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BLOG-JOURNALIST RELATIONS
Business news in transformation

© Maria Grafström and Karolina Windell

Over the past years the media landscape has transformed as new technology
has developed. Digital technology changes conditions for and the pace of news
production – making the borders between producers, sources and consumers of
news media blurred. This article attends to the relationship between business
journalists and blogs in order to explore the conditions for news production.
Building on a survey among Swedish business journalists and a content
analysis of news material, this article examines if and in what ways blogs
influence the production of business news. The survey data prove variances in
attitude and use of blogs among Swedish business journalists. The results
demonstrate that business journalists are still reluctant to the use of blogs in
their daily work. Still, a significant part of the respondents argue that it is
important for them to be updated on discussions in the blogosphere. The
findings indicate that blogs are used by journalists, even though blogs are not
established as legitimized sources. The results also challenge established ideas
of what is considered to be “news” and open up for a discussion on how social
media changes the possibilities for agenda setting in corporate life.

KEYWORDS blogs; business journalism; business news; corporate communication;


journalist-blogger relationship; social media.

Introduction

Over the past few years, new forms of media have emerged rapidly. An increasing
number of technologies for online communication have evolved, such as search engines,
communities, chat rooms, wikis and blogs. These interactive online technologies are
commonly named social media, and have democratized news content and transformed the
media landscape by offering journalists as well as citizens in general new tools for
producing and distributing news. Traditional media are competing with online news
channels – which naturally have an increased pace of news production and distribution.
This development also create new conditions for journalism as it enable journalists to both
distribute news and to find information and news stories in other ways.
Social media also create possibilities for companies, other organizations, and
citizens to contribute their own news stories to the ongoing public debate. As a
consequence, the boundaries between different types of media are becoming blurred, and
sometimes even disappearing (e.g. Hvitfelt and Nygren 2005; Kline 2005, pp. 249-250).
Citizens who previously were consuming news can now publish their own news and
influence the news agenda – a development that easily create confusion about who are
the producer, the source, and the consumer. Hereby, traditional communication models
illustrating news flow as transferring from a source through independent media to the
audience become insufficient for explaining contemporary news production.
Social media include all consumer-generated content and can be defined as web
sites where the content is created by the actions of visitors. The transformation we are
witnessing today in the media landscape is hence primarily not about technique, but about
the fact that everyone with an Internet access are given the possibility to participate in
online news production. In this paper we are focusing on particularly one type of social
media – blogs. Blogs – which is a technique for free and easy publishing on the Web – are
increasingly referred to as new “agenda setters” for traditional media (e.g. Lawson-Borders
and Kirk 2005; Tremayne 2007). The emergence of blogging has put pressure on
traditional media to report on neglected topics, and blogs are increasingly functioning as
news sources for journalists (e.g. Herring et al. 2007; Drezner and Farrell 2004; Lariscy et
al. 2009). This development is raising questions about the process of news production:
How is news produced? Who are participating in the news production process? And what
role do social media – such as blogs – play in setting the news agenda?
In the political sphere, blogs are today an established power factor. Many of the last
years’ news stories – that have been the starting point for political scandals in western
countries – have had its origin in the blogosphere. Political journalists cover and use blogs
in order to find news content. And blogs and citizen journalism play increasingly important
roles for the news agenda during times of election campaigns – not the least during the
last election to American presidency. As a consequence of this development it is apt to
assume that blogs play important roles also in other journalistic genres.
Today, media are extensively covering the corporate life (e.g. Duval 2005; Grafström
2006; Kjaer et al. 2007), and business journalism has become a journalistic genre of its
own (Tunstall 1996, p. 354). News about economy or business has gained a prominent
position not only in relation to other journalistic genres, but also in the corporate world and
in the society at large (Gavin 1998; Lindhoff and Mårtensson 1996; Tunstall 1996, pp. 354-
373). Business news media penetrate and shape corporate activities by setting corporate
agendas (Carroll & McCombs 2003), ascribing meaning to corporate events and activities
(e.g. Hellgren et al. 2002; Vaara and Tienari 2002), and creating and circulating
management knowledge (e.g. Abrahamson and Fairchild 1999).
Despite the expansion of business news and media’s increasingly important role as
agenda-setter and “sensemaker” in corporate life, research on the processes of production
of business news is still an underdeveloped area of research (Deephouse et al. 2003;
Johansson 2004; Machin and Niblock 2003). A recent study on how popularity is created
through corporations that are highlighted as “celebrity firms” in media content asks for
more research un-wrapping the journalistic processes behind the news in order to
understand how celebrity firms are actually created (Rindova et al. 2006). Considering this
lack of news production studies in the field of business news and the development of new
technology, in this paper, we enlighten the interplay between journalists and news sources
by analyzing how new technology influences these processes. In this paper we raise the
question of what role new technology, in particular blogs, plays in business news
production. By exploring the relationship between blogs and business journalists the aim is
to provide insights that further develop our understanding of news production.

