Quality Measurement as a Major Challenge in a Convergent Media World


1. Media Convergence and Journalistic Quality

One of the decisive developments in the digitalization of journalism is the convergence of previously separate ways of workflows in producing and distributing information (e.g. Deuze, 2008; Jenkins, 2006). Generally speaking, media convergence takes place on four different levels: organization, planning, production and publication. Although communication science has accompanied convergence processes in media companies for a long time, it has so far largely omitted studying the effects of convergence on the quality of content (exceptions are e.g. Neuberger et al., 2009; Rinsdorf, 2011).

One of the main problems is that for the complex measurement of quality in convergent media environments many of the standard methods are no longer sufficient. We are currently devoting several research projects to this problem and would like to present their methodology and key challenges at the IAMCR 2020.

Our approach focuses on diversity as an essential factor of journalistic quality. We are dealing with two major research questions:

RQ1: How does convergence affect diversity in news journalism?

RQ2: What methodological challenges do we face if we want to make this diversity measurable?

2. Diversity Measurement

Diversity can and should be analyzed at different levels. The subdivision of diversity into functional diversity, structural diversity and content diversity is established in communication science (Schatz & Schulz, 1992). At the macro-level, functional diversity refers to the number of journalistic units on the print market (e.g. Schütz, 2012) and the number of transmitters/channels on the broadcasting market (e.g. Brosius & Zubayr, 1996). At the meso-level, structural diversity comprises genres and departments (e.g. Engesser, 2013; Rossmann, Brandl, & Brosius, 2003) as well as different journalistic or program formats (e.g. Kolb, 2015; Maurer, 2009; Rossmann et al., 2003; Schatz & Schulz, 1992). At the micro-level, this refers to the diversity of content. More precisely, the diversity of sources, actors, opinions, topics, places of action, news factors and cultural/ethnic groups contained in a journalistic article (e.g. Engesser, 2013; Köster & Wolling, 2006; Schatz & Schulz, 1992).

3. Challenges in the Convergent Media World

To adequately investigate the influence of media convergence on diversity, it is necessary to develop instruments that measure the degree of digitization or convergence of a medium as well as the diversity of its outputs on the levels of production, distribution and consumption.

In the project we would like to present, the degree of organizational convergence in news journalism will be examined through expert interviews with editorial and program managers of opinion-relevant newspapers/magazines on the print market and broadcasters on the broadcasting market in Germany combined with editorial observations. Additionally, we will measure diversity at the level of media actors (macro-level), within editorial offices at the departmental level (meso-level) and also at the level of the diversity of content of articles and contributions (micro-level). Therefore, we want to develop and test (partially) automated methods of diversity measurement in order to create diversity indices on as broad of a data basis as possible.