The traditional newspaper is declining and journalism has embraced digital media in its struggle to survive. New models of delivering news to the public are being explored in order to increase the levels of readership and user engagement.
This paper introduces a new framework for researching the application of gamification techniques in journalism. Gamification, defined here as the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-gaming environments, adds a layer of game elements for the main purpose of improving user engagement. The proposed framework will allow for a simple analysis of news websites in the search of gamified elements. The concept of gamification is deconstructed into elements that can be introduced on top of an online news service. These elements are placed in three different categories: dynamics, which relate to the narrative and purpose of the gamified layer, providing the system with a sense of direction; mechanics, which relate to the processes aimed to create engagement and the strategies aimed to provide the system with momentum; and components, which relate to the visible game elements embedded in the system aimed to create flows of interaction with the readers. These elements are then evaluated in terms of level of playfulness and the underlying intention of implementation, whether it is to motivate readership, participation, or to broaden the level of knowledge of the reader.
Gamification has shown to be an effective method to attract the attention and engagement of users in various domains, and it has been slowly implemented in digital journalism as an attempt to increase the number of readers, by stimulating the intrinsic motivation, and creating and/or maintaining the habit of consuming news in the audience. It has the potential to affect the way journalists write the news, to shift the topics that are introduced in the production pipeline, as well as to shape new patterns of consumption. However, current research on the intersecting points between gamification and news is practically non-existent. This papers aims to contribute to this new area of research within journalism studies and to suggest some tools to analyze and understand the new iteration of digital journalism.
Theoretically, this paper focuses on the motivational aspects of games and discusses the approaches on which they can be incorporated in the distribution channels of digital news. Finally, it analyzes some of the current examples of gamified digital newspapers and discusses why certain mechanics, such as unlocking content, progression, status, and the social graph are particularly suited to journalism, and to tap into the emotional drive of the emerging mobile audience.
5th European Communication conference ECREA, Lissabon Portugal, 12-15 november