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Subject: AEJ 95 BeamR MME Environmental uncertainty and marketing orientation
From: Elliott Parker <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:AEJMC Conference Papers <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 3 Feb 1996 10:34:49 EST
Content-Type:text/plain
Parts/Attachments:
Parts/Attachments

text/plain (1929 lines)


How Perceived Environmental Uncertainty Influences
The Marketing Orientation of U.S. Daily Newspapers
 
By Randal A. Beam
School of Journalism
Indiana University
211 Ernie Pyle Hall
Bloomington, IN  47405
(812) 855-0725
[log in to unmask]
 
The use of readership research to shape editorial content is becoming
 
           increasingly common at U.S. daily newspapers.  This practice reflects
a
 
        "marketing concept" of journalism, which emphasizes tailoring a product
to
 
           customers' wants and needs.  Data from 78 daily newspapers suggest
that
 
        editors' uncertainty about their environment is a major influence on the
 
         strength of the marketing orientation of a newspaper.  The data also
suggest
 
             that uncertainty is not affected by structural characteristics of
the community
 
              in which the newspaper publishes.
 
 
The use of readership research to shape editorial content is becoming
 
           increasingly common at U.S. daily newspapers.  This practice reflects
a
 
        "marketing concept" of journalism, which emphasizes tailoring a product
to
 
           customers' wants and needs.  Data from 78 daily newspapers suggest
that
 
        editors' uncertainty about their environment is a major influence on the
 
         strength of the marketing orientation of a newspaper.  The data show
that
 
          uncertainty about the environment strongly affects the chance that
readership
 
              research has been used shape various kinds of content at a
newspaper.  The data
 
              also suggest that environmental uncertainty is generally not
affected by
 
         structural characteristics of community in which the newspaper
publishes.  That
 
              is, there is little evidence that changes in or characteristics of
the
 
       newspaper's "real" environment strongly influence the degree of
uncertainty
 
            that editors have about their newspaper's environment.
 
 
 How Perceived Environmental Uncertainty Influences
The Marketing Orientation of U.S. Daily Newspapers
 
The use of readership research[1] is becoming increasingly common in newspaper
 
                 newsrooms.[2] As daily newspapers have struggled to arrest a
four-decade slide in
 
              household penetration[3]and readership,[4]many have turned to
market research to
 
           learn what readers say they want and need from their newspaper.[5]
Some papers
 
             then base content changes on the research results.  This reflects a
"marketing
 
              concept" of journalism, which emphasizes tailoring a product ( the
newspaper (
 
              to customers' wants and needs.
Adoption of a marketing orientation is not an altogether welcome development in
 
                   U.S. newsrooms. [6]  Critics say it can lead to trivialized
content and can
 
         diminish a newspaper's commitment to public-affairs journalism.
Journalists
 
            have linked a marketing orientation to a loss of control over
editorial
 
        decision-making and a decline in "professional" standards.  Supporters
counter
 
              that newspapers need to have a strong marketing orientation if
they are to
 
           survive and prosper.  They argue that a strong marketing orientation
and
 
         public-service journalism are not inherently contradictory.
        This article does not take sides in the argument about whether a marketing
 
            orientation is good or bad for daily papers or society and, instead,
focuses on
 
              forces that produce a strong marketing orientation at a media
organization.
 
             Drawing off of theories about complex organizations, the article
argues that at
 
              newspapers at which editors experience high levels of uncertainty
about their
 
              organization's environment, a strong marketing orientation is most
likely to
 
             emerge.  It examines this relationship using results of a survey of
167 editors
 
              at 78 U.S. daily newspapers.  It also explores relationships
between community
 
              characteristics, environmental uncertainty and a strong marketing
orientation.
 
              The article's purpose is to begin "unpacking" the concept of a
marketing
 
         orientation as it is applied at daily newspapers and to explore factors
that
 
             influence adoption of a marketing orientation at such papers.  It
is important
 
              to understand this phenomenon because it bears directly on the
kinds of
 
        information that daily newspapers choose to publish.  Though others have
 
         written about the development of a marketing orientation at daily
newspapers,
 
              they have tended to base their accounts on anecdotal experiences
of a handful
 
              of organizations.  This article goes beyond the anecdote, basing
its findings
 
              on information collected from a larger group of newspapers in a
more systematic
 
              way.   More broadly, these findings should enhance what is known
about the
 
           forces that shape the information available to society, which has
been a
 
         long-standing area of inquiry for media scholars.
 
Organizations and their environments
        For more than five decades, organizational scholars have studied the
 
      relationship between organizations and their environments.[7]  Figuring
out how to
 
              respond to, how to accommodate or how to minimize uncertainty in
that
 
      environment is a major task of people who manage organizations, be they
 
        businesses, nonprofit institutions or government agencies.[8]  The
environment is
 
              a concern because it is a source of both opportunities and dangers
for an
 
          organization.  Failure to capitalize on an opportunity or to recognize
a threat
 
              may hurt an organization's performance or, in the long run,
threaten its
 
         survival.  As part of the process of coping with the environment,
managers
 
           spend considerable time and energy trying to monitor and orchestrate
 
     relationships with important social actors in their organization's
environment
 
              (e.g., end users, suppliers, capital providers) because these
relationships can
 
              be critical to the organization's success.[9]  One of the
managers' goals is to
 
             make these relationships more predictable ( that is, less
uncertain.
 
     Frequently, organizations focus on developing predictable relationships
with
 
             end users (customers) on the assumption that these relationships
will influence
 
              the organization's long-term success.
 
