Book and music recommendation: Do newspapers still have authority?
Before the rise of the Internet, newspapers were considered authorities. But nowadays they face competition from websites and social media. A study in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly investigated how people value the book and music recommendations of cultural journalists working for national “quality” newspapers (such as NRC Handelsblad and De Volkskrant) compared to reviewers on cultural websites and amateur online reviewers. It turns out that most people value recommendations from these different sources equally.
- Most Dutch people value book and music recommendations by professional reviewers, such as newspaper journalists, and lay persons equally.
- People who value recommendations by “quality” newspapers tend to be more familiar with arts and culture, have more trust in institutions (such as the press), and appreciate the diversity of the Internet.
- Newspapers’ book and music recommendations are mainly valued by their own readers.
- If newspapers want to maintain their authority in the field of book and music recommendations, they have to rethink how they can increase their relevance in the broader cultural domain.
858 participants (mean age 52; age 16-92; 53% female)
Participants filled out an online questionnaire. They were asked: “There are several types of people who could recommend a particular book or music. How much value would you attribute to a recommendation when one of the following recommends music or a book to you?” Participants answered for newspaper journalists, website contributors, or amateur online reviewers and did this separately for music and books. Also, questions were included that measured cultural capital (familiarity with arts and culture), social trust (trust in other people and groups), and what they appreciate about the Internet (for example, saving time to find things, availability of many opinions).
Facts and findings
- The majority of the participants (about 75%) attributed the same value to newspaper recommendations as to recommendations by websites contributors and by amateur reviewers.
- About 20% of the participants valued book recommendations from newspapers; only about 7% value music recommendations from newspapers.
- Participants who valued recommendations by newspapers tend to be omnivores: they also valued other sources.
- Participants who scored higher on cultural capital and social trust also attributed more value to recommendations in newspapers.
- Participants who appreciated the Internet for its diversity of opinions were also more likely to value recommendations from various news sources, including newspapers.