Digital Native News Media: Trends and Challenges. Media and Communication (v8 n20 2020)

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Abstract  Digital native news media are becoming a blooming phenomenon, expanding globally. Up until now, however, the scholar community has paid little attention to online-born media, compared to the high interest devoted to the legacy media brands. Drawing upon the extant literature on this emerging topic, this editorial summarizes the empirical and theoretical contributions of the thematic issue entitled “Digital Native News Media: Trends and Challenges.” The author highlights that the studies selected for this thematic issue not only explore the innovative characteristics and opportunities of digital native media in thirty countries, but also provide a cautionary tale about their structural problems and limitations.

Keywords  digital journalism; digital native media; legacy media; media; newswork; online-born media

In 2020, providing a definition of digital news media, whether native or not, is not an easy task. A quarter
of a century ago, when the first news publications appeared on the Web, the imprecise label ‘new media’ was broadly used to designate all types of digital publications.

In recent years, however, journalism scholars and practitioners have started to distinguish between ‘legacy’ digital publications, meaning those derived from consolidated journalistic brands, and new online publications, characterized by their digital nature and recent origin.

These latest publications have been labeled in various ways, such as ‘digital-born’ (Nicholls, Shabbir, & Nielsen, 2016), ‘digital-native’ (Pew Research Center, 2015; Wu, 2016), ‘online-native’ (Harlow & Salaverría, 2016), or even simply as ‘pure players’ (Sirkkunen & Cook, 2012) or ‘start-ups’ (Naldi & Picard, 2012; Wagemans, Witschge, & Deuze, 2016).

No matter the term used, recent research has found that digital native media proceed according to specific
principles, relatively different from those used by nonnative media (Küng, 2015; Tandoc, 2018). Their digital nature emphasizes the tendency towards an early adoption of new technologies (Nee, 2013), as well as a deeper experimentation with multimedia storytelling formats (Harbers, 2016) and more diversification in business models (Arrese & Kaufmann, 2016; Sirkkunen & Cook, 2012).

Beyond such structural aspects, digital native media show also, at least to some extent, a specific implementation of news values (Canter, 2018; Kilgo, Harlow, García-Perdomo, & Salaverría, 2018) and a distinctive approach to covering the news (Higgins Joyce & Harlow, 2020; Thomas & Cushion, 2019).

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To date, most empirical research about the digital native news media phenomenon has been limited to case studies, exploring either global-reaching brands (Tandoc, 2018) or some local cases (Harbers, 2016; Wagemans et al., 2016). However, one of the main limitations of case studies is that they usually focus on the most successful and well-developed examples, the characteristics of which hardly apply to the average publications. In order to get a more nuanced idea about the contributions and problems of the average digital native news media, broader studies are needed.

This is the main contribution of this issue of Media and Communication: Offering a comprehensive overview of the characteristics and trends of digital native news media at the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century.

This thematic issue consists of 14 research articles that explore the typology, strategies, and limitations of online media. The empirical studies, some of them comparative and cross-national, cover media located in more than thirty countries of the world, distributed between Europe, North and South America. The research methodologies used are also diverse, comprising quantitative, qualitative and mixed approaches. The reader will find everything from descriptive studies comparing formal elements of the media, to algorithm-based data analyses.


Source: Ramón Salaverría (2020). «Exploring Digital Native News Media». Media and Communication, v8, n2 [introductory article to special issue].
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