A Marketing Orientation
        An organization that emphasizes meeting the wants and needs of end users can
 
              be said to have a strong marketing orientation.[10]  Kotler says
the marketing
 
           concept "holds that the key to achieving organizational goals
consists of
 
          determining the needs and wants of target markets and delivering the
desired
 
             satisfactions more effectively and efficiently than
competitors."[11]  It assumes
 
              that success is achieved by identifying the markets a firm wants
to serve,
 
           determining what customers in those markets seek with respect to the
firm's
 
            products and developing a coordinated program to meet those
customers' wants
 
             and needs.  A marketing orientation can be distinguished from other
basic
 
          business philosophies that emphasize, for example, production, product
quality
 
              or sales as central to an organization's success.
        At news media organizations, the last decade has been one of great potential
 
              uncertainty, particularly for those in the broadcast television
and daily
 
          newspaper industries.  Though daily papers and broadcast TV continue
to be the
 
              dominant carriers of news, entertainment and advertising, their
shares of
 
          audiences and advertising spending have eroded.[12]  They face
formidable
 
      competitors (cable television, home video, direct mail and on-line
services) in
 
              their core businesses.[13]  And they glimpse new challengers
(telephone and
 
        computer software companies) on the horizon that would like to do what
they do
 
              ( provide processed information to consumers.[14]  Coincident with
this changing
 
             environment, trade publications for the newspaper industry report a
growing
 
            emphasis on strengthening those organizations' marketing orientation
by
 
        emphasizing attention to readers' informational wants and needs.
Articles have
 
              discussed how to "romance" readers or how to use research to find
out what
 
           readers say they want or need from their newspaper. [15]  Though
newspapers have
 
             always paid attention to what readers want,[16] the practice of
using readership
 
             research to shape editorial content has become controversial for
journalists.[17]
 
              A strong ethic of public service has permeated the occupational
culture of
 
           journalism, but this ethic has rarely been defined in terms of
identifying and
 
              meeting individual readers' wants and needs.[18]  Rather, the
public service ethic
 
              favors identifying and responding to broad social or political
needs, which may
 
              or may not coincide with general informational wants and needs of
readers or
 
             potential readers.  Some have framed a marketing orientation as
antithetical to
 
              public-service journalism.[19]  At a minimum, the use of
readership (or market)
 
            research to shape editorial content is a new way of doing business
in many
 
           newsrooms.
        A strong marketing orientation implies more audience influence on content
 
           decisions.  It stands in contrast to a "professional" decision-making
model,
 
             which emphasizes dissemination of information that journalists
believe readers
 
              or viewers need to know.  Under a strictly professional
decision-making model,
 
              journalists draw upon their expertise and training in deciding
what information
 
              their audience members must be given to negotiate their world; or,
said another
 
              way, the journalists control the information-selection process.  A
strong
 
          marketing orientation shifts the focus away from the journalist's
expertise and
 
              toward the reader's or viewer's informational interests.  News
decision-making
 
              is based more on cues that audience members provide about what
they want or
 
            think they need from their newspaper or television station.  A
marketing
 
         orientation, therefore, challenges the journalists' prerogative to
unilaterally
 
              decide what's news.  The journalists, in effect, surrender some
control over
 
             the information decision-making process.  This kind of
deprofessionalization
 
             could be wrenching for an organization, which presumably would not
undertake it
 
              absent a compelling need.[20]
        The central hypothesis here is that conditions of high environmental
 
      uncertainty, particularly with respect to readers or potential readers,
provide
 
              that compelling need.   A strong marketing orientation will tend
to emerge at
 
              daily newspapers at which editors are experiencing high levels of
uncertainty
 
              about their environment. Stated another way, as uncertainty about
the
 
      organization's environment increases ( specifically, uncertainty about
readers
 
              ( an organization will strengthen its marketing orientation.  It
will do so in
 
              an effort to make a crucial relationship ( the relationship with
its readers (
 
              more predictable.  Having a predictable relationship with readers
is essential
 
              to the long-term health of a newspaper because its readers are
largely respo
 
            nsible for revenue generation by the organization.[21]  They
contribute directly to
 
              revenue through purchase of the publication and indirectly to
revenue when
 
           their attention is re-sold to advertisers.
        An additional task of this study is to explore other factors that may
 
       contribute both to environmental uncertainty at a newspaper and to a
stronger
 
              marketing orientation.  Here, it is hypothesized that several
characteristics
 
              of the organization's physical environment will lead to editors
perceiving high
 
              levels of uncertainty in their organization's environment.  These
same factors
 
              may, as well, directly influence a strong marketing orientation.
 
Conceptual and operational definitions
        ( Organization.  The definition of organization often is problematic because
 
              it's not always clear where an organization ends and its
environment begins.
 
             For this paper, Scott's conceptual definition of organization is
used.  He
 
           defines organizations as systems of interdependent activities linking
shifting
 
              coalitions of participants in which the systems are embedded in
the
 
    environments in which they operate.[22]  Because the focus of this research
is news
 
              decision-making, organization will be defined operationally as the
news
 
        department of a firm whose primary business is publication of a
              general-circulation daily newspaper.
        ( Environmental uncertainty. The concept of environment has received much
 
           scholarly attention.  The research reflects two general ways of
thinking about
 
              environment.  One conceptualizes an organization's environment as
an objective,
 
              measurable reality that varies in terms of its wealth, stability,
heterogeneity
 
              and other so forth.  The other conceptualizes environment as a
perceptual
 
          phenomenon ( essentially a mental construction of organizational
 
 decision-makers.  It assumes that for environmental factors to influence an
 
            organization's strategy and structure, those factors first must be
perceived by
 
              the organization's decision-makers.  It further assumes that the
perceived
 
           environment can (and probably does) differ from the objective
environment,
 
           though it is the perceived environment that drives decision-making.
Though the
 
              perceived and objective environments aren't identical, neither are
they
 
        unrelated.  Indeed, the objective environment presumably informs the
perceived
 
              environment.
        Both conceptualizations of environment ( as an objective reality and as a
 
           perceptual phenomenon ( have been used widely in organizational
research.  A
 
             perception-based definition is most appropriate here because this
study
 
        examines the impact of the environment on an organization's strategic
decisions
 
              about news and information content.  The perceived environment is
what managers
 
              would take into account in decision-making. Duncan has offered
this classic
 
            definition of the perceived environment, which is used here:  The
totality of
 
              the physical and social factors that are taken directly into
consideration in
 
              decision-making behavior of individuals in an organization.[23]
        As a concept, uncertainty is as thorny as environment.  Information theorists,
 
