Academic journal article Global Media Journal

How to Get More Likes, Shares and Comments? Factors Influencing User Engagement on Mainstream UAE News Websites

Academic journal article Global Media Journal

How to Get More Likes, Shares and Comments? Factors Influencing User Engagement on Mainstream UAE News Websites

Article excerpt

Introduction

It was just two decades ago that mainstream newspapers began to experiment with web-based journalism. The Star-Tribune in the US and The Daily Telegraph in Britain were the major newspapers to launch websites in 1994 at a time publishers viewed the new medium as a threat than a platform that would complement the news products [1]. Within a year, however, more than 150 newspapers worldwide have established their presence on the web that was a huge increase from less than 10 in 1994. By mid2000 more than 3,400 newspapers were on the web [1,2] and began a trend that catapulted digital journalism to the fore, forcing major print media outlets to fully embrace the new platforms and environment in content production, delivery and interaction. In the early days, news websites were very basic with mainly static web pages, very few interactive features and multimedia content. The developments in digital journalism, and user engagements have been rapid with advances in communications technology and globalization of media within the last decade mainly due to "advances in computer technology and the rise of new forms of media, especially social media such as various blogs, Facebook, and Twitter" [3]. Today, most of the mainstream news websites also use multiplatform such as iPhone, iPad, Android applications on mobile and tablets for content delivery to engage more media users and attract larger traffic.

Multiple platforms, social networks, and interactivity characterize journalism in the digital age. Facebook, Twitter and Google, the largest digital media companies, "changed the news industry and the journalism practice inside out" (Alejandro, 2010, p. 10). News content today is packaged with rich media, options for social media interaction, user engagement, and virtual reality storytelling, thus making the traditional model of linear journalism redundant and irrelevant. Interactivity, as noted by Boczkowski [4] is one of the "salient capabilities of the new media".

Over the past five years, news websites in the United Arab Emirates, like the rest of the world, have undergone evolutionary changes in design, functionality, and structure- to make them interactive and engaging websites. This research is the first major study on the UAE online news websites that examines the nature and features of interactive journalism and looks into the various factors that influence user engagement in the four news websites of the major UAE print newspapers - Gulf News, The National, Al Bayan, and Emarat Al Youm.

Online Journalism in the UAE

The Dubai-based newspaper Gulf News, is the first newspaper to launch a news website-Gulfnews.com-20 years ago and it is ranked in the top 20 websites in the UAE by Alexa.com. A Forbes Middle East ranking of top online newspapers in the region shows that Gulfnews.com, Albayan.ae, Emaratalyoum.com and TheNational. ae are in the top 15 of a list of 41 news websites. The one-year research, ending on 31 August 2012, listed Gulfnews.com as the third top website followed by Emaratalyoum.com (8), Albayan. ae (9), and TheNational.ae (15). Egypt's Ahram.org.eg, the online website of Al Ahram newspaper topped the list with 75.5 million visit [5]. In ranking the websites, Forbes used Google Analytics data and reviewed the Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google Plus and LinkedIn accounts of all the websites analyzing the levels of activity, number of followers and subscribers [6]. Table 1 shows the website statistics of the four newspapers.

All the major UAE print newspapers have a great online presence with medium to high interactive level websites. The mainstream news websites have transformed tremendously with dynamic websites, social media integration, mobile apps to attract the younger media users. Most websites update frequently often with live coverage of major breaking news events; use photos, videos and interactive media; capitalize on social media platforms to reach larger audiences. …

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