Hypertextuality in digital journalism in Colombia

Author: Joan Francesc Fondevila Gascón (Universitat Abat Oliva) y Herlaynne Segura
Citation:  Fondevila Gascón, Joan Francesc; Segura, Herlaynne (2012). "Hipertextuality in digital journalism in Colombia"  [on line]. Hipertext.net, 10, http://www.upf.edu/hipertextnet/en/numero-10/hipertextualidad-periodismo-digital-colombia.html 

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Abstract: Hypertextuality is a variable that allows the analysis of maturity in the practice of digital journalism. To determine the quantity (number of links per content unit) and quality (types of link according to their semantic implications) of hypertext use in Colombia, an empirical studied about two online newspapers, El Espectador and El Tiempo, has been conducted. The study is based on the content units published in the front page of each newspaper, the number of links in the total of content units, and the amount of contextual, relational and recommended links. The use of these links is revealed very scarce and superficial.
Keywords: Digital journalism, hypertextuality, Colombia, link, semantics 

Table of contents

1. The cases of El Tiempo and El Espectador in the context of the digital Colombian press
2. Empirical study on hypertextuality
3. Conclusion
4. Bibliography

 

1. The cases of El Tiempo and El Espectador in the context of the digital Colombian press

In Colombia, as it happens in other Latin American countries (Calderín and Segura 2010), the tradition of written journalism is well-established. Most newspapers come from specific families, and after becoming journalistic companies, the impact of Internet has caused mutations in both their structure and business models (Fondevila Gascón, 2010d), bringing about their metamorphoses (Fidler, 1997).

Born in 1961, the Asociación de Diarios Colombianos (ANDIARIOS[1], Association of Colombian Newspapers) intends to facilitate the journalistic and technological convergence of several media as a result of the digitisation process. In fact, out of the 39 existing newspapers in the country in 2007, 31 had digital editions (Fundación Telefónica, 2007). Nevertheless, only El Tiempo had national coverage. The regionalization process has significantly increased: each of the important regions and cities has one or several newspapers of its own.

Digital journalism in Colombia starts to develop in the early 1990s. This is when "audiorespuesta" (audioanswer) systems appear: using two computer languages, Foxpro for Windows V.2.5 and EASE, plus the telephone lines, they provided users with varied and interesting information. Access to the information sought was easily fulfilled and the dynamics was based on dialling a telephone number and typing in a code (Segura, 2003 and 2007). This information system was faster than traditional press. To a certain extent, it was similar to radio journalism. A type of journalism appears that uses Information Technology (IT), multiplies its platforms due to convergence and feeds on countless websites: it is cloud journalism (Fondevila Gascón, 2010a). Digital newspapers, corporate websites and social networks (Social Media Marketing or SMM) need a constant content flow, that provided by cloud journalism.

Digital journalists consolidate in a context wherein the tools of the new ecosystem must prevail: hypertextuality, multimedia and interactivity (Fondevila Gascón, 2009a). It was even predicted that audioanswer systems (popularly known as "Internet of the poor") would survive fifteen years more, until Internet consolidated in Colombia. To remain valid, audioanswer systems had to adopt strategies such as wav messages to mobile telephones and incorporating a website where they also published the contents of the telephone system, but, finally, in 2008, they succumbed to the obvious strengths offered by Internet (Calderín and Segura, 2010).

After the telephonic phase, the journalistic process of digitisation in Colombia was accelerated in 2000. The main media of the country united to create www.laciudad.com, a portal with various contents (news, show business or sports). Starting 2002, the portal www.terra.com bought advertising in that website for five years and assumed its brand, which meant the disappearance of www.laciudad.com. The initial gap between digital and traditional journalism was mitigated and unified newsrooms started to appear. In 2003, the journalists responsible for the digital versions of El Espectador[2], La República[3], Revista Semana[4] and Colombia.com[5] had consolidated their virtual editions. At that time, interactivity was executed through chat and email services, but none of these media had a consolidated section affording discussion spaces moderated by a specialized journalist, allowing the generation and administration of new knowledge. Later, direct mail has been incorporated, comments have been enabled in each piece of news, some chats have been arranged between users and guests, and "participatory journalism" (Gillmor, 2004) has developed allowing contents to be published after being revised.