              decision theorists and organizational scholars have embraced
different
 
       conceptual approaches.[24]  Some have treated the concept globally;
others have
 
            identified specific dimensions or kinds of uncertainty.  The
conceptual
 
        approach used here was adopted from Milliken, and it focuses on
uncertainty as
 
              a lack of predictability.  She defines uncertainty as an
individual's perceived
 
              inability to predict something accurately.[25]
        Environmental uncertainty, then, would be an individual's perceived inability
 
              to predict something accurately about physical and social factors
that are to
 
              be taken into consideration in the individual's decision-making
for the
 
        organization.  Perceived environmental uncertainty would be variable
concept;
 
              that is, it would vary across individuals at a single point in
time and across
 
              time for a given individual.
        These conceptualizations of environment and uncertainty present challenges for
 
              research in which the organization is the unit of analysis.  Both
concepts are
 
              defined in terms of perceptions of individuals in the
organization.  That
 
          raises questions about treating environmental uncertainty as an
              organizational-level concept.  Speaking strictly, an organization
does not
 
           perceive; the individuals who are part of the organization perceive.
 
      Organizations are, however, arenas for collective activity, such as joint
 
          decision-making.  If it is accepted that an organization's environment
can
 
           affect its decision-making, it seems reasonable to assume that senior
managers
 
              operate with some jointly held perceptions of that environment,
presumably
 
           arising from their collective experiences with the organization and
its
 
        environment.  These jointly held perceptions would not be identical but
should
 
              be similar and would constitute the organization's environment for
purposes of
 
              strategic decision-making.  Indeed, data collected for this study
suggest that
 
              editors' perceptions of their environment are more similar than
different.[26]
        For this article, an index was constructed to assess the degree of
 
    environmental uncertainty for a news department.  The index was based on the
 
             responses of the editors surveyed, aggregated by newspaper.[27]
Editors were asked
 
              to indicate their level of agreement with four statements about
the newspaper's
 
              "community."  These statements probed the degree to which the
editors believed
 
              they knew what kinds of stories appealed to their community; felt
they unders
 
             tood what the community wanted in the newspaper; thought the kinds
of people in
 
              the community had changed in the last few years; and felt they
knew what kind
 
              of role the newspaper played in the community.  The items were
intended as a
 
             general measure of the degree to which the editors found their
community's
 
           informational wants and needs unpredictable.  The responses of
editors at a
 
            given newspaper were averaged and summed to create the index.  This
created an
 
              organizational-level estimate for each paper of its news
department's perceived
 
              environmental uncertainty.
        ( Marketing orientation. During the last decade, many newspaper firms (or
 
           their parent companies) have dedicated themselves to becoming more
 
   customer-oriented.[28] As stated above, a marketing orientation is defined
 
       conceptually as the degree to which achieving organizational goals
consists of
 
              determining the needs and wants of target markets and delivering
the desired
 
             satisfactions more effectively and efficiently than competitors.  A
news
 
         department's marketing orientation should be reflected in its
willingness to
 
             conduct and use readership research to shape editorial content, as
opposed to
 
              relying solely on the "professional judgments" of reporters and
editors.[29] Degree
 
              of marketing orientation is a variable that could vary across a
group of papers
 
              at a single point in time or for a single newspaper across time.
        Four indices were used to assess different aspects of a newspaper's marketing
 
              orientation.  Three indices were based upon editors' responses to
items asking
 
              about various categories of content that newspapers publish.
Specifically, the
 
              editors were asked to indicate the degree to which readership
research had
 
           influenced major decisions that the paper had made about publishing
that kind
 
              of content. Their responses were factor analyzed.  The intent was
to see if the
 
              19 categories fell into coherent content dimensions.  (It seemed
possible that
 
              some kinds of content might be more likely to be influenced by
readership
 
          research than others.)  Because of weak or inconsistent factor
loadings, four
 
              of the 19 content categories were eliminated from the final
solution.  After
 
             removing those items, three relatively clean factors emerged from
the analysis
 
              (Table 1):
        ( A Traditional Local Information Factor composed of content about local
 
          government, other local affairs, neighborhood activities and local
events
 
          calendars, as well as comics, sports and "good news."  This factor
embraces,
 
             for the most part, the standard local content of most
general-circulation daily
 
              newspapers.  This is clearly the case for content on local
government, local
 
             affairs, neighborhood affairs, local events calendars and much
sports and "good
 
              news. The exception, of course, is comics.  While not local, it is
traditional
 
              fare for most dailies.
        ( A Traditional Non-local Information Factor composed of content about
 
        national and international affairs.  This factor embraces the standard
 
       non-local content of most general-circulation dailies.
        ( A Special-Interest Information Factor composed of several kinds of content
 
              that trade publications suggest newspapers have begun to emphasize
relatively
 
              recently ( business, science, personal health, personal finance,
consumerism
 
             and entertainment.  Trade publications suggest newspapers are
paying more
 
          attention to these kinds of content because of perceived reader
interest.
 
