This critical analysis focuses on the comparison of two news stories from BuzzFeed and The Sydney Morning Herald. The production context, target demographics, journalistic contents and the use of online delivery features of two pieces of news will be discussed below.
BuzzFeed News: “Our Gun Law Will Change,” New Zealand’s Prime Minister Says After Mosque Attacks (https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/skbaer/new-zealand-gun-laws-mosque-attack)
BuzzFeed is an American independent digital media company, founded in 2006, while BuzzFeed News started to be a division of BuzzFeed in 2011, providing reporting and journalism contents. With 650 million global audiences and over 9 billion content views each month (BuzzFeed, 2019), BuzzFeed is a growing storm on the internet, it creates contents and materials to be shared with friends on social media, for example quizzes, videos and articles. Topics it covers spread from serious news reporting, politics, business, cooking tutorials and much more, which claims to have a huge cross-platform network. However, many still criticize the reliability of BuzzFeed contents, whether the news content it produced is as trustworthy as those legacy media brands (Business Insider, 2017).
In terms of BuzzFeed target demographics, they mainly provide contents for female age between 18-34 in the U.S. who are frequent users of social media platforms (Alexa, 2019). It is claimed on their website that BuzzFeed reaches 60% of American Millennials per month (BuzzFeed, 2019). Besides, BuzzFeed also target people who are eager to express views and thoughts on online environment. The development of BuzzFeed Community allows readers to share insights within the community, which encouraged online participatory culture. A largest portion of BuzzFeed traffics were generated from various social media platforms, e.g. Facebook and Twitter (SimilarWeb, 2019).
Direct quotation from the Prime Minister was used in the title, precede and main text which increased the reliability of the news. Factual information provided was accurate which matches with the other news article from SMH, for example 49 people were killed and 40 injured. However, it’s better to be consistent with the use of English numbers and Arabic numerals, to make the news more search engine optimized.
Certain language problem observed, for example, the spelling of “Commissioner” to “Commisioner”, which affect professionalism of the news and ease for readers to search for relative information.
Brevity and Scannability:
I found the article not very reader-friendly, with same font, size and color of text throughout. Nielsen (1997) research suggested that 79% of web users scan through materials rather than read. Within this approximately 500 words article, there isn’t a single sub-heading which plays a huge role in capturing readers’ attention. For example, a sub-heading of “Details of Mosque Attacks” could be added after addressing the Prime Minister’s view and started mentioning about the actual incident, as the article was written in a reverse method. “Victims’ profile” can also be added before mentioning the two victims. This is expected to hook the scanners to stop and read.
Adaptability, Interactivity and Conversation:
A good piece of journalism generates conversation (Bradshaw and Rouhmaa, 2017). It’s good to see buttons on top of the website, for readers to share on both Twitter and Facebook directly. However, as a digital-born news site targeting the millennials, it’s essential to have presence on more social media platforms, for example, Instagram, which is even more popular social media platform than Twitter among millennials.
There are a few issues regarding the hyperlinks in the news article. Limited hyperlinks were found, and they are with the same text colour as the main text, which is inconspicuous. I realize that there are actually related articles about the Mosque Attacks at the bottom of the news story, which can let the readers further probe into the issue. Although the incident was mentioned in the text for quite a few times, none of the stories were linked inside the text. It is essential for online news to embed hyperlinks about the issue inside the text, to provide readers with convenience and instance source of knowledge.
Besides, the article mentioned the gun law has been attempted to change in the year 2005, 2012 and 2017. It will be nice if relevant stories could be linked for readers’ reference. I also figured out that one of the links linked out to the BBC News reporting about New Zealand gun law, it will be more appropriate if the link helps in promoting other BuzzFeed stories.
Moreover, we have to log in to Facebook to make comments on the comment section, which ruled out some non-Facebook users and people who want anonymous commenting.
Functionality and Accessibility:
Two links embedded can be seen throughout the story, all of them are functional and open on a new page providing convenience for readers. However, those links do not really contain relevant keywords, making them not so SEO optimized, decreased the navigability of the article and related contents. For example, the news story has linked the NZ existing gun law to the keyword ‘required to have a license’, it’s more ideal if the link is placed directly on the keyword ‘gun law’.
However, it’s good to see related articles at the bottom of the story, providing supplementary information to readers.
The Sydney Morning Herald: NZ PM Jacinda Ardern vows to change gun laws (https://www.smh.com.au/world/oceania/nz-pm-jacinda-ardern-vows-to-change-gun-laws-20190316-p514q7.html)
The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) is one of the most influential newspaper in Australia with more than 7.6 million readers every month (The Sydney Morning Herald, 2019). It was founded in 1831 issuing weekly newspaper and turned to issue daily in 1840, it is also the oldest Australian newspaper with 187 years of history. Now SMH is owned by Nine, providing both print and digital journalism contents to embrace audiences from different channels. SMH’s editorial stance is conservative, which focuses centered upon finance and business news. Undoubtedly, newspaper hugely influences public opinions. ABC News once conducted research on Australian most influential newspaper. It analyzed the data of audience size and trust quotient. The result indicated SMH had the highest influence index of 37 (ABC, 2015), which proved SMH as a credible news source with quality and trustworthy contents.