A study of 14 digital versions of Colombian newspapers (Llano, 2005) based on the concepts of hypermedia and interactivity tried to identify which journalists and media exploited digital options and the assimilation of interactive spaces aimed at a participant audience. Among the newspapers studied were El Tiempo, El Espectador, El Colombiano, El País, El Heraldo and El Universal. Regarding hypermediality, three variables were measured: internal links, external links and multimedia. It was concluded that none of the analyzed newspapers included links to related or in-depth contents. However, 35% of them did offer links to other contents of the informative section where the piece of news was found. Likewise, several regional newspapers included several pieces of news on the same page when these belonged to the same section[6]. In Spain, a pure player such as Vilaweb.cat uses a great amount of multimedia resources (pictures, video, audio, infographics, executable programs) in its contents (Fondevila Gascón, 2009b), ahead of El Plural, Libertad Digital y e-Notícies.

Colombian newspapers are traditionally owned by family groups very close to the political and economic power of their area, the most relevant being El Tiempo from the Santos family in Bogotá, which has the highest circulation in the country. El Espectador was the second newspaper in Bogotá while owned by the Cano family until it was sold in the 1980s due to the economic crisis and an attack on its installations caused by drug trafficking. It was bought by businessman and industrialist Julio Mario Santodomingo, owner of Cromos magazine, and it became weekly. El Colombiano in Medellín belongs to the Gómez family, and El País in Cali to the Lloreda family (Castro, 2008).

The development of the digital format was seen as a threat by print newspapers. Homever, El Espectador did not consider the disappearance of printed editions to be feasible, at least in the short run (Segura, 2003), since it might be the generation of digital natives which modifies that perspective in the long run.

A study of 10 newspapers selected for having both a printed and digital version (Segura, 2007) reflected the evolution of the sector. The sample included four newspapers from Bogotá (El Tiempo, El Espectador, El Nuevo Siglo and El Espacio), Hoy, diario del Magdalena from Santa Marta, El Colombiano from Medellín and El Universal from Cartagena, El País from Cali, El Heraldo from Barranquilla and La Opinión from Cúcuta. The highest amount of newspapers (Fundación Telefónica, 2007) was concentrated in Bogotá, but a process of decentralization was detected in the different regions of the country.

Whereas in Spain newspapers included a digital edition since the mid 1990s, Colombian newspapers did not appear online until 1998 (Segura, 2007). Ten years later, in a study comparing the perspective of traditional writing to modern theories of digital writing between the printed and digital versions of the main Colombian newspapers, it was concluded that "digital journalism is practically nonexistent in Colombia", and it was observed a "generalised ignorance of the characteristics and possibilities offered by a medium like Internet" (Sánchez, 2008: 48). With the exception of El Tiempo, the rest was behind in writing, structuring and complementing pieces of news, since it was usual to reproduce the printed version. El Tiempo was the only newspaper handling substantial differences in both versions (titles, paragraph construction and extension) and adapted to modern theories of digital writing.  But El Colombiano y El País just transferred contents from the printed to the online edition. Nevertheless, El País and El Tiempo offered the option to opine on the news, and all opinions remained published in the same page. The conclusion (Sánchez, 2008) was that, in 2008, only El Tiempo and, to a certain extent, El País, developed forms of digital journalism in Colombia following the requirements and writing style demanded by the Internet.

Digital journalists were self-taught, although they received some help and support from the medium. El Tiempo, one of the Latin American pioneers in implementing a website, had it updated every minute, as in news agencies. They worked almost 24 hours a day, from 6am to 3 or 4am of the following day. However, some resistance was detected among journalists mistrusting the digital format; despite in 2008 ElTiempo.com received 3 million visits from Monday to Friday and half during the weekend, whereas the circulation of the written edition was of 300,000 dairy copies from Monday to Friday and close to 600,000 on Sundays. The members of Prensa Libre, a newspaper whose goal was to defend the freedom of information and the safety of journalists, claimed that the adaptation to digitisation was a shared responsibility between the professional and the medium this professional was working for.

Interactivity is studied from the perspective of forums of digital newspapers in Colombia and the analysis of the interventions of the readers-commentators and the characteristics of the communicative contract. These spaces are promoted by the digital press in order to build opinion, but "they are becoming places for hate management, polarisation, and, in the worst case, unanimity" (Acosta, 2008: 16; Calderín and Segura 2010).