           Often, this content is directed at fairly specialized reader
interests.[30]
        Results of the factor analysis were used to guide development of three
 
        organizational-level indices on traditional local, traditional non-local
and
 
             special-interest content.[31] In creating these indices, responses
from editors
 
            within an organization were aggregated to create an
organizational-level
 
         "score" on each of the content-change items ( a score for a particular
 
       organization on a particular item.  These organizational-level indicators
were
 
              summed to create the indices.  Presumably, organizations with the
strongest
 
            marketing orientation would score highly on all three indices ( the
Traditional
 
              Local, Traditional Non-local and Special Interest indices.
        The fourth index assessed the degree to which more-general content changes had
 
              been made on the basis of readership research.  This index was
built from
 
          questions that asked editors to assess the degree to which readership
research
 
              had influenced changes in the paper's graphic design, Page 1
content and beat
 
              structure, as well as its influence on decisions to emphasize and
de-emphasize
 
              recent certain kinds of content.  Though these items were not
subjected to
 
           content analysis, the General Content Change Index was constructed in
the same
 
              way as the three above.
        Community Characteristics:  The central relationship tested in this article is
 
              that a news department's perceived uncertainty about its
environment will lead
 
              to a stronger marketing orientation.  If support is found for that
hypothesis,
 
              the questions then become, What are antecedents of uncertainty,
and what other
 
              factors influence a strong marketing orientation?  The hypotheses
offered in
 
             the analyses that follow suggest that structural community
characteristics (
 
             characteristics of the organization's objective environment (
produce
 
      uncertainty.  Specifically, these characteristics are hypothesized to
 
      potentially affect levels of perceived uncertainty and marketing
orientation:
        ( The size of the community, measured by its 1990 population.  The assumption
 
              is that larger communities, which would tend to be complex and
heterogeneous,
 
              would present a greater source of uncertainty for editors than
smaller
 
       communities, which would tend to be more homogeneous than larger
communities.
        ( The education level of the community, as measured by the percentage of
 
          adults in the community with college bachelor's degrees.  The
assumption is
 
            that more highly educated communities would have more varied
informational
 
           needs, which would tend to heighten editors uncertainty about how to
serve
 
           those needs.
        ( The number of other general-circulation daily newspapers in the paper's home
 
              county.  The assumption is that in competitive environments,
editors would have
 
              greater uncertainty about how to effectively appeal to readers,
who would have
 
              accessible alternative sources of information.[32]
        ( The percentage of the community population that is new to the area since
 
            1985.  The assumption is that in-migration would tend to heighten
uncertainty
 
              because the changing community composition would make its
informational needs
 
              less predictable to editors.
        ( The percentage of minorities in the community.  The assumption is that
 
          because newspaper editors tend to be overwhelmingly white,[33] they
would tend to
 
              be less able to predict how to serve communities in which large
segments of the
 
              population have different racial or cultural backgrounds than
theirs.
        ( The degree to which the paper's circulation growth has kept pace with
 
         household growth in the community.  The assumption is that the failure
of
 
          circulation to keep pace with household growth would heighten
uncertainty among
 
              editors about their understanding of the community's informational
needs.
 
Method and Findings
The data analyzed in this article come from several sources.  Information about
 the organization's marketing orientation and its perceived environmental
 
               uncertainty is based on results of the mail survey of editors,
which was
 
         conducted during an eight-week period in 1991.  Three-hundred-and-sixty
middle-
 
              and senior-level editors were contacted at 100 U.S. daily
newspaper companies.
 
              The papers were selected using standard probability sampling
techniques.[34]  Of
 
             the 360 editors contacted, 167 provided usable responses, for an
individual
 
            response rate of 46.5 percent.  These editors represented 78
newspaper firms,
 
              yielding an organizational response rate of 78 percent.[35] The
latter is the more
 
              critical figure, as the findings reported here describe
characteristics of the
 
              newspaper rather than of the individuals working at those
newspapers.
 
       Information on community characteristics was taken from the 1990 U.S.
Census,
 
              except for data about circulation performance. That was obtained
from the
 
          Editor & Market Guide .[36]
Table 2 shows the means and standard deviations of variables included in the
 
                  analyses that follow.  It also reports the reliability
coefficients of the four
 
              content-change indices, which ranged from acceptable (General
Change and
 
         Perceived Environmental Uncertainty indices) to excellent (Special
Interest,
 
             Traditional Local, Traditional Non-Local content indices).
        Path models were used to examine the impact of  community characteristics and
 
              perceived environmental uncertainty on the four content-change
indices.  This
 
              process was used to estimate the path coefficients:  Initial
coefficients were
 
              computed for just-identified recursive models.  The models were
trimmed of
 
           paths that did not meet or exceed the p < .10 significance level.[37]
Coefficients
 
              were re-estimated for these over-identified models.  W, a goodness
of fit
 
          statistic, was computed for each model.[38]  The models are shown in
Figures 1-4.
 
              Here is a summary of findings:
        ( All four models explained a significant amount of variance in their
 
       dependent variables, and no model needed to be discarded because the W
 
       statistic suggested a lack of fit.
        ( In all four models, perceived environmental uncertainty had a significant
 
             positive effect on a newspaper's marketing orientation, as
predicted.  That is,
 
              newspapers in environments of high perceived uncertainty tended to
be those
 
            most likely to report basing content decisions on readership
research.
        ( In general, the structural community variables ( those indicators of the
 
            organization's "objective" environment ( did not have a strong
impact on
 
         perceived environmental uncertainty.  The single exception was
competition from
 
              other daily newspapers.   Its effect was positive, as expected, at
the p < .10
 
              significance level.  That is, as the number of other daily
newspapers in the
 
             paper's home county increased, so did perceived environmental
uncertainty.
        ( In three models, one of the structural community variables had a direct
 
           effect on a marketing orientation indicator.  In-migration had a
positive
 
          effect on the use of readership research to guide changes in
traditional local
 
              and non-local content, and education had a positive effect on the
use of
 
         readership research to guide changes special-interest content.
        Taken as a whole, the results support the central hypothesis of this study (
 
              that perceived environmental uncertainty positively affects the
strength of the
 
              marketing orientation of daily newspapers.  As uncertainty about
their
 
       community increases, editors collectively report a greater likelihood
that
 
           content decision-making is shaped by results of readership research,
which
 
           presumably seeks to measure readers' informational wants and needs.
This is
 
             true for each of the four indices of marketing orientation.
        The results also suggest that while community structural characteristics can
 
              be associated with a strong marketing orientation, this is
relatively rare.  Of
 
              the six structural characteristics examined, only two ( education
and the
 
          degree of in-migration into the community ( directly affected any of
the
 
         marketing-orientation indicators.  In-migration was associated with the
 
        influence of readership research on changes in traditional content.
Because
 
             newspaper readership tends to be associated with the strength of a
reader's
 
            ties to his or her community,[39] this relationship might be
expected.  Newspapers
 
