Data exchanges behind the curtain: the case of news apps for smartphones

Aske Kammer

Publikation: Konferencebidrag - EJ publiceret i proceeding eller tidsskriftKonferenceabstrakt til konferenceForskningpeer review


The news media have traditionally operated in a two-sided market model (Picard, 2002), exchanging journalistic content for money from audiences and the same audiences’ attention for money from advertisers. In the digital age, however, the entrance of a body of new actors means that a new type of exchange has emerged, namely that between the news media and third-party actors who offer audience metrics, visibility on social media, improved performance of digital news media, etc., in exchange for data on audiences and their online behavior. Earlier research has shown that the trade with such data constitutes a component of various media firms’ web-based business models (Bechmann, Bilgrav-Nielsen & Jensen, 2016; Evens & Van Damme, 2016; Gerlitz & Helmond, 2013; Lindskow, 2016), suggesting that a more complex theoretical model for understanding media economics in the digital age is needed. This paper presents the results of a quantitative study of the exchang-es between news organizations, audiences, and third-party actors in connection with the use of news apps for smartphones. While a modest amount of research has been conducted into the phenomenon on news websites, almost no systematic scrutiny of it exist with reference to mobile news use even though this platform is becoming increasingly popular (Newman, Levy & Nielsen, 2015) Mapping the networks of exchanges, the paper asks which types of third-party actors are involved in these exchanges, what characterizes the involved actors as well as exchanges, and how it challenges the established theoretical framework for understanding the fundamen-tals of media financing. How has the model of the analogue/electronic era adapted to the digital age? The paper studies 22 news apps across different legacy media (televi-sion, quality newspaper, tabloid newspaper, specialist newspaper, and digital pure-player) and countries with different media systemic characteristics (cf. Hallin & Mancini, 2004; the countries are Denmark, Germany, the USA, the UK, Italy, and Portugal). This variation allows for nuanced insights into the position of third-party actors in the circuit of exchanges connected to the funding of news media. The data collection has taken place over two rounds in 2016, using the Debookee tool to track all in and out-going calls from a smartphone where the news apps are in use. As the analysis is still on-going when this abstract is written, no final results can be presented here. The analysis will, however, be finished in January, 2017, and whatever the results, the study of this type of data exchanges contributes to the existing knowledge repertoires of media management and business studies in different ways: first, it offers the opportunity to update one of the fundamental building blocks of the theories of media economics to the digital age, namely that of the two-sided market model; second, it offers knowledge about an largely unmapped field that few are aware of but which has potentially profound implications for news media and their business models as well as audiences and their privacy. In a media business that is increasingly digital and will be even more so in the future, the role of third-party actors and the implications of their presence will continue to be subject-ed to closer scrutiny.


KonferenceThe 2017 European Media Management Association conference


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