The purpose of this study is to look at the nascent data and gamification strategies being employed in news production environments to incent the production of news journalism. To the extent it is possible this paper also aims to reveal what the practical consequences of these strategies might be for the people producing news as well as for the nature of news output produced under such systems.
The study will proceed as follows.
Firstly reviewing what gamification means and how it can mean different things to different people in different situations and contexts will remove some of the blurry ambiguity of this buzz-word, the online presence of which Google Trends only acknowledges starting in 2010, and hopefully clear the way for more reasoned discussions moving forward. This will be accomplished through several real-world examples of gamification implementations in a range of industries for a range of desired results.
Secondly we will look at successful and unsuccessful examples of reader-facing gamification systems implemented by news-producing publications with digital presences. Throughout these minor case studies we will look to the fields of motivational psychology and social psychology, behavioural economics and theories of game mechanics - sometimes called game thinking - to try and understand what makes gamification so successful when it is in fact successful and what the limits to that effectiveness might be. This section will bring our discussion of why gamification has been deemed, and in many cases empirically shown to be, such an effective tool for motivating specific behaviours closer the realm of journalism and news production in particular, which is the focus of this study.
Next, a brief discussion of so-called “big data,” its presence in the lives of consumers, enterprises, society and culture will help to view gamification systems in light of the underlying collection and availability of data that makes such systems possible. This will lead to a discussion of data in the news production environment, how digital publications view the wealth of website and reader data available to them and why this matters on both abstract intellectual theoretical levels as well as in day-to-day news production practice.
Another brief section will examine the less-visible, though arguably faster-growing, area of enterprise gamification - that is gamifications of corporate workplace environments, often with the aim of increasing employee efficiency and satisfaction and of incentivising specific behaviours and tasks.
This will lead to a longer section on enterprise gamification at publications and in particular in daily news production environments. Following the earlier discussion about data in newsrooms however, this section will also consider how publications treat site analytics and reader data including how, in what forms and in what frequencies that data is made available to content producers both inside and outside the formal constructs of gamification.
Finally, the study will begin to examine the potential consequences firstly of exposing news content producers to specific site and reader metrics, and secondly of structuring those exposures into strategies with explicit aims in terms of influencing the production of news content.