ASSESSMENT OF AUDIENCE AWARENESS, ACCESSIBILITY AND PATRONAGE OF ONLINE NEWSPAPERS
(A STUDY OF STUDENTS OF UNIVERSITY OF ABUJA)
The growing number of internet users is one of the factors responsible for media convergence i.e reading, viewing and watching news online practicable. For instance, the number of internet users in Nigeria has further increased to 93.4 million, according to a new report on Internet status in the country. The report obtained by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), the telecoms industry regulator, indicated the country has recorded about 14 per cent growth in mobile internet subscriptions between January and end of July 2015. According to the data, which shows that Nigeria’s mobile Internet ecosystem is gaining momentum, telecoms networks collectively boosted mobile Internet subscriptions on their networks from 81.8 million in January to 93.4 million in July (Kunle, 2015).
Meanwhile, newspaper can be seen as a set of large printed sheets of paper containing news, articles, advertisement etc. and published every day or every week and become stale the next day when new copy emerged. In relation to the above definition, it could be safely said that online news are the publications of print media (Newspapers) that are made available on the internet which can be easily passed across the world. Sometimes, it a post of fact, figure and opinions on blog and social media about issues of public interest. Adeniran, (2015).
Today, almost all media organisaions are now migrated online to post the softcopy of their hard copy news with lots of traffics and adverts, it helps them to reduce cost of production and circulation and helps in competing with broadcast media as they can update it every minute as news breaks while it also offers them the opportunity to reedit their copy after publishing which can never be possible in hardcopy.
As a result of this development, lots of undergraduates and unemployed graduates have turn online news into business by creating their blogs, website and groups on social media platform, in fact this phenomena has made almost everybody a journalist called citizen journalist.
Similarly, one of the common activities on the internet is news reading or watching either on newspaper websites or through bloggers including watching live and podcast news video on video-tube/ vloggers (video bloggers) on their computer, Smartphone and some other GPRS enable phones.
In a recent research conducted by Laittos Multimedia and Research Institute-LMRI(2015) revealed that one of the reasons for online news popularity is because it is cheap and convenient comparing to purchase of a copy of newspaper everyday at N200 which become stale after some minute as new events breaks every hours (LMRI, 2015). It is against this background that the research assesses audience awareness, accessibility and patronage of online newspapers with a study of students of University of Abuja
Statement of the Problem
At least every year since 2010 a newspaper seize printing and circulating hardcopy particularly in developed nations such as US and UK due to low circulation and emergency of the news online. One of such newspaper is the Independence which was established in 1986 and stop hardcopy printing 20 March 2016, Newsweek magazine ceased print publication in December 31, 2012, issue and transitioned to an all-digital format, called Newsweek Global (Christine and David, 2012). Also, foremost Nigerian tabloid, The Guardian, sacked over 100 staff as a result of the economic hardship in the country (Dokunola, 2016).
Researches from different scholars and institutions in the recent time have shown that there are decline in newspaper buying and reading habits among people in Nigeria. In a research conducted by Laittos Multimedia and Research Institute (2015) shows that out of 50 persons only one buys newspaper not even on a regular basis.
Also, a survey conducted by Afrobarometer in 12 African countries, including Nigeria, in 2003 indicates that only 13 percent of the sampled population professes to read a daily newspaper. Another survey by the National Population Commission in Nigeria reveals that most Nigerians neither buy nor have access to newspapers, while newspaper readership is generally low in all zones in the count (http://population.gov.ng).
However, a survey by the World Bank in 2002 (quoted in http://population.gov.ng) reveals that media exposure in Africa is often collective with many users crowding round television or sharing a single newspaper. This practice is common in Nigeria, with the prevalence of the free readers’ club where people pay a token to read as many newspapers as they wished or borrowing from kin, workmate and peers.
Similarly, Adeniran, S. (2015) posits in his findings that large copies of newspapers are sold during national trending event such as election, new government policies e.g budget, appointment of top federal government cabinet, unusual such as mass death etc.
However, Wikipedia records that in 2007 there were 6,580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a day. The late 2000s to early 2010s global recession, combined with the rapid growth of web-based alternatives, caused a serious decline in advertising and circulation of newspapers, as many papers closed or sharply retrenched operations.
This research work is however set to probe into the audience awareness, accessibility as well as patronage of online newspapers with a view to now the motivating factor
Objectives of the Study
- To examine the extent which University of Abuja students are aware of online news.
- To ascertain whether University of Abuja students are having access to online news.
- To ascertain the degree at which University of Abuja students are patronising online news sites.
- To find out the kind of information that University of Abuja students are seeking online to meet their needs and gratifications?
