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The major challenge for newspapers today is to find their way in the digital world and to be active in social media on the terms and requirements of the users.
"If you not interesting enough and do not manage to engage the readers - or user - they will go to another site that gives them what they want," says Carina Ihlström Eriksson, senior lecturer of informatics at Halmstad University.
Carina Ihlström Eriksson has been project manager for the recently concluded research project LoCoMedia, which was conducted in collaboration with, e.g., seven newspapers and the media group Stampen.
"We believe it is the world's largest study," says Carina Ihlström Eriksson. "We have not been able to find anything else that has had more respondents. The survey focused on what readers think about user-generated content. Employees of newspapers have also responded to a questionnaire, however, we asked them what they thought their readers had responded. It showed that their views differed somewhat."
The investigations have been made both nationally and internationally, for example, in Africa, the Middle East and the United States, in order to compare results. In parallel studies, the participating newspapers conducted experiments with user-generated content together with readers.
"It has been about involving readers in various experiments in the form of services, sites or areas of newspaper websites. Throughout the process, readers participated with ideas, comments and suggestions for how the experiments can develop," says Carina Ihlström Eriksson.
The LoCoMedia project shows that user-generated content is needed and performs an important function. This is something that everyone is agreed upon, however, it is difficult to do it in a good way, so that readers will be satisfied and actually use it.
"This is a lesson in itself that it is difficult to make interactive services based on user-generated content", says Gunnar Springfeld, Development Manager at Stampen, and advocates more LoCoMedia experiments. "LoCoMedia has, however, shown that it is possible, just as long as the idea is good enough and fills a need. In order for Swedish newspapers to retain its strong position, it is a must to follow the users and readers in to the digital world - on their terms."
Text: LENA LUNDÉN
The second project, UbiMedia (2006-2008), funded by the Knowledge Foundation, focused on future media services. Nine Swedish newspapers participated. Various working groups focusing on strategy, browser behavior, technology and design worked together to create a vision of the future. The vision was translated into three short films. See www.ubimedia.se.