 

2. Empirical study on hypertextuality

One of the focal points showing the maturity of digital journalism in a specific environment is hypertextuality. Our study follows the empirical methodology from the Grupo de Investigación sobre Periodismo Digital y Banda Ancha [Research Group on Digital Journalism and Wide Band], created at Universitat Abat Oliba CEU in 2008, which starts with quantitative analysis from hypertextuality, multimedia and interactivity to later deal with qualitative aspects  (Fondevila Gascón, 2009a, 2009b, 2010b, 2010c, 2011). Online Colombian newspapers El Espectador and El Tiempo (samples chosen by cluster techniques) have been analysed for this study from 6 February to 6 March 2011. The use of this empirical methodology allows observing the latest developments on the incorporation of tools from digital journalism, establishing scales of use, applying a qualitative analysis, based on real data, of causes and consequences derived from the use of these tools, and laying the foundations for longitudinal analyses. The results obtained might inspire improvements in the practice of the informative business.

The formula for data recollection was based on counting the number of content units published in the front page of the newspaper, the total amount of links from that day in the total of content units and the amount of links which, according to their semantics, could be contextual, relational and recommended. Within hypertextuality, contextual links are those alluding to references from the same piece of news or content unit: the protagonist, the background, references from the six Ws... Obvious endogamy has been empirically detected in links to retain cyber readers within a corporate group (Fondevila Gascón, 2010b), but this phenomenon tends to be more intense in contextual links, which are the easiest to implement (as in previous information on a sports match, on a political debate, on an increase in bank interest rates). These links are considered to be the most superficial ones, although not insignificant, since some media do no tend to include them in their contents because updates have to be very quick, digital journalists have not been so for a very long time and sources of multimedia contents are yet to be skilfully detected.

Relational links are those alluding to events similar to those reported on the piece of news. Thus, when there is a crime, a trial or an illness, they are links regarding similar cases, which might be close in time or from some years ago. This temporal retrospective entails more difficulty, more need for research, extending not only to the period during which the linked content is shown, but also to before if the chosen medium has created a digital archive even reaching some centuries before. Typical examples of the use of relational links are illnesses detected in public figures that lead to link to similar cases; natural phenomena (earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes...); revolutions, political changes or economic crisis. In this kind of hypertextuality the reference to the medium itself becomes more complex, either because there was not a previous digital version (or digital archive) or because, depending on the geographic coverage of the medium in its paper phase, it did not offer an in-depth coverage of the interest topic. This is why the relational link tends to be more external than internal.

Finally, recommended links are those that document and contribute interest information illustrating the piece of news from a more thorough perspective. For instance, they are links to legislative documents, reports, scientific articles, essays, videos or any other resource clearly extending contents from a multidisciplinary perspective. Naturally, this kind of hypertextuality is more complex in semantic terms and requires more time and intellectual background from the producer. Certainly, a special ability is required in relation to ideas, combined with the quickness demanded by the digital ecosystem. The key is to apply to journalism the task of knowledge managers in the general area of business, and of community recorders in SMM. Recommended links tend to be external links in statistic terms, and they are also the least present.

The hypothesis of this research is that hypertextuality in Colombian digital journalism is low, and that the most predominant links are the basic ones (contextual and relational), to the detriment of those more semantically complex and requiring more research (the recommended ones).

The data from the newspaper El Espectador (tables 1 and 2; confidence interval = 95%, margin of error = 0.9%) reflect a very low use of hypertextuality. Only 0.25% links per piece of news (a link every four pieces of news) remains well below the data gathered in empirical studies in Spain, and faithfully reflects that the Colombian digital press has still a long way to go. From this premise, it is logical that most of links are contextual ones (81.18%), followed by relational links (18.82%). Documentary ones, which are the most insightful, do not appear in a whole month after analyzing 1136 content units, which is very revealing information.

 

Total news

1136

Total links

287

Total contextual links

233

Total relational links

54

Total recommended links

0

% links per piece of news

0.25

% contextual links

0.20

% relational links

0.05

% recommended links

0

Table 1. Percentages of contextual, relational and recommended links out of all pieces of news in the digital newspaper ElEspectador.com

 

% links per piece of news

0.25

% contextual links out of all links

81.18%

% relational links out of all links

18.82%

% recommended links out of all links

0%

Table 2. Percentages of contextual, relational and recommended links out of all links in the digital newspaper ElEspectador.com.

