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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

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
        "marketing concept" of journalism, which emphasizes tailoring a product
           customers' wants and needs.  Data from 78 daily newspapers suggest
        editors' uncertainty about their environment is a major influence on the
         strength of the marketing orientation of a newspaper.  The data also
             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
        "marketing concept" of journalism, which emphasizes tailoring a product
           customers' wants and needs.  Data from 78 daily newspapers suggest
        editors' uncertainty about their environment is a major influence on the
         strength of the marketing orientation of a newspaper.  The data show
          uncertainty about the environment strongly affects the chance that
              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
       newspaper's "real" environment strongly influence the degree of
            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
              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.
            have linked a marketing orientation to a loss of control over
        decision-making and a decline in "professional" standards.  Supporters
              that newspapers need to have a strong marketing orientation if
they are to
           survive and prosper.  They argue that a strong marketing orientation
         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
             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
              The article's purpose is to begin "unpacking" the concept of a
         orientation as it is applied at daily newspapers and to explore factors
             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
              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
      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,
           spend considerable time and energy trying to monitor and orchestrate
     relationships with important social actors in their organization's
              (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
     Frequently, organizations focus on developing predictable relationships
             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
             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
            products and developing a coordinated program to meet those
customers' wants
             and needs.  A marketing orientation can be distinguished from other
          business philosophies that emphasize, for example, production, product
              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
      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
            emphasis on strengthening those organizations' marketing orientation
        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
              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
        A strong marketing orientation implies more audience influence on content
           decisions.  It stands in contrast to a "professional" decision-making
             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
          marketing orientation shifts the focus away from the journalist's
expertise and
              toward the reader's or viewer's informational interests.  News
              is based more on cues that audience members provide about what
they want or
            think they need from their newspaper or television station.  A
         orientation, therefore, challenges the journalists' prerogative to
              decide what's news.  The journalists, in effect, surrender some
control over
             the information decision-making process.  This kind of
             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,
              that compelling need.   A strong marketing orientation will tend
to emerge at
              daily newspapers at which editors are experiencing high levels of
              about their environment. Stated another way, as uncertainty about
      organization's environment increases ( specifically, uncertainty about
              ( 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
              marketing orientation.  Here, it is hypothesized that several
              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
              coalitions of participants in which the systems are embedded in
    environments in which they operate.[22]  Because the focus of this research
is news
              decision-making, organization will be defined operationally as the
        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,
              and other so forth.  The other conceptualizes environment as a
          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
           environment can (and probably does) differ from the objective
           though it is the perceived environment that drives decision-making.
Though the
              perceived and objective environments aren't identical, neither are
        unrelated.  Indeed, the objective environment presumably informs the
        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
        examines the impact of the environment on an organization's strategic
              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
       conceptual approaches.[24]  Some have treated the concept globally;
others have
            identified specific dimensions or kinds of uncertainty.  The
        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
              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
           affect its decision-making, it seems reasonable to assume that senior
              operate with some jointly held perceptions of that environment,
           arising from their collective experiences with the organization and
        environment.  These jointly held perceptions would not be identical but
              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
        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
           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
         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
          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
          calendars, as well as comics, sports and "good news."  This factor
             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
              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
              recently ( business, science, personal health, personal finance,
             and entertainment.  Trade publications suggest newspapers are
paying more
          attention to these kinds of content because of perceived reader
           Often, this content is directed at fairly specialized reader
        Results of the factor analysis were used to guide development of three
        organizational-level indices on traditional local, traditional non-local
             special-interest content.[31] In creating these indices, responses
from editors
            within an organization were aggregated to create an
         "score" on each of the content-change items ( a score for a particular
       organization on a particular item.  These organizational-level indicators
              summed to create the indices.  Presumably, organizations with the
            marketing orientation would score highly on all three indices ( the
              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
              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
              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
              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 (
      uncertainty.  Specifically, these characteristics are hypothesized to
      potentially affect levels of perceived uncertainty and marketing
        ( The size of the community, measured by its 1990 population.  The assumption
              is that larger communities, which would tend to be complex and
              would present a greater source of uncertainty for editors than
       communities, which would tend to be more homogeneous than larger
        ( 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
           needs, which would tend to heighten editors uncertainty about how to
           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
              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
        ( The degree to which the paper's circulation growth has kept pace with
         household growth in the community.  The assumption is that the failure
          circulation to keep pace with household growth would heighten
uncertainty among
              editors about their understanding of the community's informational
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
              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
            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
       Information on community characteristics was taken from the 1990 U.S.