Studying business journalism and the role of blogs

The paucity of research about business news production and blogs makes this
study necessary explorative. The paper builds on two sub-studies: 1) a quantitative survey

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among business journalists, and 2) a content analysis of articles about blogs in the
business press.

Content analysis of articles about blogs in the business press

In previous studies, content analyses of blogs have been conducted mainly to


identify the average blogger and the links between blogs (Herring et al. 2007). In our study
we are not primarily interested in the bloggers themselves, but to what extent business
journalists use blogs as news sources or as channels to distribute their own news. The
purpose of the content analysis was to identify whether blogs were referred to or quoted as
sources in the articles. The articles were collected from the database Affärsdata [Business
Data], which contains all major Swedish dailies, business newspapers, and some trade
papers. The coding process was undertaken in two steps. First, the total number of articles
containing the word blog was collected from the first year we found the word, in 2002, until
2006. The data set enabled us to map the development of the amount of articles about or
referencing to blogs over time. Second, we collected all the articles containing the word
blog in the Swedish business press (including also the business pages of major Swedish
general dailies) during four months – January, April, September, and December – of the
year of 2006. This data set consisted of 83 articles, which were coded more in detail.

A quantitative survey among business journalists

A pre-study consisting of informative interviews with well-known bloggers in the


Swedish blogosphere, media analysts, and experienced business journalists was
conducted in order to provide insights and knowledge about blogs and their relationship
with mainstream media. Based on the results in the pre-study, a web survey among
business journalists was conducted. The survey included business journalists at various
types of business media: print, radio, and online. Newspapers with a business news
section being nationally distributed as well as business news magazines were included in
the study. Included were also all Swedish online business news distributors and the
business news at the public service radio broadcaster. Altogether eight media
organizations were included (Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Dagens Industri, di.se,
Veckans Affärer, Affärsvärlden, E24, and Sveriges Radio), and 187 journalists were asked
to participate in the survey. In total, 79 journalists responded, which represents just above
42 percent of the total number of business journalists who were contacted.1

Blogs and mainstream media relations

Gans (1979/2004, p. 116ff) emphasizes the importance of sources for news


production, and resembles the relation between journalists and sources as a tango in
which the both parties are dependent on one another. In concert with the emergence of
new media, the forms of sources as well as the relations between sources and journalists
are likely to change. The World Wide Web is one increasingly important source of
information.
New technology leads also to blurred boundaries between news producers, sources,
and consumers. The number of journalists who themselves are running blogs on their
newspapers’ web sites are increasing. Many online newspapers are offering their visitors
not only to read news, but also to comment on them. The visitors’ comments become part
of the sites’ news content and can be read by other visitors. Sometimes the visitors can

