The Print and Online Newspapers in Europe: A Comparative Content Analysis in 18 Countries in Western and Eastern Europe. Richard van der Wurff and Edmund Lauf, eds. Amsterdam: Het Spinhuis, 2005. 362 pp. $49.95 pbk.
If s always a bit of a gamble to write a book about anything involving the Internet. Because it is an evolving medium, anything in print is likely to be, at best, a snapshot of where the technology and content are at a certain place in time.
One of the strengths of this book is that the editors freely admit that is just the case here. In fact, they went even farther by choosing one day to use for their comparison of online and print newspapers in sixteen European countries. That "ordinary" day, October 8,2003, is supposedly unremarkable other than marking the date of California's election of Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor. The researchers are not concerned, however, with the topics of that day's news; they are more interested in using a typical day to determine the types of content that appear in the print and online editions of these newspapers. Their analysis of the various elements making up the front pages of these editions makes for interesting comparisons among these countries' print and online newspapers.
The editors are lecturers at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research of the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. This book is the result of their research collaboration with the Newspaper Working Group. The Group wanted to examine the impact of the Internet on newspapers' content, production practices, and business strategies. Their plan was to involve scholars from throughout Europe. That plan resulted in this book, and it does a good overall job in describing its content.
The most ambitious part of the book is the comparison between the print and online products and among the media of sixteen countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. It is difficult enough to compare two media products, much less take the comparison to an international level. That depth of research sets this book apart from purely descriptive studies of media in a particular country.
In this book, van der Wurff wrote the first three chapters and the conclusion. Lauf collaborated in the gathering of data, and both wrote the codebook for the content analysis of the print and online newspapers. They credit thirty researchers throughout Europe with assisting in the coding and, although the editors do not give a percentage, they assure us that intercoder reliability was high. The chapters describing the evolution of online newspapers and how this study was conducted are followed by a summary and the entire codebook, complete with definitions that should be useful to other scholars in this field. …