 

In the analysis of the newspaper El Tiempo (Tables 3 and 4; confidence interval = 95%, margin of error= 1.3%), a more intense use of hypertextuality is observed (0.51 links per piece), although these figures are still far from the Spanish ones. Despite there is not a strict rule to follow, it is advisable to at least include a link per piece, even one link on average. It is understandable that, in the latest news that just arrived, sometimes it is not possible to include hypertextuality, but when writing news from a digital concept links must be included, at least contextual and relational ones. Along the lines of this perspective, El Tiempo shows twice more links than El Espectador, and also more depth, since those predominating are relational ones (70,52%), over contextual (27.59%) and recommended ones (1.89%). The clear distinction between relational and contextual links reflects more maturity in the use of hypertextuality in El Tiempo, following the virtual vocation of this publication.

  

Total news

1130

Total links

580

Total contextual links

160

Total relational links

409

Total recommended links

11

% links per piece of news

0.51

% contextual links

0.14

% relational links

0.36

% recommended links

0.01

Table 3. Percentages of contextual, relational and recommended links of out all pieces of pieces of news from the digital newspaper ElTiempo.com

  

% links per piece of news

0.51

% contextual links out of all links

27.59%

% relational links out of all links

70.52%

% recommended links out of all links

1.89%

Table 4. Percentages of contextual, relational and recommended links out of all links in the digital newspaper ElTiempo.com

  

The confidence interval stands at 95% (significance 5%). Therefore, the statistical data gathered in the sample allow reaching conclusions about the use of hypertextuality, validating the starting hypotheses. The Spanish-speaking referents of analysis on the semantic use of hypertextuality are concentrated in Spain. The most recent study (Fondevila Gascón, 2011) on two traditional newspapers also with a paper product (El País, in Spanish, and Avui, in Catalan) and on two digital pure players or digital-born Spanish newspapers (El Confidencial and Libertad Digital, in Spanish, and Vilaweb and e-Notícies, in Catalan), show that digital newspapers are increasingly and more satisfyingly using hypertextual resources, although improvements are still possible. The global average of the media sample analyzed presents a high amount of links, close to two hyperlinks (1.83) per content unity. This percentage is higher on pure players, especially Vilaweb, that make a more intense use of hypertextuality than newspapers with both paper and digital versions.

If we observe (Fondevila Gascón 2010b) the use of types of hypertextuality in both Spain and Catalonia, the figures are much higher than those in Colombia. El Mundo presents 1.99 links per content unit, 44.78% of which are contextual, 43.08% are relational and 12.12% are recommended. The Catalan newspaper Avui rockets to 2.98 links per piece of news (almost twice more than the El Espectador and six times more than El Tiempo), 60.52% of which are contextual, 18.59% are relational and 20.89% are recommended. It is observed that recommended ones are mucho more relevant in Colombian newspapers, although in general contextual ones are those prioritized in digital writing. Balance is detected in El Mundo between contextual and relational links, whereas recommended ones remain very far behind; in Avui, contextual links are predominant, but relational ones are almost as present as recommended ones. It is interesting to observe that the sum of relational and relational links in El Mundo exceeds that of Avui, which indicates a certain balance between both media in the qualitative use of links.

   

3. Conclusion

Digital journalism in Colombia is still in a stage of incorporation, giving steps towards maturity, as happens in other Latin American countries and behind Spain, a referent for the Latin American area. Colombia is committing to interdisciplinary newsrooms with the presence of designers, engineers, marketing experts and digital journalists with assigned sources. The content creator, who is the essence of the chain of value, is focused on conceptualizing and producing hypermedia content, while at the same time is able to generate and formalize knowledge through this practice and to make good use of the interactivity with the user.

Even so, regarding one of the bases of implementation of digital journalism (hypertextuality understood in high quantitative and balanced qualitative terms) the Colombian newspapers analyzed (El Espectador and El Tiempo) are still in a basic stage of development. The amount of links per piece of news (0.25 in El Espectador, 0.51 in El Tiempo) is very modest when compared to recent studies conducted in Spain. If we  delve into the qualitative use of these links, we observe the predominance of contextual ones (more in El Espectador) and relational ones (more in El Tiempo) over recommended ones, that either do not appear (El Espectador) or remain in a symbolic percentage (El Tiempo, 1.89%).

Therefore, research on hypertextuality in the Colombian newspapers still has a long potential way to go. In time, a series of longitudinal studies will indicate the speed of evolution, both quantitative (number of inserted links) and qualitative (types of links and their semantic depth).

