Konkreetse ajalehenumbri loetavus: tähelepanu äratamise ja säilitamise võtted



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Tartu Ülikool



This Master’s thesis Readability of a Newspaper Issue: Techniques of Getting and Keeping Attention studied how the information contained in an issue of a newspaper is noticed and read. The first part of the thesis describes the levels of the impact processes of mass media. Theory distinguishes between macro level impacts (social impacts) and micro level impacts (individual impacts). Individual impacts are the starting point for the development of social impacts. The paper mainly focuses on the process of short-term impacts on the individual level, studied via the factors that influence the reception of a message. The impacting effect of mass information directly depends on the selection of messages. An individual impact develops from an understanding and assessment of the content. Factors which determine the reception and personal impact of messages were identified in the paper as four major groups, detailed in the first part of the paper. 1) Source factors pertain to the reputation and credibility of the channel, as well as the degree to which the author or presenter is known and personally appealing. 2) Message factors pertain to the substantive and formal characteristics of the mass communication message. 3) Circumstantial factors pertain to the general situation in society and the specific situation at the time of reception of the message. 4) Recipient’s factors pertain to the recipient’s social environment, as well as socio-psychological and individual psychological aspects. These various factors come together in the context – the playing field where reception takes place. In addition to theoretical points of departure, the first part of the paper gives an overview of earlier empirical studies of the readability of newspapers and columns, which were mainly conducted at the University of Tartu. The earliest studies date back to the 1960s and 1970s; the most recent ones are from the present decade. Peeter Vihalemm started studying the reception of information communicated via means of influence at the (State)University of Tartu as early as in the second half of the 1960s. At the beginning of the 1980s, Mati Määrits studied the readability of an issue of the regional newspaper Edasi and Meelis Lokk studied the readability of specific columns. The readability of the weekly newspaper Eesti Ekspress during the period 1993–1998 was analysed by Aivar Viidik; the readability of specific writings and advertisements in the newspaper Postimees and related determining factors during 1991–1997 were studied by Epp Väljaots. This paper also makes use of the results of Vihalemm’s readability survey of an issue of the Eesti Päevaleht in 1999 and 2000. The questions that this paper seeks to answer focus on the problems facing the communicator. They mainly concern getting and keeping the recipient’s attention on the message. Firstly, the factors on which getting and keeping the recipients’ attention depends are identified based on empirical information from a survey. Secondly, various techniques are presented which the editorial office or author could use to reduce the reader’s negative prejudices, so as to pave the way for a more positive reception of the message. Thirdly, the paper discusses the degree to which the noticing process reflects the reader’s social and communicative experience. The second part of the paper describes the preparation and conduct of a survey based on two issues of Eesti Päevaleht. The third part gives an overview of the parts of the issue which were studied in greater depth, as well as of the readability and noticeability of specific materials. A survey of 153 readers was conducted to study the readability of the 9 October 2008 issue of the Eesti Päevaleht. A comparison of the respondents with the general population showed that men and women were represented proportionally, while the age structure inclined toward younger people. Most of the respondents were 20–29 years old. Persons with higher education were 50% overrepresented, while persons with basic education were nearly 2/3 underrepresented. Because of the sample, the survey results cannot be transposed to the actual audience, while the information collected and its analysis point to the validity of a number of general trends in the readability of a newspaper issue. Below is a brief summary of the survey results. The most readable column in the edition was the Estonian news column, which was read by an average of 60% of the respondents. This was followed by foreign and economics news, which were read by an average of 55% of the respondents. An equivalent degree of interest (49%) was shown in the opinions column and Tallinn news, followed by the science column on the back side of the newspaper (42%). Classified ads and announcements deserved the least attention and were read by an average of 12% of the respondents. The most readable article was the one on the lower side of page 6, which was a most modestly marked news story about the quality of education provided in Estonia. Nearly 70% of the respondents noticed the story and 50% read it through. The second most readable story was a paired article about the coping of disabled persons in the Estonian news column. Although the stories described the environment in which autistic persons live in Sweden, not in Estonia, 47% of the respondents read through the main article. Differences in noticing particular materials and in the choice of articles for a more thorough reading were the most evident in a comparison of age groups. The results in the age groups under 30 and over 40 were compared; the first group tended to prefer information with a more entertaining content. The fourth and fifth parts of the thesis analyse the scope and effect of the major impact factors that determine reception and compare the identified trends with the main conclusions of earlier studies. The following generalisations can be highlighted. The psychological closeness of the topic of the message for the recipient plays a major role among the factors influencing the reception of newspaper materials. It is reflected in both the general interest for topics and in the link between the closeness of the content of the message on the one hand and the direction and intensity of attitudes on the other. The psychological closeness of a message covers a) the sphere described, b) the writer’s approach, and c) the reader’s social and communicative experience. The degree to which the phenomena reflected in the message are known and significant for the recipient is expressed in whether and how much attention the recipient pays to the message and how much the material concerns him or her personally. Noticing and selection of the message is the beginning of the communication process. The author’s or source’s influence on getting the reader’s attention is decisive mainly where the author’s person is somehow significant for the reader – whether the author is publicly or personally known. The author’s personal appeal to the recipient also counts. Depending on the message and the situation, the aspect that raises attention can be a negative attitude toward the particular author, i.e. the reader notices the story but does not wish to read it. In such case, the author’s person subdues the content of the message. As a general trend, trust in politicians is lower and trust in experts writing about their area of competence is higher. Skilful presentation of both the content and form of the message (including a compactly constructed message, apt headline, visually attractive formal elements, etc.) contribute to the material’s being noticed and read. It should be noted that illustrations (photos, informative graphics, etc.) yield the desired result especially together with the main content. Recipients attach importance to a message’s topicality, an exhaustive approach and compliance with the reader’s expectations. Although this Master’s thesis summarises a large volume of material that covers a lengthy period and concerns the readability of a newspaper, studies in this field should be continued and the results should be elaborated. All the more so because over the past decade, methods of monitoring psychophysical responses have been increasingly applied and these allow for drawing much more thorough conclusions about how materials are noticed and received.


H Social Sciences (General), magistritööd