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link their blog post to particular online articles. In the field of American political journalism,
research even shows that mainstream media and bloggers have engaged in a symbiotic
relationship: “reporters [are] sourcing story ideas from bloggers and bloggers in turn [are]
referencing and linking to the news stories reporters write” (Kline 2005, p. 244). Blogs also
function as sources of expertise on specific issues for general as well as specialized
journalists (Drezner and Farrell 2004), and political journalists are searching daily rankings
of blogs in order to find hot stories and information to develop into news features (Lawson-
Borders and Kirk 2005).
Initially, the Swedish media has had a reluctant attitude towards blogs, and
discussions about the role of blogs in contemporary journalism are easily found on the
Web. Per Gudmundson, one of the first journalists with an own blog, was, for example,
asked to stop blogging by his employer, SVT [the Swedish public service broadcaster].
The argument was that a journalist should stay objective and not express his political
opinions on a blog. Shortly thereafter, the one of the largest newspapers in Sweden
Svenska Dagbladet [The Swedish Daily] let its chief editorial, P. J. Anders Linder, launch a
blog on the newspaper’s Web site. Today, most media companies in Sweden have their
own bloggers. The entry of bloggers has, in particular, been visible in the Swedish press.
Recently, Svenska Dagbladet launched six new blogs managed by six of the paper’s
reporters (Svenska Dagbladet 2007a). Some days later the same newspaper and its main
competitor Dagens Nyheter [Today’s News] tied their online news to blog comments (e.g.
Svenska Dagbladet 2007b). Both dailies started to use a service called Twingly, which
collects blog comments and links them to articles on the news sites. Consequently, articles
on the Web pages could be commented by bloggers. In this way, Swedish newspapers
have recognized blogs to provide valuable additional information to their own articles.

Business journalists’ use and attitudes towards blogs

One of the necessities in journalistic work is to find ideas to turn into news stories.
At the same time, contemporary journalists are spending most working time at the editorial
offices – with phone and computer as the most important tools. As more information is
available on the Web, it is consequently also becoming increasingly important for
journalists in their search of ideas for news stories. Hence, user generated content in
social media is likely to be a part of the information flow from which journalists are
collecting ideas.
Our analysis of the Swedish business press shows that the interest for blogs – as
phenomenon itself and as a source for ideas to turn into news stories – among business
journalists has increased rapidly over the last few years. The first articles about blogs in
Swedish media were published in 2002 and appeared in computer magazines. These
articles mainly informed the readers about the function of blogs. In total, four articles
containing the word “blog” were published in 2002, which can be compared with the
equivalent number in 2006, 1062 articles (Figure 1).

--- Insert Figure 1 here ---

Similar results have been noticed in the US, where the number of articles containing
the word “weblog” increased from eleven articles in 1995 to 647 articles in 2003 (Drezner
and Farrell 2004). The results from the content analysis of articles in business newspapers
show that about 40 % of the coded articles have explicit references to specific blogs –
indicating that blogs have been used as news sources. 16 % out of those 40 % of the
articles that contain references also quoted blogs.

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The results strengthen the hypothesis that journalists are using blogs as sources in
their news production. It also shows that bloggers sometimes are considered to be
important enough to be quoted in articles. However, only a minority of the Swedish
business journalists actually state that they are using blogs in their work. On direct
questions to business journalists about their use of blogs, the answers tend to be negative.
The majority of the journalists included in our survey state that they are not using blogs in
their day-to-day work. Only 4 % strongly agree with the statement that they find information
of use for their journalistic work through blogs, whereas 41 % strongly disagree with the
same statement. Similar results are found when it comes to whether the journalists are
referencing blogs. 63 % of the business journalists disagree with the statement that they
make references to blogs in their articles.
In journalists´ comments to the survey, some of the respondents view blogs as
unreliable sources, whereas others treat them just as one source among others. One
business journalist stressed that “naturally, I deal with blogs as any other source and if I
would get an idea from a blog I would refer to it”. Hence, there are extreme differences in
attitudes and ideas about the use of blogs among business journalists, and according to
themselves only a few journalists are actually using blogs in their work.
So far, the results demonstrate that a majority of the business journalists are hesitant
in using blogs in their daily work. Their attitude is ambiguous, though. A significant amount
of the business journalists think that it is important to know what is going on in the
blogosphere. As Figure 2 demonstrates, just above 10 % strongly agree with the statement
that “in my work, it is an advantage to know what is discussed in the blogosphere”, and
almost 40 % have marked 1, 2 or 3 (where 1=strongly agree and 6= strongly disagree).
Similarly, almost as many respondents stress that blogs have become an important part of
the media landscape as those who disagree with the same statement. In addition, a
majority of the respondents place themselves in the middle of the 6-numbered scale – they
do neither agree nor disagree with the statement that “blogs have become an important
part of the media landscape”.