 

4. Bibliography

-Acosta, G. L. (2008). Relación dialógica o comunicación paranoica: un análisis de lo que acontece en los foros del lector que promueve la prensa digital en Colombia. 10° Congreso REDCOM: Conectados, hipersegmentados y desinformados en la era de la globalización.

-Calderín, M.; Segura, H. (2010). Contexto del Periodismo Digital en Colombia. Valencia: Universidad CEU Cardenal Herrera.

-Castro, C. (coord.) (2008). Industrias de contenidos en Latinoamérica. EuropeAid. Oficina de Cooperación. Documento de Grupo de Trabajo eLAC2007.

-Fidler, R. (1997). Mediamorphosis: Understanding New Media. Journalism and Communications for a New Century. Thousand Oaks, California: Pine Forge Press.

-Fondevila Gascón, J. F. (2009a). Relación entre multimedialidad, hipertextualidad e interactividad en la prensa digital española: análisis empírico. Madrid (UCM): I Congreso Internacional "Sociedad Digital".

-Fondevila Gascón, J. F. (2009b). L'ús del llenguatge multimèdia a la premsa digital a Catalunya i Espanya: estudi empíric [en línea]. Barcelona: IV Congreso para la Cibersociedad. http://www.cibersociedad.net/congres2009/es/coms/lus-del-llenguatge-multimedia-a-la-premsa-digital-a-catalunya-i-espanya-estudi-empiric/119/

-Fondevila Gascón, J. F. (2010a). El cloud journalism: un nuevo concepto de producción para el periodismo del siglo XXI" [online]. Observatorio (OBS*) Journal, vol. 4, iss. 1, pp. 19-35. http://obs.obercom.pt/index.php/obs/article/view/315/321.

-Fondevila Gascón, J. F. (2010b). "Uso de la hipertextualidad en la prensa digital en Cataluña y en España", en Sabés, F.; Verón, J. J. (eds.). El periodismo digital desde la perspectiva de la investigación universitaria. XI Congreso de Periodismo Digital de Huesca-2010. Huesca: Asociación de la Prensa de Aragón, 183-199.

-Fondevila Gascón, J. F. (2010c). "Multimedia, digital press and journalistic genres in Catalonia and in Spain: an empirical analysis" [en línea]. Communication Studies Journal, 7, 81-95. http://www.ec.ubi.pt/ec/07/pdf/gascon-multimedia.pdf

-Fondevila Gascón, J. F. (2010d). El periodismo digital de pago y el modelo de las franquicias: ¿periodismo de calidad o puro negocio? Pamplona: XXV Congreso CICOM (Universidad de Navarra).

-Fondevila Gascón, J. F. (2011). "Aplicación semántica de la hipertextualidad en la prensa digital en España", en Verón, J. J.; Sabés, F. (eds.). La investigación en periodismo digital. Algunos trabajos desde el ámbito universitario. XII Congreso de Periodismo Digital de Huesca-2011. Huesca: Asociación de la Prensa de Aragón, 2011, 169-180.

-Fundación Telefónica (2007). Medios de comunicación: el escenario iberoamericano. Madrid: Ariel.

-Gillmor, D. (2004). We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People. Sebastopol: O'Reilly Media.

-Llano, S. (2005). "Hipermedia e interactividad en el periodismo digital colombiano". Palabra Clave, 12: 135.

-Sánchez, D. A. (2008). "Estudio comparativo entre las versiones impresa y digital de los principales diarios colombianos" [en línea], Revista Lasallista de Investigación, 5:2, 48-62.

http://redalyc.uaemex.mx/src/inicio/ArtPdfRed.jsp?iCve=69550207

-Segura, H. (2003). "Periodismo digital en Colombia: dos años después el panorama es alentador". Revista Digital En.red.ando.

-Segura, H. (2007). "Retrospectiva y potencial del periodismo digital". Revista Cuartillas, 15, 84-87.



[1] http://www.andiarios.com/index.html

[2] http://www.elespectador.com

[3] http://www.larepublica.com.co

[4] http://www.semana.com.co

[5] http://www.colombia.com.co

[6] Regarding links, some were detected for additional information, a comparison of sources and to inform on people and entities. Regarding multimedia, it was incorporated in all newspapers analyzed, although some only did it in a limited way. Only in El País and El Colombiano the presence of photo galleries was observed as a reinforcement of the informative discourse, but not that of infographics. Only El País from Cali included an animated multimedia section (Llano, 2005).

 

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Last updated 08-06-2012
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