Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Seeking News Via the Pager: An Expectancy-Value Study

Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

Seeking News Via the Pager: An Expectancy-Value Study

Article excerpt

The pager is a mass-media-like electronic medium, from which users may obtain information and entertainment services. These services may include stock market updates, sports, horse race and lottery results, horoscope, cinema schedules, weather and traffic conditions, and announcements of up-to-date social events on the alphanumeric display (Tedesco, 1996). Professionals like doctors, businesspeople, and real estate agents were once the dominant group owning pagers. However, for less than US$22 monthly in service fees and a one-time purchase cost of less than US$120, many college and even high school students find it affordable and have quickly become users. In some countries, pagers have become a highly popular technology, since they can deliver a short voice message to users without the necessity of a telephone (Kraar, 1996). Other pager models show the caller's phone number or a text message on the LCD display. Some models are hybrid systems with the pager and a cellular phone packaged in one.

Recently, pager system services in some Asian and American markets have begun providing newsworthy information, particularly news updates and headlines of breaking events (Brown, 1996; Kraar, 1996). In collaboration with CNN, PageNet in the U.S., for example, allows users of pager services to read up to eight categories of news headlines and summaries (Tedesco, 1996). Some of these breaking news headlines are updated frequently by the paging service operators who are not really regulated as other gatekeepers may be. As a new and less regulated medium, concerns over credibility and trustworthiness of the pager as a news source and its immediate impact on consumption of news from traditional sources provoked this research. What factors motivate users to seek news through their pagers? Do they perceive news received from the pager to be useful and reliable? And will pager-disseminated news, despite its limited headline format, compete with existing news sources and thus reduce the use of other mass media (e.g., newspapers, TV, and radio) for news?

While past research on media use from the uses and gratification perspective sheds light on gratifications sought and obtained from watching TV (Rubin & Rubin, 1982; Rubin, 1983; Lin, 1993a, 1993b), using VCRs (Rubin & Bantz, 1987; Lin, 1993c), and viewing cable TV (Shaver, 1983; LaRose & Atkin, 1988; Bradbury & Felsenthal, 1991), few studies have examined the gratifications of pager use, or news-seeking behavior associated with this new medium. This study attempts to examine how expected benefits of using a particular new media technology--the pager--are related to level of news exposure, and further explores whether such exposure complements or competes with news-seeking activity in other mass media.

The popularity of pager use in the United States and elsewhere is rising (34 million Americans used pagers in 1996; 11 million in Japan in 1995; 35 million in China in 1997; and pager penetration rate is as high as 70% and 27% respectively among college students and in the general public in Hong Kong, (see Kagan, 1996; Ishii, 1996; IMI, 1997; and Leung & Wei, 1999). The present study intends to articulate some of the implications.

The Expectancy-Value Paradigm

The expectancy-value perspective has been a valuable theoretical approach in studying the adoption, usage and consumption of mass media and new media technologies (Babrow, 1989; Jeffres & Atkin, 1996; Katz, Blumler, & Gurevitch, 1974; LaRose & Atkin, 1988, 1991; Lin, 1993a; Palmgreen, 1985; Palmgreen & Rayburn, 1982; Rayburn & Palmgreen, 1984; Rubin, 1983). The expectancy-value approach focuses on explaining media use by analyzing a combination of perception of benefits offered by the medium and the differential value associated with these benefits. Based on Fishbein and Ajzen (1975), media consumption is assumed to be under an individual's control and guided by perceptions of the probability and value of the potential consequences. …

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