              in areas with relatively large numbers of new residents, who
presumably have
 
             relatively weak ties to their community, might strengthen their
marketing
 
          orientation to try to retain their audience.  They may need to modify
their
 
            content to appeal to these newcomers, and readership research would
provide
 
            guidance on how they might do that.  The data used in this study do
not
 
        indicate how the content at such newspapers was altered ( just that it
was.  An
 
              over-time content analysis would give more insight into the nature
of such
 
           changes. The other important structural characteristic was education,
which was
 
              associated with the influence of readership research on
special-interest
 
         content.  This linkage is less obvious.  It may be that in communities
with
 
            high education levels, newspapers confront an audience with a more
intricate
 
             set of informational wants and needs and with a capacity to fulfill
those needs
 
              using a variety of informational sources.  This may stimulate a
stronger
 
         marketing orientation as the newspaper tries to adjust content to fit
those
 
            needs.  Also, many kinds of special-interest content  ( particularly
that about
 
              science, business and personal finance ( are complicated, "high
brow" subjects
 
              that may be more attractive to a highly educated audience.
        That said, the direct effect of structural characteristics is modest, and it
 
              may be best not to make too much of  it.  Given that this was a
fairly broad
 
             group of structural indicators, it would be hard to argue that a
newspaper's
 
             objective environment tended to influence greatly the development
of a stronger
 
              marketing orientation.  Neither did the objective environment
appear to
 
        influence perceived environmental uncertainty.  Only the fairly crude
indicator
 
              of competition showed any correspondence with the Perceived
Environmental
 
          Uncertainty Index, and this was the weakest reported relationship
found among
 
              all those tested.  Though these findings may be surprising to
some, others have
 
              noted a lack of direct correspondence between objective and
perceived en
 
        vironments.[40]   While no one argues that individuals create their
perceived
 
          environment from whole cloth, for the objective environment to matter
its cues
 
              must be perceived and interpreted by an individual.  Downey and
Slocum[41] argue
 
             that a variety of cognitive and social factors intervene in this
process to
 
            shape an organization member's perception of the environment.  These
factors
 
             could account for the lack of influence that characteristics of the
objective
 
              environment had on editors' perceived uncertainty about their
community.  One
 
              need in future research is to explore more fully the connections
between a
 
           newspaper's objective environment, the objective environment as
perceived by
 
             editors, the editors' level of uncertainty about the environment
and factors
 
             that influence editors' perceptions about the environment.
        In future studies, improvements also need to be made in conceptualization and
 
              measurement to gain a stronger understanding of the relationship
between
 
         uncertainty, the environment and the strength of a media organization's
 
        marketing orientation.  Specifically:
        ( A more refined definition of environmental uncertainty is necessary.
 
         Milliken has suggested treating environmental uncertainty as
multidimensional
 
              concept, not a unidimensional concept, as was done in this
paper.[42]  She
 
       distinguishes among three types of environmental uncertainty ( state
 
     uncertainty, which pertains to perceived conditions of the environment;
effect
 
              uncertainty, which speaks to concerns about the potential impact
of
 
    environmental conditions on the organization; and response uncertainty,
which
 
              addresses concerns about how an organization might respond to
environmental
 
            conditions.  A more complex conceptualization of environmental
uncertainty may
 
              yield a better understanding about its effect on development of a
strong
 
         marketing orientation.
        ( It may be helpful to treat the environment as multidimensional, too.  That
 
              is, it may be useful to think of a news department as having
several
 
     environments ( its community of readers or potential readers (as in this
 
         study), its firm, its parent corporation, its financial backers.  Each
group
 
             may constitute a component of the department's environment; some
may be
 
        important antecedents of uncertainty for newsroom managers, others may
not.
        ( A better understanding of factors that intervene to shape a newsroom
 
        manager's perception of the environment is also essential.  Presumably
this
 
            would enhance our understanding of the relationship between the
objective
 
          environment and the perceived environment.
        ( Methodologically, a broader set of indicators is needed to assess perceived
 
              environmental uncertainty.  The reliability of the Perceived
Environmental
 
           Uncertainty Index  was marginally acceptable.  A refined conceptual
definition,
 
              of course, should help in the creation of improved
operationalizations.
        ( Finally, exploring content differences between newspapers with weak and
 
           strong marketing orientations is necessary to understand the impact
that a
 
           strong marketing orientation has on information available to society.
Much is
 
              made of the presumed link between a marketing orientation and
public-service
 
             journalism at daily newspapers.[43]  Virtually nothing is known
about this
 
       connection from systematic study ( including whether the link exists at
all.
        The limitations of this study aside, the results do provide evidence that
 
           newspapers differ in the strength of their marketing orientation;
that
 
       readership research may not influence all content decisions uniformly;
and that
 
              perceived environmental uncertainty appears to be an important
consideration in
 
              understanding the development of stronger marketing orientation at
daily
 
         papers.  In those ways, the study does contribute to our understanding
about
 
             the array of organizational factors that affect how news is
manufactured in
 
            society today.
 
 TABLE 1
Principal components factor analysis of 15 content categories with Varimax
 
           rotation.
 
Factors
I
II
III
I.  Traditional Local Content
 
 
 
     Local government
.864
 
 
     Other local affairs
.901
 
 
     Sports
.704
 
.338
     Neighborhood activities
.738
.395
 
     Calendar-local events
.727
.451
 
     Good news
.611
.314
 
     Comics
.549
 
 
II. Special Interest Content
 
 
 
     Entertainment
 
.768
 
     Business
 
.722
 
     Consumer affairs
.317
.594
.345
     Personal finance
 
.828
.307
     Science
 
.708
 
     Personal health
.330
.811
 
III. Traditional Non-Local Content
 
 
 
     International affairs
 
.376
.869
     National government
.364
 
.871
 
 
 
 
Variance accounted by factor
52.5%
11.5%
6.9%
Eigenvalue
7.87
1.72
1.04
Total variance = 70.9%
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
TABLE 2
Means, standard deviations, alphas (for indices) for variables in path models.
 
