Why Dutchies consume news – abstract of my Master’s thesis

Existing literature in media and political studies have shown that public knowledge is a prerequisite for a properly functioning democracy. Whilst the content that (news) media organisations offer is positively correlated with citizen’s knowledge about society, it is currently unknown how exactly this effect takes place. Worthwhileness covers this gap by understanding what influences citizen-consumers’ use of (news) media: why is it that they consume news? Where many uses-and-gratifications studies provide scattered information, worthwhileness studies take a coherent approach with respect for the (socio-economic) context of the (news) user-consumer.

Worthwhileness exists of six dimensions, each with several sub-dimensions, that make up the ‘worthwhileness equation’ based upon which news consumers select media. These dimensions are Situational fit, (Normative) pressure, Textuality, Materiality, Participatory potential, and Affordability. Whilst the concept has been developed over the past years, this study is the first to provide an integral review of the dimensions, identifying new sub-dimensions, suggesting some changes to the dimensions, and providing links to related concepts and fields.

The literature is the basis of a survey set out amongst Dutch students. By empirically using the concept and its range of (sub-)dimensions, this study firstly tests the fitness of dimensions: is there a ground to use the constellation of the (sub-)dimensions as they have been developed from literature? It does so mainly by performing an Exploratory Factor Analysis. Secondly, the first application of the concept is used to develop insights into why Dutch students consume news media. To this aim, respondents are asked to rank dimensions and reply to a large set of statements that represent the different sub-dimensions of the concept.

Although, due to its set-up, this study only focuses on perceived worthwhileness and does not account for (socio-economic) control variables, results show that ‘content’ is perceived as most important: news should be enthralling and narrative, and should represent their own world-views but at the same time provide multiple perspectives. In line with previous studies, although respondents’ answers may be socially desirable, results suggest students value (civic and everyday) connectivity. Improving democracy is a matter of making news interesting, increasing representation of the democratic institutions in news headlines, and ensuring presentness of news platforms in young people’s daily life. ‘Situational fit’ is the second-most influential factor. Students mostly consume news in public transport on their own, or at the home, often with parents in the evening if not alone in bed or at the toilet. Results suggest a high level of ‘worthwhileness by default’, meaning that news consumption logically aligns with location, time, people and (the absence of) meaningful activities at hand.

Results also provide (inconclusive) evidence that worthwhileness is sound and that its dimensions are fit. The ‘people’s sub-dimension has been shown to be relevant for ‘situational fit’, the EFA provides evidence for the fitness of other dimensions. Results also suggest to re-group the ‘time’ dimension under the new ‘affordability’ dimension, rather than removing it.

Image(s)/Beeld: “ReadingCC BY NC by/door Rik Lomas.

You may also like...