Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


University of Wollongong. School of Economics


The findings of the research described in this thesis add to our understanding of the dynamic of change in the contemporary phenomenon of online news. The research adopts an interpretivist perspective, which brings together a suitable mix of methodologies and theoretical concepts. The study focuses on the adoption of interactive features by Australian newspapers websites as well as in the identification of different user profiles through their perception and opinions on the constant changes in online news. Thus, the research has significant contributions to theory and also has lessons for practice.

The research undertook four sets of data collections as follows: Phase 1 – a web-based content analysis of twelve Australian online newspapers (2006-2007); Phase 2 – an initial Q-study of Australian online news consumers (2007); Phase 3 – a second Q-study of Australian and Malaysian online news consumers (2008); and Phase 4 – the revisiting of the newspaper websites of Phase 1 of the web-based content analysis (2009). The news websites study employed a longitudinal approach, which enabled the researcher to understand the shift of focus on interaction between readers and the news as well as the changes over time of the general online news environment. An additional Phase was then added to the research after the main data collection was completed. This took a critical look at current innovations in online news to suggest its possible future as the distinction between producers and consumers of news are becoming blurred through the use of social media on the Internet. The research demonstrated the revolution and evolution of online news, which impacted not only the business model of news industries, but also the working environment of the journalist’s professions, and the involvement of the public news consumers in general.

This research is of significance to both, academics and the practitioners. In terms of scholarly significance, the study is important theoretically and methodologically. The dimensions of the concept of Interactivity underpin the study of the dynamic aspects of content and layout of online news. Activity Theory was found to be useful for analysing in a more general and holistic way, people’s views and motives when engaged in activities of accessing online news. By using a mixed-method approach to data analysis involving both the content analysis of websites and the Q-Methodology technique, the research covered both, the objective and subjective aspects of the online news. Although Q-Methodology is relatively new to the online news literature, it was found to be a valuable method for indentifying categories of people’s views on the constant changes in online news. The Interactivity concept and Activity Theory are two strong theoretical pillars that complement each other in creating a descriptive picture of the content, nature and use of the news websites. Together, they provide a useful mechanism to aid the research in understanding the link between the web elements and the web users’ needs and activities in the news industry.

The main contribution of the thesis is that it provides evidence that demonstrates the changing nature of online news content layout and features with greatly increased interaction and participation by consumers while also showing how different groups of people perceive and act with the constant changes in online news. The different activities of these groups are identified in terms of how they engage with the Interactivity dimensions of the websites and how different features of the websites should be designed to mediate the different activities of users. This thesis presents a rich picture of the recent substantiation growth of the interactive nature of online news with the variety of patterns of exchanges and the ways it now meets current informational and social needs and desires. As such, the Internet will continue to be engaged as a potentially powerful and persuasive tool in the future of the online news industry in ways that we cannot now anticipate.

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