--- Insert Figure 2 here ---

These results suggest that journalists do attach value to blogs, but that they do not
see them as important resource at work. At the same time, our content analysis shows that
there are journalists among the respondents who are reading, making references to and
even quote blogs. Hence, there is a discrepancy between business journalists’ real use of
blogs and their attitude towards the same. The results are raising questions whether there
is a lack of interest, or even unwillingness, among business journalists to tell about using
blogs as sources. The phenomenon with social media is still rather new and the journalism
profession has yet not established a relation to these new channels. Public debates are
often about whether new publishing techniques constitute a threat against the profession.
Still, the printed and written word tend to have the highest status among journalists.
Clearly, business journalists are sceptic about the value of blogs as sources. The
notion of blogs as being far from established and legitimate news sources appears. This
could also be one explanation to the hesitant attitudes among journalists to state their
relations towards the blogosphere. One business journalists writes, for example:

I’m rather tired of blogs, and I wonder when the people who write them have time
for work, family, and life in general. Simply, I think that blogs get too much space in
the debate. And maybe blogging should be translated into babbling.

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A comment by another respondent reflects a similar attitude:

I have simply no time to read blogs. I have yet not seen any reason to why I should
prioritize something factual oriented less in favour for the more opinion oriented
blogosphere.

However, we may also interpret the results as a shift of attitude among business
journalists. A significant part of the respondents state that they consider blogs to be part of
the media landscape, even though they were unwilling to admit the value of them as news
sources. The journalists in the survey, hence, are far from indifferent about blogs, but they
still seem to lack a natural relation or attitude towards them.
The reluctant attitude and the rather scarce use of blogs that appear are particularly
interesting in comparison to how the same business journalists use other online
information sources. More than 80 % of the respondents use search engines, such as
Google (Figure 3). Almost equally many use corporate web pages, 77 % of them use
newsletters, and 53 % state that they use wikis, such as Wikipedia, in order to find
information in their work. Hence, the respondents clearly make a difference between blogs
and other online information sources, such as corporate web pages, newsletters and wikis.
The results could be interpreted either as if the journalists have better knowledge about
these online sources, or as that they find them more trustworthy than blogs.

--- Insert Figure 3 here ---

These findings can be compared with an American study which shows similar
results – business journalists state that they use non-interactive web sites significantly
more often in comparison with social media (Lariscy et al. 2009). The fact that journalists
continue to use established and well-known web sources are expected. But our results
also show that business journalists frequently use wikis (most commonly Wikipedia). As
other social media, the content of a wiki is exclusively created by the users. The biggest
difference between a blog and a wiki is that it is most often easier to get a picture of who
the blogger is than to know who has written what on a wiki. Business journalists vary in
their attitudes depending on what type of social media. Whereas blogs by most of the
respondents are not considered trustworthy, wikis have a higher status as news source.
The results point to the conclusion that the business journalists consider blogs as
being of some importance, even though they do not use blogs to any greater extent in their
work. The reasons for the relatively modest use of blog in the journalistic work are
probably several. Previous research shows that journalists choose sources whose
information easily can be verified (Gans 2004). Blogs appears to be considered as less
reliable than other online sources. Moreover, the results from the survey indicate that there
is a significant variation in the respondents’ perceived knowledge about blogs and blogging.
Thus, another explanation could be lack of knowledge about blogs, since a majority of the
journalists’ state that they are using other online news sources, such as search engines
and wikis to a relatively great extent indicating that they are not reluctant to online news
sources as such not even to all social media.

Conclusions and discussion

The blogosphere around the world is booming and new blogs are established
continuously. The many different topics and functions of blogs stress that the blog itself is
merely a content management technique, possible to be used in multiple ways. For