Variable
Mean
SD
Alpha
 
 
 
 
Exogenous Variables
 
 
 
   MSA/PMSA Population (in 000)
1,795
2,274
NA
   % In-Migration in last 5 years
20.4
6.1
NA
   Circulation performance in %
-15.6
24.8
NA
   Number dailies in county
2.3
2.464
NA
   % with B.A.
21.6
6.163
NA
   % Minority Population
18.9
11.7
NA
Endogenous, Dependent Variables
 
 
 
   General Content Change Index
11.03
5.019
.73
   Special-Interest Content Change Index
  2.62
  .671
.89
   Traditional Local Content Change Index
  2.79
  .679
.89
   Traditional Non-local Content Chg. Index
  2.14
  .782
.97
   Environmental Uncertainty Index
10.31
2.383
.67
 
 [1]    Readership research is one kind of market research.
[2]     John C. Schweit
zer, "Marketing Research in the Newspaper Business," in Readings
 
 
    in Media Management, Stephen Lacy, Ardyth Sohn and Robert Giles, eds. (Colum
bia, SC:
 
               Media Management and Economics Division of the Assoc
iation for Education in Journalism
 
               and Mass Communication, 19
92),153-180. Doug Underwood, When MBA's Rule the Newsroom
 
              (Ne
w York: Columbia University Press, 1993), xi-xii, 110, 111-116; John H. McManus,
 
 
              Market-Driven Journalism: Let the Citizen Beware (Thousand O
aks, CA: Sage Publications,
 1994), 6-7.
[3]     Don R. Pember, Mass Media in Am
erica, 6th (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 127.
[4]     Philip Meyer, The Newspaper
Survival Handbook: An Editor's Guide to Marketing
 
             Research (B
loomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1985), 8-10.
[5]     Larry S. Lowe and
George deTarnowsky, "Newspaper Research: A Growing Consultant
 
 
 Opportunity," Journal of Professional Marketing Services 10, No. 1 (December 19
93),
 
              45-54.
[6]     Underwood, When MBAs Rule the Newsroom, 14-
25; McManus, Market-Driven Journalism,
 
               1-16.
[7]     The enviro
nment plays a key role in open-systems models of organizations.  For an
 
 
           extended discussion on organizations and their environments, see W. R
ichard Scott,
 
             Organizations: Rational, Natural and Open Syste
ms, 3rd (Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
 
        Prentice-Hall, 1992), 123-316.
 
[8]     John Child, "Organizational Structure, Environment and Performance: The R
ole of
 
               Strategic Choice," Sociology 6, No. 1 (January 1972):
2-22; Richard L. Daft and Karl E.
 Weick, "Toward a Model of Organizations as I
nterpretation Systems," Journal of
 
          Management Review 9, No. 2
 (1984): 284-295; Gregory G. Dess and Nancy K. Origer,
 
           "Envir
onment, Structure and Consensus in Strategy Formation: A Conceptual Integration,
"
 Academy of Management Review 12, No. 2 (1987): 313-330; H. Kirk Downey and J
ohn W.
 
              Slocum, "Uncertainty: Measures, Research, and Sources
of Variation," Academy of
 
          Management Journal 18, No. 3 (Septe
mber 1975): 562-578; H. Kirk Downey, Don Hellriegel
 
               and John
W. Slocum Jr., "Environmental Uncertainty: The Construct and Its Application,"
 
 Administrative Science Quarterly 20, No. 4 (December 1975): 613-629; Robert B.
Duncan,
 "Characteristics of Organizational Environments and Perceived Environm
ental
 
       Uncertainty," Administrative Science Quarterly 17, No.
3 (September 1972): 313-327;
 
              Barbara W. Keats, "A Causal Mode
l of Linkages Among Environmental Dimensions, Macro
 
              Organizat
ional Characteristics and Performance," Academy of Management Journal 31, No.
 
 
               3 (September 1988): 570-598; Christine S. Koberg and Gerardo R.
 Ungson, "The Effects of
 Environmental Uncertainty and Dependence on Organizat
ional Structure and Performance:
 
               A Comparative Study," Journa
l of Management 13, No. 4 (1987): 725-737; Angeline W.
 
             McArth
ur and Paul C. Nystrom, "Environmental Dynamism, Complexity, and Munificence as
 
 
               Moderators of Strategy-Performance Relationships," Journal of
 Business Research 23, No.
 4 (December 1991): 349-361; Edwin A. Gerloff, Nan K
anoff Muir and Wayne Bodensteiner,
 
               "Three Components of Perce
ived Environmental Uncertainty: An Exploratory Analysis of
 
               th
e Effects of Aggregation," Journal of Management 17, No. 4 (1991): 749-768; Paul
 R.
 
               Lawrence and Jay W. Lorsch, Organization and Environment
(Homewood, IL: Richard D.
 
             Irwin, 1967); Donald L. McCabe, "Th
e Assessment of Perceived Environmental Uncertainty
 
               and Econo
mic Performance," Human Relations 43, No. 12 (1990): 1203-1218; Raymond E.
 
 
              Miles, Charles C. Snow and Jeffrey Pfeffer, "Organization-Environm
ent: Concepts and
 
              Issues," Industrial Relations 13, No. 3 (19
74): 244-264; Danny Miller and Peter H.
 
             Friesen," Strategy-Ma
king and Environment: The Third Link," Strategic Management
 
           J
ournal 4, No. 3 (1983): 221-235; Frances J. Milliken, "Perceiving and Interpreti
ng
 
              Environmental Change: An Examination of College Administra
tors' Interpretation of
 
            Changing Demographics," Academy of Ma
nagement Journal 33, No. 1 (1990): 42-63; Frances
 
               J. Milliken
, "Three Types of Perceived Uncertainty About the Environment: State,
 
 
         Effect, and Response Uncertainty," Academy of Management Review 12, No.
 1 (1987):
 
            133-143; Delbert M. Nebecker, "Situational Favorab
ility and Perceived Environmental
 
              Uncertainty: An Integrative
 Approach," Administrative Science Quarterly 20, No. 2 (June
 1975): 281-294; R
obert D. Russell and Craig Russell, "An Examination of the Effects of
 Organiza
tional Norms, Organization Structure and Environmental Uncertainty on
 
 
         Entrepreneurial Strategy," Journal of Management 18, No. 4 (1992): 639-
656; Mark P.
 
