The chain of information transmission is made of of three major links; producers, packagers, and consumers. One of our clients in the communications industry wanted to respond to the changing media landscape by understanding and addressing the needs of the journalist community, or the “packagers” of information.
While mass media outlets have covered the changing media landscape, there is less material available on how journalists themselves interpret, use, and discuss new methods of accessing and transmitting information.
Our client wanted to understand the techniques professional journalists currently use to find information online, what their needs are, and how to develop useful online tools to meet these needs. Or, basically, figure out how to serve an untapped and overlooked market segment.
While the primary study objective wasn’t particularly difficult, finding the right participants would make all the difference in the depth and breadth of the feedback. We not only needed to find a diverse mix of geographic dispersion, media outlets, and “beat” coverage, but also find the journalists most likely to use the online tools our client wanted to develop. Professional journalists committed to traditional sources, like the landline telephone, probably would not have much advice to give on a good RSS feed management tool for finding story leads.
We figured out pretty early on that recruiting participants online would guarantee finding only the web-savvy journalists, who could articulate their changing needs in the new media landscape. Not to mention the fact that the online environment makes it easy to attain the best possible mix of important demographic considerations.
Study participants revealed a number of important credibility considerations when evaluating online sources of information, as well as a taxonomy, or hierarchy of new media sources. Based on respondent feedback, we found that websites like Digg were OK for story ideas, but that in-depth research ought to be conducted through more credible (quotable) channels such as news aggregators, and subscription databases.
By efficiently finding participants who knew a thing or two about conducting a Google search, we came away with a lot of important insight for the client. We were able to uncover why journalists typically prefer certain online sources to others, which allowed us to give the client a set of guidelines for developing useful online tools for journalists.