The University of Sussex

Fourteen users in search of a newspaper: the effect of expectation on online behaviour

Ann Light

The potential differences between newspapers and online news services are still being explored. Producers have come a long way from reproducing newspapers verbatim on the Web, but have readers made a comparable leap in their expectations? This paper reports the reactions of a sample of first-time visitors to The Guardian's Election 97 website, offered by the newspaper during the run-up to the British general election. Visitors were asked to evaluate this news site alongside election sites created by a broadcaster and a new media producer. Findings suggest there are major obstacles to innovative news practice on the Web, especially where there is identity with a paper product. There was a tendency for the evaluators to overlook or reject interactive elements on the Guardian site. The paper concludes with some recommendations for site design which could help in integrating interactive aspects of the new environment.


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