              Sharfman and James W. Dean Jr., "Conceptualizing
 and Measuring the Organizational
 
            Environment: A Multidimensi
onal Approach," Journal of Management 17, No. 4 (1991):
 
             681-7
00.
[9]     Francis J. Aguilar, Scanning the Business Environment (New York: Macm
illan,
 
           1967); Daniel F. Jennings and James R. Lumpkin, "Insig
hts Between Environmental
 
          Scanning Activities and Porter's Ge
neric Strategies: An Empirical Analysis," Journal of
 Management 18, No. 4 (Dec
ember 1992): 791-803; Danny Miller, "Environmental Fit vs.
 
               In
ternal Fit," Organization Science 3, No. 2 (1992): 159-178; William L. Renfro an
d
 
              James L Morrison, "Detecting Signals of Change: The Environ
mental Scanning Process,"
 
               The Futurist 28, No. 4 (August 1984
): 49-53; Ram Subramanian, Nirmala Fernandes and
 
              Earl Harper,
 "Environmental Scanning in U.S. Companies: Their Nature and Their
 
 
      Relationship to Performance," Management International Review 33, No. 3: 2
71-286; Henry
 Tosi, Ramon Aldag and Ronald Storey, "On the Measurement of Envi
ronment: An Assessment
 of Lawrence and Lorsch's Environmental Uncertainty Subs
cale," Administrative Science
 
               Quarterly 18, No. 1 (March 1973
): 27-36; Rosalie L. Tung, "Dimensions of Organizational
 Environments: An Expl
oratory Study of Their Impact on Organization Structure," Academy
 of Managemen
t Journal 22, No. 4 (December 1979): 672-693.
[10]    Morgan P. Miles and Danny R
. Arnold, "The Relationship between Marketing
 
         Orientation and
 Entrepreneurial Orientation," Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice 15,
 
 
           No. 4 (1991): 49-65; Philip Kotler, Marketing Management: Analysis, P
lanning,
 
        Implementation and Control, 7th (Englewood Cliffs, N
J: Prentice Hall, 1991), 4.
[11]    Kotler, Marketing Management, 16.
[12]    Ver
onis, Suhler & Associates, The Veronis, Suhler & Associates Communications
 
 
              Industry Forecast, 8th (New York: Veronis, Suhler & Associates, 19
94).
[13]    Veronis, Suhler & Associates, The Veronis, Suhler & Associates Commu
nications
 
              Industry Forecast.
[14]    Wilson P. Dizard Jr., Old
 Media/New Media: Mass Communications in the
 
      Information Age
(New York, Longman, 1994).
[15]    M.L. Stein, "Re-establishing Relevance for Re
aders," Editor & Publisher, March
 
               5, 1994, 16-17; Robert G. P
icard, "Research and Development Still Misses Its Mark,"
 
              Edit
or & Publisher, December 19, 1992, 46-47, 56; Tim Triplett, "Marketing Research
 
 
              Guides Paper's Pulitzer-Winning Series," Marketing News, May
23, 1994, 1,5; Mark
 
           Fitzgerald, "25/43 Project a Reader Succe
ss," Editor & Publisher, October 26, 1991, 10,
 39; George Garneau, "Reaching '
At Risk' and 'Potential' Readers," Editor & Publisher,
 
               May 4,
 1991, 14-15,110; M.L. Stein, "Research for the Newsroom," Editor & Publisher,
 
 
 
               April 27, 1991, 15,18; Mary Alice Bagby, "Transforming Newspap
ers for Readers,"
 
          presstime, April 1991, 18-25; Gene Goltz, "
Reviving a Romance With Readers Is the
 
            Biggest Challenge for
Many Newspapers," presstime, February 1988, 16-22.
[16]    Audience interest is o
ften listed as an important news value.  See, for example,
 
               Me
lvin Mencher, News Reporting and Writing (Dubuque, IA: William C. Brown, 1984),
68.
[17]    Underwood, When MBA's Rule the Newsroom, xiii-xv.
[18]    Commission
on Freedom of the Press, A Free and Responsible Press (Chicago: The
 
 
       University of Chicago Press, 1947); Stephen Klaidman and Tom L. Beauchamp
, The Virtuous
 Journalist (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987).
[19]    Un
derwood, When MBAs Rule the Newsroom, 1993; Doug Underwood and Keith Stamm,
 
 
 
              "Balancing Business With Journalism: Newsroom Policies at 12 West
 Coast Newspapers,"
 
               Journalism Quarterly 69, No. 2 (Summer 19
92): 301-317.
[20]    For a discussion of this concept of professionalism, see Ra
ndal A. Beam,
 
         "Journalism Professionalism as an Organizationa
l-Level Concept," Journalism Monographs
 
               No. 121 (June 1990).
 