In terms of SMH’s target demographic, it mainly produces contents for Australian age ranging from 14 to 65, with an even split between male and female audiences. More than 30% of SMH’s readers have a household income of $120,000 p.a. or above, which is higher than the general Australian average, and a total of over 50% of readers are business decision makers, managers or professionals, which reflected that readers of this newspaper have fairly high level of education, and are mainly middle class (The Sydney Morning Herald, 2019).
SMH’s news story was written in a more comprehensive manner than the news story by BuzzFeed. Apart from mentioning the incident, it also included opinions from 2 Australian gun law experts and their views towards the tightening of gun law. This provided more information and comprehensive overview towards the issue, tailored for SMH’s well-educated middle-class target demographics.
Factual information matches with the previous news from BuzzFeed, together with the presence of a video showing the Prime Minister’s speech, the news story appears to be credible and accurate. However, contents about the Prime Minister vows to change gun law, appear in the title, video, video caption and the main text, which is a bit repetitive and lengthy.
Brevity and Scannability:
For the headline of this article, it should include the whole spelling of both New Zealand and Prime Minister, but not the abbreviation of those words, as New Zealand and Prime Minister are both more searchable terms than Jacinta Ardern for SMH predominantly Australian audiences. Bradshaw and Rohumma (2017) suggested in their book that an unambiguous headline is very important as it is the main focus of readers at first sight. The headline should be able to clearly communicate the keywords of the story and act as a brief introduction. With writing the headline in long form, it can provide readers with a more professional feeling and feel that this news article is more trustworthy.
Adaptability, Interactivity and Conversation:
I appreciate SMH’s link to the information and biography of the suspect which provide more relevant details to readers, which cannot be seen on BuzzFeed’s new story.
Multiple Multimedia were used inside the story. A video was embedded in the article which can possibly increase the level of interactivity for the article, an annotated photo also included in the middle of the article which breaks down the text and makes the article easier to read. However, the inclusion of video was not mentioned within the headline, the headline could be changed to “Video: New Zealand Prime Minister Vows to Change Gun Law” to stand out from the sea of news article and to communicate the presence of multimedia resources to readers, and raise the likelihood of the news being retweet and share.
Tags including “Christchurch Shooting”, “Terror Charges” and “Gun” were added in the story for readers to distinguish information that is pertinent, but those tags were not specific and relevant enough for readers to search for closely related news. Adding “Gun Law” and “New Zealand” may effectively generate more views for the article.
Functionality and Accessibility:
Hypertexts provided in the article works well and linked readers to news articles from The Age which is a sister masthead of SMH. However, all links open on the same page, which created inconvenience and higher possibility that readers didn’t finish reading the whole story.
Related news stories could be seen on the side of the news article to communicate details and related information. However, they appear in the middle of the article and open on the same page, which distracts readers from reading the original article. It’s better to put related articles at the bottom of page.
In conclusion, I think SMH covered the same story better than BuzzFeed. It provided more comprehensive related information with the inclusion of higher level of multimediary and hypertextuality than BuzzFeed. In terms of the contents, SMH delivers messages in a more accurate and professional manner, which is suitable for its target demographic, while BuzzFeed seems to be more casual.
Word Count: 1683
ABC (2015) Which newspapers most influence public opinion?, Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-29/catsaras-which-newspapers-most-influence-public-opinion/6653778 (Accessed: 23rd March 2019).
Alexa (2019) buzzfeed.com Traffic Statistics, Available at: https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/buzzfeednews.com (Accessed: 28th March 2019).
Bradshaw, P. and Rohumaa, L. (2017) The Online Journalism Handbook: Skills to Survive and Thrive in the Digital Age, London: Routledge.
Business Insider (2017) These are the most and least trusted news outlets in America, Available at: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/most-and-least-trusted-news-outlets-in-america-2017-3?r=US&IR=T (Accessed: 23rd March 2019).
BuzzFeed (2019) Launch With BuzzFeed, Available at: https://advertise.buzzfeed.com/(Accessed: 23rd March 2019).
BuzzFeed News (2019) “Our Gun Laws Will Change,” New Zealand’s Prime Minister Says After Mosque Attacks, Available at: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/skbaer/new-zealand-gun-laws-mosque-attack(Accessed: 20th March 2019).
Nielsen (1997) Why Web Users Scan Instead of Reading, Available at: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/why-web-users-scan-instead-reading/ (Accessed: 24th March 2019).
Similarweb.com (2019) buzzfeednews.com Traffic Overview, Available at: https://www.similarweb.com/website/buzzfeednews.com#social (Accessed: 28th March 2019).
The Sydney Morning Herald (2019) The Sydney Morning Herald Brand Overview, Available at: https://www.adcentre.com.au/brands/the-sydney-morning-herald/(Accessed: 23rd March 2019).
The Sydney Morning Herald (2019) Media Kit 2019, Available at: https://www.adcentre.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/The-Sydney-Morning-Herald-2019.pdf (Accessed: 23rd March 2019).
The Sydney Morning Herald (2019) NZ PM Jacinda Ardern vows to change gun laws, Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/world/oceania/nz-pm-jacinda-ardern-vows-to-change-gun-laws-20190316-p514q7.html (Accessed: 20th March 2019).