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Ipri - Online News : Between Pluralism and Redundancy

The Ipri research project was supported by a grant from the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-09-JCJC-0125-01).

Coordination : F. Rebillard (CIM - Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3)

Main objectives and results

Assessing the degree of online news' diversity.

Pluralism is a major issue in democratic societies. It largely depends on the ability of media to support several views and voices. Concerning online media, some public reports claimed that pluralism would arise from the multiplicity of information sources available on the web. However, scholars remarked that multiple areas of web publishing (news websites from traditional media, blogs, Internet pure players, participatory journalism websites, portals, aggregators) could promote pluralism as well as a certain redundancy of information. The relationship between abundance and diversity of information is at stake and drives many works all over the world through the following research question: "More is Less ?". The Ipri project strived to test this hypothesis in France, by deploying a large-scale study partly based on the emerging tools of digital methods.

A both quantitative and qualitative analysis of online news, from production to circulation.

Based on a sample of 209 websites, very close to the total population of French news websites, a quantitative content analysis was combined with a more qualitative discourse analysis. The quantitative component of this analysis (37 569 articles published in March 2011) was used to determine the levels of variety (number of topics discussed) and balance (share of each topic within the corpus of articles) of news on the web. It was completed by an analysis of the disparity of journalistic treatment upon a same topic. These indicators of "diversity as sent" on the web have been supplemented by an analysis of "diversity as received" including the audience of each site and the flow of news on a social networking site (Twitter). The socioeconomic constraints of online newsmaking were also taken into accounts so as to enlight the results of the content analysis. Finally, the Ipri project aimed at comparing the diversity of online news to that of mass media by conducting an analysis of TV news.

Main results

Editorial diversity seems to be significant, with websites addressing hundreds of topics each day. However, this diversity is unevenly distributed: a few major topics emerge, while many others remain isolated in the meanders of the web. Each website’s contribution to this dual trend reveals a gap within the online news field, between the media mainstream held by infomediaries (portals, aggregators) and conventional online media on the one hand, and the editorial originality brought by blogs and Internet pure players on the other. The latter provide a more subjective journalistic treatment, notably opposed to the professional norms of TV news. All of them nevertheless converge around a dominant media agenda, which itself partly feeds the sharing and discussion of news items on Twitter.

Scientific production

The results of the Ipri project were published in top-ranked scientific journals in the field. In addition, the international conference held at the end of the project, as well as its related publication, contribute to import foreign works about media diversity in France. They are able to help public policies and to inform professionals and citizens. Finally, the partnership around the Transmedia Observatory project can provide an adequate extension to this research.