 
[21]    Jon Udell, The Economics of the American Newspaper (New York: Hastings Ho
use,
 
              1978), 26.
[22]    Scott, Organizations: Rational, Natura
l and Open Systems, 25.
[23]    Duncan, "Characteristics of Organizational Enviro
nments," 314.
[24]    Duncan, "Characteristics of Organizational Environments," 3
17.
[25]    Milliken, "Three Types of Perceived Uncertainty," 136.
[26]    One way
 to assess the homogeneity of responses among editors at a given
 
 
    newspaper is to conduct one-way analyses of variance on the items in which e
ditors were
 asked about their perceptions of their newspaper's environment.  F
or all these items,
 
               the between-groups (between newspapers) v
ariance was significantly greater than the
 
              within-groups (wit
hin newspapers) variance.  From this, it could be concluded that at a
 given ne
wspaper, editors' responses tended to be more alike than different.
[27]    Aggre
gation of data is a common ( though not uncontroversial ( practice in
 
 
         organizational research. See Alan Bryman, Research Methods and Organiza
tional Studies
 
               (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989) 230-233. Before pr
oceeding with the aggregation of data,
 
               one-way analyses of va
riance were performed on each individual-level measure used in
 
 
  analyses for this paper.  For all these measures, the between-groups (between
newspap
 
               ers) variance was significantly greater than the withi
n-groups (within newspapers)
 
             variance.  From this, it was con
cluded that it was appropriate to aggregate responses
 
               of edit
ors at a given newspaper to construct organizational-level indicators for that n
 
 
               ewspaper.
[28]    Mark Fitzgerald, "All Things to All People,"
 Editor & Publisher, Jan. 7, 1995,
 
               11-14; Howard Kurtz, "For
Nation's Newspapers, the News Isn't Good," The Washington
 
              Pos
t, Dec. 1, 1991, H1,H6; Jim Batten, "A Message From Jim Batten," Knight-Ridder N
ews,
 Winter 1990, 2A.
[29]    Readership research is defined as any formal, sys
tematic techniques for
 
        gathering information from a newspaper
's audience members or potential audience members
 about those members' informa
tional wants or needs, or about characteristics believed
 
               to b
e associated with the audience members' informational wants or needs.  Common ki
nds
 of readership research include focus groups, experiments or probability an
d
 
       non-probability surveys. Readership research is among a var
iety of techniques that a
 
               newspaper might use to attempt to a
ssess the informational wants and needs of its
 
            audience.  Oth
er techniques include informal or chance discussions with audience
 
 
      members; letters to the editor; unsolicited complaints or compliments dire
cted to the
 
               newspaper; and information from industry-wide eff
orts to identify audience
 
     informational wants and needs.  But
 readership research constitutes the most pro-active
 and expensive effort to i
dentify the informational wants and needs of readers.
[30]    Jean Gaddy Wilson a
nd Iris Igawa, "Strategy No. 11: 'Expand News Coverage,'"
 
             pre
sstime, November 1991, 45; David Noack, "Getting Readers Involved," Editor &
 
 
          Publisher, April 23, 1994, 22,26,30.
[31]    In creating these i
ndices, responses of editors at a given newspaper were
 
          averag
ed for each content category.  That produced an organizational-level estimate of
 
 
               the degree to which readership research had influenced major
 changes for that content
 
               category at the newspaper.  For a s
hort discussion of aggregation, see Footnote 27.
[32]    This relatively crude in
dicator of competition was used because it was easily
 
              compute
d and interpreted.  Despite its drawbacks, it has been used successfully in
 
 
             previous research.  See Stephen Lacy and Jan P Vermeer, "Theoreti
cal and Practical
 
             Considerations in Operationalizing Newspape
r and Television News Competition," The
 
             Journal of Media Econ
omics 8, No. 1 (1995), 53.
[33]    Debra Gersh, "Percentage of Minorities in Ne
wsrooms Up," Editor & Publisher,
 
             April 17, 1993, 42.
[34]    T
he sample of newspapers was drawn by taking a list of the 1,529 U.S. daily
 
 
            newspaper companies in business in 1990, which was ordered by tota
l daily circulation
 
               from largest to smallest. That list was d
ivided into three groups (large, medium and
 
               small), each acco
unting for about 21 million of the total U.S. daily circulation of
 
 
      about 62 million.  The 40 largest U.S. daily newspaper companies comprised
 the
 
         large-paper group, the next 188 companies the medium-pap
er group and the remaining
 
             1,301 companies the small-paper gr
oup.  Thirty newspaper companies were selected from
 
               both the
large- and medium-paper groups using an interval sampling technique with a
 
 
              random starting point.  Forty companies were selected in a similar
 way from the
 
          small-paper group.  This sampling strategy assu
red representation of large- and
 
          medium-sized newspapers, whi
ch are less numerous than small dailies. In cases in which
 
               on
e company published two papers with separate or largely separate editorial staff
s,
 
               one of the two papers was randomly selected for the sample
.
[35]    Responses were received from 28 of the large-circulation newspaper com
panies
 
             (274,000 daily circulation and up), from 27 of the med
ium-circulation companies (59,700
 to 273,999 circulation) and from 23 of the s
mall-circulation companies (58,699
 
          circulation and below).
 
[36]    Editor & Publisher, Market Guide 1990 (New York: Editor & Publisher, 1990)
.
[37]    This significance level was chosen because of the relatively small samp
le size.
 
               The intent in selecting a significance level that i
s more generous than is customary
 
               was to avoid a Type II erro
r.
[38]    For an explanation of how W was computed, see Elazar J. Pedhazur, Mult
iple
 
           Regression in Behavioral Research: Explanation and Predi
ction, 2nd (New York: Holt,
 
              Rinehart and Winston, 1982)616-62
3.
[39]    Keith R. Stamm, Newspaper Use and Community Ties: Toward a Dynamic The
ory
 
          (Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing, 1985).
[40]    Child, "Org
anizational Structure, Environment and Performance," 1972; Daft and
 
 
       Weick, "Toward a Model of Organizations," 1984; Dess and Origer, "Environ
ment,
 
         Structure and Consensus in Strategy Formulation," 1987;
 Downey, Hellriegel and Slocum,
 
               "Environmental Uncertainty,"
1975; Milliken, "Three Types of Perceived Uncertainty,"
 
               1987.
 
[41]    Downey and Slocum, "Uncertainty: Measures, Research and Sources of Varia
tion,"
 
               1975.
[42]    Milliken, "Three Types of Perceived Uncer
tainty about the Environment," 1987;
 
              Milliken, "Perceiving an
d Interpreting Environmental Change," 1990.
[43]    Underwood, When MBA's Rule th
e Newsroom, 1993.

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