Understanding the audience turn in journalism …: A transformation of journalism discourse and journalism practice

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaperAcademic


Although reckoning with audiences still evokes resistance, it appears to be a fait accompli in the evolving news ecosystem. What has changed in journalism that giving in to audiences no longer automatically associates with giving up on excellence? Through longitudinal participatory observation of key moments (editorial meetings, public debates) in the development of Dutch journalism and through informal talks and formal interviews with a broad range of journalists and editors during the last 20 years, the paper will trace four tipping points in the audience turn in commercial news and public service journalism: 1) Becoming familiar with the discourse of ‘informed citizenship’ (1997 – 2002). 2) Growing recognition of the decreasing news interest of younger generations as challenge for public broadcasters’ societal mission (2003 – 2008). 3) Changing status of ‘millennials’ from marginal to ‘forerunners’ (2008 – 2015). 4) Increasing relevance of the attention economy as raison d’être for public service media and as business model of commercial journalism (2015 – now). Ann Swidler’s concept of ‘anchoring practice (2001) will be used to understand how the audience turn in journalism touched upon various anchoring functions of ‘quality journalism’ threatening to make it less effective as a shield against unwelcome changes in the distribution of financial and human resources as well as in the selection and presentation of news. The paper suggests that journalism as a professional practice and discourse may have to look for alternative anchoring concepts (as substitutes for both quality journalism and audience engagement), if and when it wants to remain a vital and constructive democratic force.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2019
EventFuture of Journalism - The School of Journalism, Media and Culture (JOMEC) at Cardiff University , Cardiff, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Sept 201914 Sept 2019
Conference number: 7


ConferenceFuture of Journalism
Abbreviated titleFOJ
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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