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Interpreting statistics for relevancy

March 15, 2010

Interpreting statistics for relevancy

By Denise Scammon

The assignment: Take five peer-reviewed articles on any topic and review the statistics in each. I chose five articles relevant to the newspaper industry. What follows here are excerpts from my paper.

1. Ghanem, S., & Selber, K. (2009). An Analysis of Slogans Used to ‘Sell the News’. Newspaper Research Journal, 30(2), 16-29. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

The authors, professors in the Department of Communication at the University of Texas-Pan American, set out to analyze how newspapers use slogans to promote their papers. Using statistics from Newspaper Association of America, the authors report that “circulation numbers for daily print papers decreased about 12.5 percent from 1996 to 2006, even though there were about 17 more dailies in 2006 than in 1996.” Statistics from Neilson/NetRatings report that from “July 2007 to July 2008, monthly online unique viewers to news.com sites increased by approximately 14 percent.”

These findings reveal the problem that newspapers are facing: How do we increase our readership to increase our circulation and satisfy advertisers? The authors analyzed 744 newspaper branding slogans at print and online daily and weekly newspapers to determine how newspapers promote themselves in order to attract a larger audience. For their analysis, the authors researched earlier “in-depth qualitative” studies, they revealed the research questions asked about each slogan and methods used in the research such as the total number of newspapers examined and percentages of those that fit into named categories. Their findings give statistical information about the slogans, such as whether or not literary devices are used, whether or not the brand is identified, benefits of a slogan, whether or not the slogan was generic enough for a competitor to use, whether or not timeliness or geographic location are mentioned, and more. These findings were then numerically analyzed by the variables of print versus online. A comparison table of print, online, daily and weekly papers revealed the quality of the slogans with an alpha grade from A to F in a variety of categories.

2. Lewis, S. (2008). Where Young Adults Intend To Get News in Five Years. Newspaper Research Journal, 29(4), 36-52. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

The author, a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin, conducted research that led him to conclude that the drop in young adults reading newspapers will turn around in five years. A survey conducted at two universities looked to answer two questions: “How do young adults perceive news today, and how do they intend to approach news in the future?” Lewis included earlier studies and findings that proposed that the young adult perceives news as a diversion and entertainment. The author used research on the “theory of planned behavior” to apply to his theory that “behavioral intention can predict actual future behavior, as demonstrated through several meta-analyses of the empirical literature.”

Lewis included in his research non-traditional news sources such as Facebook, Myspace, YouTube and fake-news shows. He shares the two research questions and the method he used: “a Web-based survey was conducted of a random sample of college students at two large public universities.” He used the Public Information Act to request the e-mail addresses of the college students and then used statistical software to generate the random students to participate in the survey.

Lewis explains his use of variables, why using a single variable was not as accurate in creating a scale of the responses as using “split variables,” and the dependent variables. Lewis profiles the young adults questioned in the survey and then an easy-to-understand percentage table was constructed from the students’ answers which shows these five categories: “time and effort consuming, satisfies civic and personal needs, socially useful, devoid of fun and biased.” Table 2 showed present sources of news, expected future sources of news, and the difference, all shown as percentages.

The top three current news sources are online news sites, campus newspaper (print version), and a tie between network TV news and radio. The top three expected future sources of news are online news sites, network TV news and local TV news (print newspapers came in sixth yet that statistic put in perspective translates to going from 14 to 41 percent increase). Lewis explains how future research could improve on his survey such as not taking the random sample from only college students and not making it Web-based only.

3. Picard, R. (2008). Shifts in newspaper advertising expenditures and their implications for the future of newspapers. Journalism Studies, 9(5), 704-716. doi:10.1080/14616700802207649.

The author, of Media Management and Transformation Centre, Jo¨nko¨ ping International Business School, uses a U.S. dataset from 1950 to 2005 to analyze whether and how long-term trends in advertising will affect newspaper revenue. Picard separates the two purposes of a newspaper: journalism and advertising, with advertising being the vehicle that supports journalism. Advertising spending is dependent on the economy wherein during a recession advertisers spend less money.

Picard used a lot of statistical presentations such as charts, graphs and tables to make his findings have significance. Statistics were used to show newspaper share total of U.S. advertising expenditures and also among different media (%), the relation between advertising expenditure and the Gross National Product. Picard states, “Changes in newspaper retail advertising expenditures have generally followed the trend for change in GDP, but began diverging and underperforming about 20 years ago” noting that classified advertising follows the same trend but with more “volatility.”

Picard’s conclusion is that newspapers aren’t going to die out and disappear, but rather, “the shifts in newspaper advertising are removing the unusually high profitability of the industry” and making newspapers “less financially interesting to investors who were primarily interested in profits and asset growth.”

4. Schultz, B., & Sheffer, M. (2009). Newspaper Managers Report Positive Attitudes about Blogs. Newspaper Research Journal, 30(2), 30-42. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

The authors are professors in the journalism and communication departments of universities in Mississippi. Their research finds that newspapers are “investing in online formats… which could help media businesses improve efficiency and effectiveness and enhance communication with audiences… and that online content has a non-monetary value in terms of enhanced coverage and brand loyalty.”

The authors developed two hypotheses and a research question: “Do demographic variables correlate to significant differences in managers’ perceptions and attitudes toward blogging?” And the demographic information would include “gender, size of news media outlet and age/years of professional experience.” Surveys were e-mailed to media managers with known e-mail addresses who were invited to participate in the survey. Bias may be found in the sample.

A table was used to compare newspaper manager response with newspaper journalist response using the mean for each group as well as the mean difference for categories such as “Blogging has increased our audience,” “Blogging makes an important contribution to our coverage,” and “Lack of blog training is a problem.” The authors note that the “response was heavily skewed toward males (80 percent).”

5. Stempel, I., & Hargrove, T. (2008). Comparison of Demographics For Media in 1995, 2006. Newspaper Research Journal, 29(2), 83-90. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

Stempel is a journalism professor and Hargrove is a reporter/researcher for a news agency. The authors looked at earlier studies and stressed that the earlier studies were researching “reliance and not use” meaning the earlier studies looked at the source people used for reliable news as opposed to what news source was used more often.

The three research questions revolved around the change in media and demographic patterns in 1995 and 2006, and what these patterns show for future trends. The samples used “geographically stratified random digit dialing” which was then broken down into a four-stage sampling procedure.

The results were depicted in tables that showed percentages and relevancy to media including newspapers and network TV news, national versus local. The biggest problem is keyed on retaining and growing the young adult readers demographic. The authors suggest that people of a certain age don’t care to read about people older than themselves: “It would not be a big surprise if those less than 42 are not particularly interested in reading about people more than 42.”

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