journalism students to highlight the need for a well-considered, multichannel approach to include overlooked and underserved populations in reporting the news.

The 11th Annual Convergence and Society Conference will address the emerging changes in the journalism industry following the global financial crisis. The conference will explore the frontiers of both convergent journalism and enterprising business journalism with an array of panel discussions, essays, demonstrations, and research presentations. The deadline for paper submissions is June 15. See below for more details.

For more than a decade, The Convergence Newsletter has offered a forum for research and discussion about digital convergence in all its varied and constantly changing aspects.

The newsletter provides a place to describe front-line issues for practitioners and for professors training a new generation of reporters and editors. The newsletter is ideal for those ideas or parts of research projects that are compelling but deserve fuller treatment beyond a journal article.

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

Our New Definition of Convergence Must Include Business

Beyond Twitter: Learning How to Reach All of Your Readers


Quick Glance Calendar (Details)

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 submit papers for the 11th Annual Convergence and Society
Conference: Advancing Business Journalism and Convergence, Columbia, S.C.

June 30: Deadline to submit papers for the Social Media Technology Conference & Workshop, Washington

August 1: Deadline to submit research papers for the Annual International Conference on Journalism & Mass Communications, Singapore

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

September 27-28: Social Media Technology Conference & Workshop, Washington

December 3-4: Annual International Conference on Journalism & Mass Communications, Singapore


Featured articles

Our New Definition of Convergence Must Include Business

By Augie Grant
University of South Carolina

When Oxford University Press asked Jeff Wilkinson, Doug Fisher, and me to write a second edition of Principles of Convergent Journalism, one of our goals was adding practical discussions not included in the first edition. It was clear we needed an additional chapter on social media and that many instructors wanted the book to include a more thorough discussion of the basics and ethics of journalism.

But the biggest missing piece from my perspective was examining the convergence of media's business and editorial sides. Since the Internet became a mass medium, journalism has hemorrhaged jobs for a decade. Our understanding of the new economics of media is still in its infancy and continues to rapidly evolve. To provide a basic framework toward that end, we created a new chapter that seeks to explain the business side of journalism. There were many reasons for expanding our definition of "convergence" to include intra-organizational convergence as well as convergent journalism:

  • We realize that many of our students will be promoted to positions of management responsibility, and we wanted to offer a clear explanation of the business side to facilitate those transitions.
  • Many other students will be working as entrepreneurial journalists, responsible for selling their stories and managing their income and expenses.
  • Still other students will end up working outside of journalism, and basic knowledge of business practices will help them navigate almost any (legal) business.
In a nutshell, here's what we think that every journalism student needs to know about the business side of journalism:
  1. A fundamental understanding of the basic equation: R-E=P, or revenues minus expenses equals profit. Rather than downplay this side of journalism, from now on we should stress that this actually comes first. No business practice anywhere is done for free, and reporting the news is no exception.
  2. Ability to analyze business practices over time. Cutting expenses can lead to higher profits in the short term. But the best long-term way to increase profits is to increase expenses today with the goal of increasing long-term revenues. This is the process of investment, and our students need to know that managing a newsroom's finances involves more than just cutting expenses.
  3. An understanding that all expenses are an investment by the organization. Some investments (such as promotion) are designed to yield immediate payback, while others (such as an enterprise reporting series) are designed to enhance the value of the organization over the long term.
  4. Revenue sources: Today's media organizations typically have many new sources of revenue, including online advertising, paywalls, and content licensing. Journalists need to know about all of these not only for business reasons but also to ensure their reporting efforts can help maximize revenues.
  5. Expenses: Similarly, everyone on the news team should know the major categories of expenses, especially the relatively high proportion of salary expenses and all of the costs associated with salaries, including benefits, payroll taxes, and training.

We recognize the risk in pulling our students to the other side of the "firewall" that has traditionally separated editorial functions of media from business functions. But, after using convergence as an impetus to cross other boundaries in the newsroom (e.g., reporting and photography), it is clear that many organizations are also looking at convergence between the business and editorial sides of the operation.

We are not advocating that every journalist has to graduate with a working knowledge of all aspects of the media business (that's left to courses in management and marketing). But we believe that, just as every journalist should know how to write a story in different media, take simple photos, shoot and edit video, and create a Web shell, so should every journalist always remember that balancing basic revenues and expenses is what keeps the newsroom running.

In the meantime, we continue debating whether the traditional firewall between editorial and business functions in a newsroom should be kept intact or whether there is a need to make the firewall less of a barrier and more of a tool to assist ethical behavior. We'd like to hear your thoughts.

