2.1 Analogue interfaces vs. digital interfaces of news media
The time we spend on reading news sources, especially newspapers, has steadily fallen in the past decade (Dimmick, Chen, & Li, 2009). This is partly due to the fact that an average newspaper reader gains his or her information from several other sources, especially the web. The internet has vastly changed the accessibility of information and in so the diversity of news sources. One of the effects this generated is the uncontrolled and unchecked copying that many outlets implement. This means that by the time they read a newspaper, they mostly are abreast of the main news.
Furthermore, the form in which the content is given has changed the way of taking in the news, as most readers are prone to ingest the text non-linear, i.e. they are more likely to read the text criss-cross, just absorbing specific fragments (Unger, 2007). This means that a majority of users is not reading the entire text from a to b, but is rather perusing, only ingesting those parts that accommodate their personal worldview. Another reason for taking samples rather than reading (and in so remembering) the complete text can be to prevent an ‘information overload’. This means that too much diversified information is absorbed by the user, which can invoke a mental overload. It can cause a paralyzing feeling, which may amplify the fear that the proffered information is far too complex for the user to interpret and comprehend.
To communicate successfully means to present the information in such a way, that it guaranties that a selection is made, by which the information is analysed and weighted against its primary message and the level of complexity in which it is offered. The pressure on trustworthy media has compelled many of these to monopolise content, in order to generate a greater number of readers. Bourdieu states: “To exist in a field […] is to differentiate oneself. It can be said of an intellectual that he or she functions like a phoneme in a language: he or she exists by virtue of difference from other intellectuals. Falling into undifferentiatedness [ ….] means losing existence.”(Bourdieu, 2005:39/40). This ‘losing’ of existence is being uphold, not only by uncritically copying, but also by the branding profile of the newspaper(s). Again the social aspect becomes of major importance. The more you are ‘seen’, the better.
Most news sources use a set of design principles, such as distribution of content and divided themes (opinion, science, field work). They use a specific language level to communicate their information, all the while trying to evade a (above-discussed) information overload, at the same time branding their unique identity. As the news media uses a synchronous continuum of headliner news, opinion articles, entertainment, lifestyle and sport (visually) written in their own language they, play an integral role in the distribution of content. This also re-evaluates the use of an interplay between analogue and/or digital versions of the news. Not only online information functions differently from the previously discussed analogue predecessors, journalism functions differently as well. Some news sources attempt to give a more elaborate view on the given content, and while others are meant to be used as a source where a user can find quick updates on current happenings.
For example, the analogue newspaper has, in time, been redefined, because it is not perceived as a universal source anymore, but rather as a go-to for (additional) information. It is mainly judged to be a product for older generations; users that enjoy leisurely spend their time reading the news. The form in which an analogue version is presented creates the idea that more time is needed to invest in using it to reach the desired level of information. A digital version is mostly presented as an easy, low level source, that briefly guides the user through the current happenings in simple terms. It mostly contains visuals, whereby it assumes a role as entertainer as well. Many digital news media contain articles that operate ‘clickbait’, in order to rapidly gain high(er) viewer percentages. One of the positive facets of the way online news is presented, is the possibility to create a hypertext. This means that the text has incorporated hyperlinks to other information sources, that may assist you in understanding how the content came into being; thereby further enabling the user on subjects that appear in the content, which are of specific interest to the user. This strengthens the user by conducting his/her own research to his/her satisfaction, using the additional sources provided by the journalist(s).
This direct interaction with the content creates a possibility for a social community to communicate through the news source. Users might leave comments on the bottom of the page or contribute personally to a debate on the topic, for instance via a forum. This new form of ingesting and interacting with information is leading to a different usage of the content. Sometimes it might even result in a large amount of time spend on reading and discussing an article. This exemplifies how consumption differs between the analogue and the digital, where the former triggers heavy investment in isolation (as described above), while the latter instigates more thorough usage through social interaction. Both the analogue and digital version of one and the same news source uses different elements, applicable within its given interface. Despite this difference news sources still tend to design the digital version along the same lines as their analogue counterpart. A possible reason for this might be the fact that analogue news is perceived as carrying of higher authority than digital ones, since the former is only sporadically combined with other kinds of news sources. Thereby, the power of information stays isolated within the printed pages. Paradoxically: this is something everyone is eager to copy and pursue.