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example, blogs are increasingly used as internal communication devices in organizations
or as marketing channels for corporations. Blogs that are entirely commercialized projects
have also emerged. Consequently, we should be careful when defining blogs and blogging
activity too narrowly. Instead, the emergence of the blogosphere should be understood as
a new way of interaction on the Web. The blogging technique allows everyone to publish
and comment on one another’s notes. The one-way communication of mainstream media
is challenged as multi-way communication is taking over on the Web.
The business media landscape is undergoing a transformation as a result of new
Internet techniques such as blogs, which makes it possible for each and everyone to
publish. Thereby, the definition to news is bound to change. What becomes news is not
necessary published in mainstream media, instead it can just as well be published on a
private blog or a private Web site. This development also raises questions about the
borders between news producers, consumers, and sources. The results indicate that there
are blurred boundaries between new media and mainstream media, between bloggers and
journalists. Consequently, the emergence of the blogosphere is challenging established
ideas of who is considered to be a journalist, and what is considered to be “news”.
The survey data prove variances in attitude and use of blogs among Swedish
business journalists. The results demonstrate that business journalists are still reluctant to
the use of blogs in their daily work. Still, a significant part of the respondents argue that it is
important for them to be updated on discussions in the blogosphere. Professional
journalists increasingly tend to engage in blogging activity themselves and create their own
blogs (Lawson-Borders and Kirk 2005). The media sphere is becoming increasingly
interlinked with the blogosphere (Drezner and Farrell 2004; Observer 2005). Not only do
journalists read blogs, but individuals operating in one setting – either in the media sphere
or the blogosphere – increasingly cross over into the other sphere, or are active in both.
Many newspapers and magazines have set up their own blogs, which indicates that blogs
as a form for producing and distributing news are of interest also for traditional media.
In relation to this development it is apt to consider what role social media plays for
the agenda-setting in corporate life. Over the last few years the number of examples on
how citizens use social media in order make their valuation of companies’ has increased
significantly. Today, consumers can use online tools when commenting and judging
services, products, or corporate behavior in general. Managing ones’ reputation online
becomes an increasingly urgent. The production of news about the corporate life does not
only take place were we expect – in mainstream media – but increasingly also in social
media where the users (media consumers) participate in creating the image of a company.
News production processes, hence, involve other actors than our traditional view of
journalists and their sources.
From this perspective, and coming back to the metaphor of a tango between
journalists and sources – as Gans (2004) describes the relationship, – new actors take a
more active role. At the same time, it is not likely that this threatens the power of
mainstream media and their importance for setting corporate agendas and shaping
reputation. Despite not longer being alone in creating the public view of corporations,
mainstream media will certainly continue to be an important dancing-partner. But the
dance steps are changing. The producers are many more and the possibilities for all kinds
of actors to engage in the online dialogue are significantly greater.

NOTE

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The dropout analysis shows that the respondents are representing all included
organizations. The respondents are well distributed among all the organisations, except for
the online media, at which the response rate is lower than the average. One likely thesis is
that professionals at the online editorial offices are more prone to use blogs than other
professionals. Because of the scarce response rate from this group, we are not able to
support or discard this proposition.

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Maria Grafström and Karolina Windell, Dept. of Business Studies, Uppsala University,
Box 513, 751 20 Uppsala, Sweden. Email: maria.grafstrom@fek.uu.se /
karolina.windell@fek.uu.se

Maria Grafström (Ph.D., Uppsala University, 2006) is a researcher and lecturer at


Uppsala University’s Department of Business Studies. Her main research interest
concerns the relationship between media and corporations and how media participate in
creating conditions for corporations. More specifically, she has studied the development
and organisation of business newspapers, content and production of business news, and
how management models, such as CSR, are created and spread via the media. Maria is
part of the research project MEMAC – media, managers and communication consultants at
Uppsala University, She also works as a media analyst in a consultancy. Maria has
published several book chapters and reports within the area.

Karolina Windell holds a PhD in Business Studies and is a researcher at the Department
of Business studies, Uppsala University. Her primary research interest concerns the
development of new ideas about management, more specifically her research focuses on
corporate social responsibility (CSR), which was the topic dealt with in her doctoral
dissertation. Karolina´s research also focuses on media and corporate reputation. Today,
Karolina is both working as a consultant and as a researcher. She is part of the research
project MEMAC – media, managers and communication consultants at Uppsala University.

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Figure 1: The number of articles containing the word blog in the Swedish business press,
2002-2006.

1200

1000

800
Nr of articles

600

400

200

0
2002 2003 2004 2005 2006

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Figure 2: The respondents’ answer to the statement “In my work, it is an advantage to
know what is discussed in the blogsphere” (percent).

6 = Strongly disagree 18

5 15

4 22

3 18

2 9

1= Strongly agree 11

0 5 10 15 20 25

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Figure 3: The share of the respondents who use online information sources in their work
(percent).

Other 37

Wikis 53

Communites 20

Corporate webpages 81

Search engines 86

Newsletters 77

E-mail 89

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100

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