Augie Grant, the J. Rion McKissick Professor of Journalism, is the founding editor of this newsletter and co-author of Principles of Convergent Journalism. The second edition is scheduled for publication June 15 by Oxford University Press.

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Beyond Twitter: Learning How to Reach All of Your Readers

By Amanda Sturgill
Elon University

Coming as they do from a high-speed, smart-phoned, media rich life in which communication technology has always played a starring role, some of my students have difficulty making content and format decisions related to their journalism work in an audience-appropriate way. For example, when we simulate breaking news coverage of a campus lockdown, invariably they try to cover the entire two-hour story through Twitter, ignoring the fact that many potential audience members are from demographics that aren't heavy Twitter users.

When I attended the faculty Boot Camp at Newsplex in 2011, one exercise involved looking at photographs of people and discussing how they were likely to get their news. I decided to take this one step further, by having my students actually go out and talk to potential readers/viewers.

Here's how it works:

In advance of class, I prepare for every student a copy of the following assignment. I assign them to ages and genders (18-24 female, 18-24 male, 25-34 female, 25-34 male, 35-44 female, 35-44 male, 45-54 female, 45-54 male, 55-64 female, 55-64 male, over 65 female, over 65 male) and use duplicates of these until every student has an assignment. They are given 90 minutes to go find a person of this description, interview the person, and post the results in a shared Google Document (on Google Drive). Everyone has to read the Google Doc prior to the next class.

Meet your audience

The audience for on-line journalism is varied and sometimes difficult for us to appreciate. Your task today is to meet someone from a potential audience and to learn from them their interests and media usage patterns. You need to write to me a written summary of the answers in the Google Doc I have sent to you by 5 p.m. today.

You are assigned to find a ____________ who is between _________ and ____________ years old.

You should ask this person, at minimum, the following questions, although you may choose to ask more questions, also.

  1. Who did you interview and a few demographics (age, occupation, etc.)?
  2. Do you follow the news?
  3. If yes, which of the following do you use to follow the news?
  4. a. Radio
    b. Network television
    c. Cable television
    d. Local newspaper (like the Times-News or the Greensboro News-Record)
    e. National newspaper (like the New York Times or the Wall St. Journal)
    f. News magazines
    g. Legacy news websites (like or
    h. News aggregators (like Google news or Yahoo news)
    i. News through social media like Facebook or Twitter
    j. What news outlet do you follow the most regularly?
  5. Which one is the most important to you?
  6. When do you catch up on the news? (What times of day?)
  7. Do you have a mobile device like a mobile phone or iPad?
  8. Do you use it to keep up with news?
  9. Can you describe a typical day with you and the news?
  10. If there were an emergency in Burlington, what would you do to find out what is going on?
  11. If there was a crisis elsewhere in the US like a hurricane or bombing, what would you do to find out what was going on?
  12. If there were a crisis in another county, what would you do to find out what is going on?
  13. Do you consider yourself well informed? Why or why not?

The next class, we discuss their findings. Many of the students complete this assignment with people they find on our campus, which is fine. They are surprised to find that even among this relatively well-educated community, not only is there not a huge interest in news on mobile devices or even on the Web, but also many people they interview do not follow the news at all. We discuss reasons for this and ways that journalists can make the news more appealing to readers. We end by taking a few examples of recent stories and considering in what manner and media those stories might be covered in order to reach the largest audience.

I find that I can ask students to read demographic profiles of readership or I can tell them in class, but actually going and talking to their prospective audience makes a difference in their taking the issue to heart.

Amanda Sturgill, associate professor of communications at Elon University, teaches journalism and new media. Her research focuses on the effectiveness of communication technology for disadvantaged populations.

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

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


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


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


Social Media Technology Conference & Workshop
Deadline to submit research papers: June 30


Annual International Conference on Journalism & Mass Communications
Deadline to submit research papers: August 1


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


11th Annual Convergence and Society Conference: Advancing Business Journalism
and Convergence
University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C.
September 27-28


Social Media Technology Conference & Workshop
September 27-28


Annual International Conference on Journalism & Mass Communications
December 3-4


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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Submission Guidelines

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.

Feature articles should be 750 to 1,200 words. Other articles and reviews should be 250 to 750 words; announcements and conference submissions should be no more than 200 words. Please send all articles to The Convergence Newsletter editor at along with your name, affiliation and contact information.The newsletter is published monthly except January and July. Please submit all articles by the 15th of the month to be considered for the next month's issue.

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