              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
             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]
              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
        ( 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
        ( In three models, one of the structural community variables had a direct
           effect on a marketing orientation indicator.  In-migration had a
          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
       community increases, editors collectively report a greater likelihood
           content decision-making is shaped by results of readership research,
           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
         marketing-orientation indicators.  In-migration was associated with the
        influence of readership research on changes in traditional content.
             newspaper readership tends to be associated with the strength of a
            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
          orientation to try to retain their audience.  They may need to modify
            content to appeal to these newcomers, and readership research would
            guidance on how they might do that.  The data used in this study do
        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
         content.  This linkage is less obvious.  It may be that in communities
            high education levels, newspapers confront an audience with a more
             set of informational wants and needs and with a capacity to fulfill
those needs
              using a variety of informational sources.  This may stimulate a
         marketing orientation as the newspaper tries to adjust content to fit
            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
             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
              of competition showed any correspondence with the Perceived
          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
          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
             could account for the lack of influence that characteristics of the
              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
         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
              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;
              uncertainty, which speaks to concerns about the potential impact
    environmental conditions on the organization; and response uncertainty,
              addresses concerns about how an organization might respond to
            conditions.  A more complex conceptualization of environmental
uncertainty may
              yield a better understanding about its effect on development of a
         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
     environments ( its community of readers or potential readers (as in this
         study), its firm, its parent corporation, its financial backers.  Each
             may constitute a component of the department's environment; some
may be
        important antecedents of uncertainty for newsroom managers, others may
        ( A better understanding of factors that intervene to shape a newsroom
        manager's perception of the environment is also essential.  Presumably
            would enhance our understanding of the relationship between the
          environment and the perceived environment.
        ( Methodologically, a broader set of indicators is needed to assess perceived
              environmental uncertainty.  The reliability of the Perceived
           Uncertainty Index  was marginally acceptable.  A refined conceptual
              of course, should help in the creation of improved
        ( 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
             journalism at daily newspapers.[43]  Virtually nothing is known
about this
       connection from systematic study ( including whether the link exists at
        The limitations of this study aside, the results do provide evidence that
           newspapers differ in the strength of their marketing orientation;
       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
         papers.  In those ways, the study does contribute to our understanding
             the array of organizational factors that affect how news is
manufactured in
            society today.
Principal components factor analysis of 15 content categories with Varimax
I.  Traditional Local Content
     Local government
     Other local affairs
     Neighborhood activities
     Calendar-local events
     Good news
II. Special Interest Content
     Consumer affairs
     Personal finance
     Personal health
III. Traditional Non-Local Content
     International affairs
     National government
Variance accounted by factor
Total variance = 70.9%
Means, standard deviations, alphas (for indices) for variables in path models.
Exogenous Variables
   MSA/PMSA Population (in 000)
   % In-Migration in last 5 years
   Circulation performance in %
   Number dailies in county
   % with B.A.
   % Minority Population
Endogenous, Dependent Variables
   General Content Change Index
   Special-Interest Content Change Index
   Traditional Local Content Change Index
   Traditional Non-local Content Chg. Index
   Environmental Uncertainty Index
 [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
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
[6]     Underwood, When MBAs Rule the Newsroom, 14-
25; McManus, Market-Driven Journalism,
[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,
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.
 "Characteristics of Organizational Environments and Perceived Environm
       Uncertainty," Administrative Science Quarterly 17, No.
3 (September 1972): 313-327;
              Barbara W. Keats, "A Causal Mode
l of Linkages Among Environmental Dimensions, Macro
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.
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
e Effects of Aggregation," Journal of Management 17, No. 4 (1991): 749-768; Paul
               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
ournal 4, No. 3 (1983): 221-235; Frances J. Milliken, "Perceiving and Interpreti
              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
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):
[9]     Francis J. Aguilar, Scanning the Business Environment (New York: Macm
           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.
ternal Fit," Organization Science 3, No. 2 (1992): 159-178; William L. Renfro an
              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
        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
[13]    Veronis, Suhler & Associates, The Veronis, Suhler & Associates Commu
              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,"
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,
lvin Mencher, News Reporting and Writing (Dubuque, IA: William C. Brown, 1984),
[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
              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
[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
               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
[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
t, Dec. 1, 1991, H1,H6; Jim Batten, "A Message From Jim Batten," Knight-Ridder N
 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
 of readership research include focus groups, experiments or probability an
       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,'"
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
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
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
         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
e company published two papers with separate or largely separate editorial staff
               one of the two papers was randomly selected for the sample
[35]    Responses were received from 28 of the large-circulation newspaper com
             (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
[38]    For an explanation of how W was computed, see Elazar J. Pedhazur, Mult
           Regression in Behavioral Research: Explanation and Predi
ction, 2nd (New York: Holt,
              Rinehart and Winston, 1982)616-62
[39]    Keith R. Stamm, Newspaper Use and Community Ties: Toward a Dynamic The
          (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
         Structure and Consensus in Strategy Formulation," 1987;
 Downey, Hellriegel and Slocum,
               "Environmental Uncertainty,"
1975; Milliken, "Three Types of Perceived Uncertainty,"
[41]    Downey and Slocum, "Uncertainty: Measures, Research and Sources of Varia
[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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