- To know some of the challenges that is hampering University of Abuja students’ effective use of online news sites.
- To examine some of the motivating factors for online news patronage among the University of Abuja students.
- To what extent are University of Abuja students aware of online news?
- To what extent do University of Abuja students have access to online news?
- How often do University of Abuja students patronise online news sites?
- What kind of information are University of Abuja students seeking online?
- What are the main challenges hampering University of Abuja students’ effective usage of online news sites?
- What are the motivating factors for online news among University of Abuja students?
Significance of the Study
There is no doubt about the fact that a study like this will be of great benefit to so many people, individual, media outfits, media managers, teachers of journalism, students of mass duties among other because the study focused on the emerging aspect of journalism that is currently trending.
Media houses/ practitioner: The study will afford newspaper organizations the opportunity to work out modalities with a view to know what type of information people are seeking online and how to meet this gratification while it will help them get connected with new readers because readers of hardcopies newspapers are decline by the day.
Public: It exposes more people to the existence of online news especially how to determine credible sources. This will turn to boost the awareness and facilitate the patronage of online news especially among undergraduates.
Government/NBC: Government through its various agencies such as NBC, BON among other will see more reasons and develop techniques on how to effectively moderate online news operators including the bloggers to prevent hate word and spreading propaganda that can mislead people.
Researcher: Future researchers and students will find the material relevant as it will form bulk literature that exist in the field of mass communication, journalism and digital communication etc that they can lay hands on when carrying out research related or similar to this.
Increase Media Owners: Those that are not financially buoyant and interested in founding media will find this study useful as they can start online news platform instead of waiting till they can get millions to build offices, buy printing equipment and hire lots of staff.
Scope of the Study
The inability of this study to take into account every tertiary institutions in Nigeria limit the scope of this research work to University of Abuja due to the time frame, cost, proximity and other logistics. However, the demography factors of the students of the institution will be examined before the structuring and administration of research instrument (questionnaire). Such demographic factors include but not limited to sex, age, academic level, marital status and many more.
Although, there are so many theories that can be employed to explain this research but only two will be used to justify the research position. The two theories will be fully explained under chapter two of this study.
- Technological Determinism Theory
This research is anchored on Technological Determinism Theory. The theory states that media technology shapes how we as individuals in a society think, feel, act, and how society are operates as we move from one technological age to another (Tribal- Literate- Print- Electronic-Internet). The theory was developed by Marshall Mcluhan in (1962) cited in (Anaeto, Onabanjo and Osifeso, 2008:179).
- Uses and Gratification Theory
The theory was postulated by Elihu Katz, Jay Blumler and Michael Gurevitch in 1974 (Anaeto, Onabanjo and Osifeso, 2008). The Uses and Gratifications Theory, tells us that people seek out and use the media in different ways, there is no uniformity in the way individuals perceive the media, in how they use it, how long and for what reason they use the media. As a result, differences exist in the way individuals and groups react to media messages.
Therefore, for the purpose of this research; survey research method will be adopted. Survey research method will afford the researcher to use questionnaire in eliciting data from the respondents. The study population is the students of University of Abuja who are estimated to be 10,210 that cut across College of Health Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Education, Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Management Sciences, Faculty of Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences and Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.
The sample size for this study is two hundred (200) respondents. The study will adopt multistage sampling technique i.e probability and non probability sampling to select 5 faculties out of 10 faculties in Uniabuja using simple random selection and in each faculty to be selected, 1 department will be drawn and in each department to selected 100 level, 200 level, 300 level and 400 level students will be selected. Therefore 10 respondents will be drawn from 100 level, 200 level, 300 level and 400 level respectively making 40 respondents that would be drawn from each department using purposive sampling technique. The same steps would be repeated in another departments making a total of 200 respondents that would be drawn.
The main data collection instrument for this research work will be questionnaire while a pilot test on the instrument by researcher will be conducted by administering few copies of the questionnaire to some respondents to examine its strength and know if it could measure the variables accurately while necessary adjustments can be made. The method of data gathering for this research will be face to face administration of questionnaire by the researcher.
Descriptive statistics with the use of Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS 20) version would be used to analysis data that will be collected in frequency percentage and tables.
Abdulwahab, O. I. (2012). Practical Guides to Project Writing. Offa: Wumi Commercial Press
Anaeto, G. A, Onabajo, S. O. and Osifeso, J. B (2008). Models and Theories of Communication. USA: African Renaissance Books Incorporated.
Adeniran, S. (2015). Newspaper Sale Volume in Nigeria: Prospects and Challenges. Journal of FICT, Osun State Polytechnic Iree Vol. 2 No1. Pg. 43-51