Influence of mediamorphosis
Reviewed by Vibha Sharma

Interactive Communication through News-sites
by Sheetal Thapar
Unistar Books. Pages 204. Rs 395

Interactive Communication through News-sitesSheetal Thapar, an Associate Professor of Journalism in Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, writes about the term "mediamorphosis," which has been greatly influential in bringing about metamorphosis in economy, society, governance and technology at a much larger scale.

The book talks extensively about interactivity in online journalism and how various news sites are managing to tap the potential that interactivity brings in this field.

Riding on the advancements in the field of information and technology, communication in all forms has witnessed a big shift and so has journalism. Journalism of current times is quite different from its ancestors of yesteryear, when the only option possible was one-way information dissemination. Times changed and technology advanced at a much-accelerated pace over these years. Interactivity in journalism began to assume more and more prominence.

A single-term interactivity can take many connotations ranging from gathering opinions, inviting feedback to understanding preferences of news readers. Hence, the news media which once epitomised the concept of "massification" is working towards becoming more oriented to "individuation" to suit various requirements. The individuation brings in the customisation and personalisation of news sites. Sheetal talks about the two terms customisation and personalization, which are often interchangeably used.

"With customisation, the user is active, choosing the content, features and functionality he or she wants from a website (my.yahoo.com). With personalisation, the user is passive. The provider infers or asks broadly what each user wants and chooses each user's content, features and functionality accordingly."

Multiple feedback channels are now on offer so that the news providers are better equipped to gauge the response and evaluation by the news-consumers. This is a significant step to ensure healthy interactivity. Email, live chat, internet forums, online polls, surveys, blogs, news ticker, guestbook, hyperlinks, search tools, video facility, audio facility, RSS feed, E-paper, Wireless paper are some of the umpteen options of interactivity that are put forth by the news sites for the users to choose from.

The comparison between traditional media to digital media is talked about by highlighting the effectiveness of hypertextuality vs earlier linear narration of news. The new-age mediamorphosis has made online journalism a very effective form of interactive journalism, thereby empowering the news-consumers to contribute as creators of content as well. Online journalism has made participatory journalism a practical reality and Sheetal rightly points out: "With respect to the mounting need for democratisation, the internet promises a great potential, especially for the developing world. Interactive online journalism can provide citizens with opportunities to have a voice in the fortification of a democracy."

A comparative study on US and Indian news sites is the topic of one of the chapters. Supported by detailed research and data, this chapter brings home the point that Indian news sites are still in their evolutionary state in allowing audience participation in comparison to the level of participatory communication that US news sites support. A good number of sample news-sites are enlisted and are commented upon, including some Indian and some non-Indian news sites.





HOME