The relationship between journalism and its audience is changing, yielding consequences for what journalists cover and how. The project, which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), examines the breadth, depth, and diversity of this re-figuration and its consequences.
Different forms of "measuring" the audience – for instance, through circulation figures – and letting audience members participate – for example through letters to the editor – have long been part of journalistic routines. The current re-figuration of journalism's relationship to its audience, however, is characterised by a new complexity, increasingly involves external actors, and signifies a fundamental expansion of journalists' job and function: The contact with the audience now takes place in real-time and via a multitude of different channels (e.g., e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, events); web analytics companies, social media, and their algorithms shape journalists' encounters with and images of their audience; and, in addition to the production and distribution of content, journalists perform tasks, such as the management of follow-up communication, networking, interaction with or even collaboration by users. This has a lasting influence on how journalism, its products, its societal function and its audience are "thought of", created, disseminated, used and judged. However, this re-figuration does not take place simultaneously and uniformly in all journalistic organizations or among all journalists. For journalistic start-ups in particular, a new understanding of their audience relationship often seems to be at the centre of their ideas and "doing" of journalism. The project captures this diversity of change and its respective significance for journalists' work and reporting.
The project, which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), was developed within the framework of the research network Communicative Figurations
and is based on the project "(Re-)Discovering the Audience
." We consider the abovementioned phenomena to be interrelated and take this into account in an empirical-analytical three-step process: first, we reconstruct journalists' audience relations in all their facets (the journalists' understanding of their societal, their audience image, forms of audience participation, "datafication" of the audience, etc.). Second, we analyse how these relationships influence the journalists' everyday work and their reporting, for instance, if they trigger research on a topic, add to journalistic contributions, or change a journalist's view of a story. Third, we examine both these aspects in established media organisations as well as in journalistic start-ups, in order to compare what the different organisational contexts in which journalists work mean for their audience relationship and its influence on news (work). To this end, we conduct interviews with journalists on how they produced particular news stories and combine this with a diary app in which they document and evaluate relevant audience contacts. In addition, we analyse the journalists' stories for "traces of the audience", the corresponding audience feedback (user comments, social media posts, emails etc.) as well as how the audience contributes to the dissemination of the stories in social networks.
Together with the projects on "Pioneer Journalism
" and "Public Connection
", the project forms a research package that will offer a broad and detailed insight into the re-figuration of public communication in times of "deep mediatisation."