Final Project: Community Profile

WHO

The audience for my site consists of people who will both stay knowledgeable on world news and spend spare time reading partisan commentary. The audience is people who feel strongly about politics, have an opinion and have strong reactions when they read opinions they both agree with and disagree with. The focus of the site is U.S. foreign policy, so I am looking to bring people in that are passionate about politics in general, but narrow the discussion.

The rise of the blogosphere has coincided with the post-9/11 era – while people are spending more time communicating in online communities, Americans have also taken more of an interest in foreign policy.

A 2004 Pew Research Center study, “News Audiences Increasingly Politicized,” found that as of 2004, as many Americans followed international news as national and local. 52 percent said they followed international news in 2004, compared with 37 percent in 2002. This increase had a lot to do with the Iraq war. 24 percent said in 2004 that they followed international news “very closely.”

The study says that while interest in international news has increased, there is an education gap in interest:

But this core audience for news on international affairs continues to be dominated by well-educated males. In 2000, about twice as many college graduates as people with a high school education said they paid very close attention to news on international affairs; that remains the case in the current survey.

While the surge in general interest in foreign policy has dropped off since the period following the Iraq war, a dedicated audience remains. According to the 2008 Pew Research Center study, “Key News Audiences Now Blend Online and Traditional Sources,” 16 percent of Americans said in 2008 that they follow international affairs “very closely.”

If we extrapolate this percentage across the U.S., about 48 million Americans could be in my potential audience.

The 2008 Pew study breaks news consumers down into four categories: Integrators, Net-Newsers, Traditionalists and the Disengaged. This audience segmentation is a good way to get some demographic data on the type of news consumer I’m targeting. I see Integrators and Net-Newsers as the groups I am targeting.

Integrators (23 percent of the public), spend the most time looking at news per day, they use several types of media, primarily TV. Though they aren’t online-only consumers like the younger Net-Newsers, they are educated, affluent and highly connected. 45 percent go online at work and 24 percent have smartphones. They are the most interested in politics. Most are in the 35-64 age group.

Net-Newsers (13 percent of the public), frequently get news online and consider the internet their main news source. They are also highly educated and affluent. They tend to be younger, most are in the 25-49 age group, and 46 percent are connected to social networking sites. This group is also mostly male (58 percent). Net-Newsers more frequently read political blogs than watch network news.

Most importantly, more Net-Newsers and Integrators follow international news “very closely” (24 and 23 percent, respectively) than Traditionalists (16 percent), an older group who doesn’t get much news online, and is more concerned with weather and local news. What this survey data tells us? Most of the people most interested in foreign policy are online news consumers and political blog readers.

WHAT

Primary topics of the moment – the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan, Iran and its nuclear program, North Korea and its nuclear program, U.S. relations with Cuba.

The Washington Post is looked at as the main source of media for federal government policy. Daily news for the foreign policy junkie originating from major newspapers comes from the Washington Post and The New York Times – though many access newspaper content on the Internet.

But other online sources have increased their viewership in the last few years. Politico is a successful model. According to the New Republic, Politico had 4.6 million unique readers in September, one third the size of the Post’s online readership. In October, Nielsen ranked it the ninth-most-viewed newspaper site in the country.

I mention CNN because television news consumers interested in foreign policy will watch either CNN, MSNBC or Fox News – this is where most people go for international level on TV.

Some government policy news sources designed for the niche consumer have robust group followings on Facebook. Foreignpolicydigest.org is one of these (594 followers) – it features original content created by experts around the world who give overviews of varied issues. In its mission statement, it says that major news outlets are cutting back on international coverage and only focusing on Iraq and Afghanistan.

This indicates that there are people concerned with international news that covers nations that often get overlooked. I found this in interviews of two audience members. Both were very interested in the situation in Sri Lanka, which got very little coverage from American media, and spent a lot of time on sites like BBC News, France 24 and Al-jazeera. So I have an audience segment that wants to get a perspective on U.S. foreign policy outside of American media.

The seriously political and opinionated audience I’m trying to reach is looking not just for news that tells them what’s going on with U.S. relations and international news, but also for criticism and commentary of U.S. policy.

HOW

This community is based on intense feelings stirred up by political opinions on international events and the U.S.’s actions with the rest of the world. Therefore, the main forms of communication are self-affirmation and agreement, where people on the same page repeat each others views, and debate, where they disagree but rarely hear each other out.

Message boards are a place for this to take place. Yet Another Politics Board is one of the most active political boards on yuku – 1321 members and 974 posts in the last 24 hours. Most of the links I found in the threads that dealt with foreign policy were to articles in the Washington Post.

There are plenty of Facebook groups where people can join to express their opinion (Students Against the War, etc.) – though many on here may just be joining a group because they agree with the position and may not be interested in an in-depth level. So, while they may be there, I should be a little wary about finding audience members in groups like this.

Maybe the biggest way for my audience to talk to each other online is in the comment threads of sites like Politico. They can get to know each other (or at least on the level of recognizing a user name) and a have an ongoing dialogue over several articles.

Offline, a big place for these people to get together is protest groups and rallies. These are cathartic experiences when all are unified in opinion. I spoke with several groups around Chicago campaigning against the Iraq war (I had a hard time finding pro-war groups) – they have regular meetings where they share ideas and try to think about how they can influence U.S. policymakers.

Beyond organized groups, there are also protests that will be started by members of groups but could be joined in by all kinds of passionate people. A few months ago there was a large pro-Israel rally at Federal Plaza – the plaza was packed all the way to the sidewalks despite the cold.

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One Response to “Final Project: Community Profile”

  1. Final Project: Overview « U.S. Diplomacy in the Age of Obama Says:

    […] will the promise of change play out in the realm of foreign policy? « How-To Video Final Project: Community Profile […]

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