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The shifting temporalities of online news:


Guardian’s news site from 1996-



H (forthcoming, 2016) The Time(s) of News Websites. In Franklin B and Eldridge II S (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Digital Journalism Studies, Abingdon: Routledge.This presentation is based on the article “The Shifting Temporalities of Online News: The Guardian’s Website from 1996-2015”, which we are currently editing after is has been in review. The paper will appear in a special issue of Journalism (Sage) on the shifting temporalities of journalism. The issue is edited by Julia Sonnevend (University of Michigan) and Henrik Bødker (Aarhus University).



IntroductionJournalism, Time and MediaAnalytical Frame and Methodological DesignAnalysisConclusion and Further Perspectives 3Slide4


The aim of this presentation/paper is threefold:To develop and refine a specific perspective on how online news constitute time;To apply this perspective to the development of online news;To raise methodological issues with regard to studying the history of online news.



, Time and MediaWhen discussing journalism, time and (digital) media there is a strong






speed and

acceleration. But journalism should be thought of as a series of interrelated practices that construct complex temporalities within and across different media.Online news sites may thus be understood as a continuation of the printed ”serial”, which is characterised by the aspects of “miscellaneity and seriality” (Mussell 2012).While in print, a new issue constitute a discrete entity within which (almost) all the textual elements were new, the online publication is rather a continuous process of overlapping and accumulating editions.


Temporality as Relations

The news website thus constitutes time on three interrelated levels: within discrete and coherent pieces of text (or textual elements) — morphological interrelations between textual elements (written, static images, moving images and sound) within or across webpages and other media — syntactical interrelations to the temporality of the underlying issues at stake — event-related level.


Analytical Frame and Methodological Design


N. Brügger:

Website analysis. Elements of a conceptual architecture

. Centre for Internet Studies, no. 12, Aarhus, 2010Slide8


Based on this conceptual framework we have constructed an analytical grid that we have applied to each of the archived websites. This analysis has primarily focused on the textual elements of the webpage in terms of both morphology and syntax.And, the grid has largely be utilised in order to see how the textual features of the website relate to the temporal affordances of the online, i.e. speed, accumulation and interactivity.The versions of the site have been chosen by browsing the preserved websites of the Guardian from its first archived version in 1996 to 2015 in order to identify overall shifts in the development of the layout and functionalities of the site.


Morphology of textual elements

Syntactical relations between textual elements


semantic cohesion

anchoring between written text and an image


typology, framing



or linesPhysical performativescrollingscrolling, pressing a hyperlinkThe grid, illustrated with examplesSlide11


Analysis, I

The studied websites are discussed chronologically in three overall sections: an early period (1996 & 1997); a middle period (1999, 2000 & 2005) and,finally, a late period (2010 & 2015). The early period (1996 & 1997):



temporality of the early Guardian site

is (in broad terms) somewhat

removed from a journalistic logic focused on the present.


overall temporal logic is

rather linked

to the structured passing of time and is thus looking backwards.This temporality logic is an archival logic in the sense that items are curated and presented with the oldest items first.In relation to accumulation there are signs of this being used actively to situate current news.12Slide13


IIThe middle period (1999, 2000 & 2005):Amore clear focus on the present, speed and updating.This results in a growing accumulation, which necessitates a more dedicated and careful navigation and contextualisation.What is syntactically made very clear here is thus that the web is seen to offer a whole range of additional ways to carve up the many news stories.And this somehow signals that the online site wraps itself around a conventional core while also significantly expanding



Analysis, III

The late period (2010 & 2015):This periods sees a growing reflexivity and/or convention in the ways in which the affordances of speed, accumulation and interactivity are integrated and negotiated. The forefronting of stories as a navigational tool (rather than temporally focused


makes the overall temporality more implicit.


are, in a sense, asked to trust the significance of the individual story rather than evaluating its value by its placement in time. Or, put differently, the signalling of temporality has shifted towards the syntactical


We also see a growing

importance of interactivity, which adds the social and embodied times of the users as a structuring device on the



Early period

Middle period

Late period


Few temporal markers

(no date/time, no Last updated)


temporal markers (date, hour, minute. Last


, Breaking)

No significant changesSyntacticalNo hierarchy, no menuThe little temporal ordering there is follows an archival logicHierarchies and menus (horizontal, vertical)Temporal ordering at various levels, placement in timeHorizontal menuThe temporal ordering happens through the individual story , which functions as a navigational toolUser interactivity as agent of temporal structuringFor reasons of clarity only the morphological and syntactical are included in this overview but as mentioned in the grid earlier each of these are constituted on a semantic, formal, and physical performative levelThe shifting temporalities as seen through the analytical gridSlide16


We see an overall development from the site being a slower complement to the written paper to increased utilisation of speed and updating together with the accumulation of large amounts of content after which we see a more subtle utilisation and negotiation of the temporal affordances alongside the integration of the social and embodied times of users. This is, in other words, seemingly a story of how journalism slowly comes to terms with the temporal affordances of the web, i.e. from a period in which the site only very peripherally was governed by a journalistic logic in terms of temporality to a period in which the new possibilities are pushed — which is somehow signalled by the suffix “unlimited” — and, finally to a period in the stories themselves (as well as their social significance) become the main building blocks as well as structuring devices. 16Slide17

Further perspectives

A promising challenge would be to develop and expand the analytical approach employed here from a hand-held qualitative analysis to a semi-automatic analysis of a larger body of both born-digital and digitised data.This would require a transformation of the analytical grip into a set of parameters that could be


in a (semi-)






, one could combine the codings on the morphological and syntactical level into a dataset that could form the basis of an automated inductive analysis in order to identify specific clusterings and patternsDoing this could reveal how the textual construction of temporality has developed over long time spans as well as how the emergence of the digital played into this.17Slide18

Thanks for listening


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The shifting temporalities of online news: - Description

the Guardians news site from 1996 2015 Bødker H forthcoming 2016 The Times of News Websites In Franklin B and Eldridge II S eds The Routledge Companion to Digital Journalism Studies Abingdon ID: 563057 Download Presentation

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