An Internet strategy for a niche magazine : a uses and gratifications approach
Thesis (MPhil (Journalism))--University of Stellenbosch, 2010.
Magazine publishers are under increasing pressure to extend their business strategies beyond the traditional printed products. A culture of instant gratification of media needs, pervasive social networking and the immediacy of content delivery, which are all provided by the World Wide Web, aggravate fears that readers will ultimately abandon the printed media in favour of the Internet as the primary content provider. These fears are rooted in the assumption that consumers choose the media they use based on preconceived ideas as to how these media will fulfil their needs. If the Internet succeeds in supplanting or displacing printed media, it could potentially destroy the traditional magazine model whereby publishers simultaneously generate revenue from the sale of media content to their audience and the sale of the audience’s attention to their advertisers. Therefore it is imperative that magazine publishers develop a relevant and efficient strategy to maintain their position as “intermediary” between advertisers and the media audience. To develop such a strategy, they need to understand what media uses consumers have for the Internet and what gratifications they expect to receive. Once this is understood, publishers could develop their online and offline strategies to service these uses and gratifications. This thesis contains qualitative research conducted in a phenomenological paradigm through the application of two descriptive surveys. The first survey focused on the experiences and attitudes of visitors to the website of WegSleep, an Afrikaans South African niche magazine for the caravanning and camping community, whilst the second compares similarities between the seven most visited magazine websites in South Africa during 2008. A correlation of the findings leads to the conclusion that although the Internet could potentially emulate all media, readers do not employ the Internet for exactly the same purposes as printed media. Whilst some displacement does take place, magazines are still better at serving readers’ affective and escapist needs. Conversely, the Internet is the preferred medium with regard to information gathering and cognitive media needs as well as personal integrative needs. Social integrative needs appear to be non medium specific. A complementary combination of the printed product and the online offering could therefore provide gratification of all media needs and promote brand loyalty instead of medium loyalty.