First Monday

Exploring structural interactivity in online newspapers: A look at the Greek Web landscape by Paschalia-Lia Spyridou and Andreas Veglis

As the online news industry has completed its first decade of existence, online newspapers are moving beyond the realm of ‘shovelware’ to produce news marked by increased interactivity, content richness and user control. Content originality and the advantages provided by technology are said to lie at the core of efficient online news production. This paper examines the development of online newspapers in terms of exploiting the structural interactive features available today. Drawing upon quantitative research, it is argued that in the Greek online press the range of possible forms and expressions of interactivity are limited and uneven. The dominant journalistic culture of Greece — in combination to political and cultural traits of the country — are assumed to hinder the expected development of Web publishing.


Literature review
Defining interactivity
Why such a big fuss about interactivity?
Exploring interactivity: Empirical research
Online journalism in Greece
Future research




In 1995 media guru Nicholas Negroponte insisted: “the online newspaper of the future won’t be much like the ones in existence today”. Negroponte was right. With online news becoming increasingly popular [1] and Web publishing holding the promise to direct journalism into its hallowed role as public servant (Scott, 2005), Internet news is assumed to have the potential to transform the news industry.

Despite the initial pessimistic scenarios regarding the development of online newspapers, recent academic literature suggests that online newspapers are moving beyond the realm of ‘shovelware’ [2] in an effort to create a more attractive product to be consumed by a larger and more loyal audience. Although most newspapers went online under fear and doubt, and without clearly articulated missions, ten years later most media researchers and editors have come to realize that both content originality and the advantages provided by technology lie at the core of efficient online news production. Firstly, because it gets clearer every day that if ‘newspapers’ are to survive and thrive, the success of their Web sites is critical (Rieder, 2006). Secondly, because “content is king, the online product cannot be a print replica. It must offer added value and exploit technology.” [3] The term ‘content’ is best thought as the icing on the cake; it is necessary to attract new users, or enhance user experience (Odlyzko, 2001). When the dominant business model is based on advertising revenue, meaning that content is being given away in order to attract people to goods and services they are willing to pay for, the success of online newspapers goes hand in hand with their commercial value.

Early Web newspapers were typically text–based relying on content from the core product rather than utilising a broader range of features, such as audio and video material or hyperlinks. Martin argued in 1998 that inside the industry there seemed to be very little question about the repurposing of news to Internet services. However the Internet kept changing, its popularity grew tremendously, and with it, the demands on publishing organisations kept increasing from producing a ‘replicated genre’ to offering a ‘variant genre’. “The industry seems to be moving toward a more comprehensive and interactive technology, and the move is happening fast”, claimed Tom Weir one year later [4].

Pavlik (1997) described the evolution of online content in three stages. The first stage involves repurposing print content for the online edition. In stage two, content is augmented with interactive features, such as hyperlinks and search engines. Stage three is characterised by the creation of original news content designed specifically for the new medium. This type of content involves both new forms of storytelling and increased levels of interactivity.

Bucy (2004) analyzed the transformation of online news in chronological order. He argued that the first generation of Web news — in the early to mid–1990s — was uninspired, producing simple hypertext pages that redistributed print material. The second generation of Web news – from the mid–1990s to the decade’s end – moved online journalism to a more independent footing, engaging in original news gathering and production; continuous updates became more common, streaming audio and video appeared, online news became more visual and in–depth and interactive chats and online discussions emerged creating news communities. In 2000 the third generation of Web news appeared, characterized by enhanced features that use technology to bring people closer to news. Newspaper sites have evolved from a non–interactive, passive model of information delivery into an environment of increased immediacy, content richness and user control.

As expected the development of online newspapers has in no case been uniform and synchronous. The impact of new technologies in the newsroom depends on commercial goals, institutional directions, political ties, as well as on organizational and editorial decisions based on the pressures exercised by standardized journalistic practices and values (Cohen, 2002). However, by the late 1990’s it became obvious among new media circles that the rapidly evolving state of online news entailed considerable experimentation with content, technology and distribution. As a result the industry witnessed frequent changes and often radical site redesigns (Dibean and Garrison, 2001).



Literature review

Interactivity: The added value of online journalism

The Internet has been described as a tool which serves idiosyncratic purposes for individual users rather than transmitting news for the masses (Lowrey, 1999). Media theory suggests that online media have their own logic stemming from interactivity, which consists a key advantage of the new medium (Downes and McMillan, 2000; Deuze, 2001; Morris, 2001; Gustavsen and Tilley, 2003).

Deuze (2001) argues that hypertextuality, interactivity and multimediality determine the ‘added value’ of online journalism, which he names as the ‘fourth’ kind of journalism that differs in its characteristics from traditional types of journalism. “Online journalism can be functionally differentiated from other kinds of journalism by using its technological component as a determining factor in terms of (operational) definition.” [5]. Experts on Web journalism, like J.D. Lasica, were certain that “[interactivity consists] the truly revolutionary promise of the Net.” [6] As such, it should not be an optional add–on, but an essential element of online journalism. On the other hand, although the Internet is considered to be the world’s first two–way electronic mass medium, interactivity does not come automatically with two–way technology (Morris, 2001). As far as online journalism is concerned, in order for the trait of interactivity to be present three conditions need to be met: a) availability of appropriate hardware and software infrastructure by both news organisations and users; b) an established ‘online journalism attitude’ on the part of the reporters and editors; and, c) ‘openness’ towards the notion of interactivity and disposition to make use of it on the part of the audience.



Defining interactivity

The general construct

Having mentioned that the capacity for interactivity is inherent in the technical architecture of the Internet, and if used appropriately it can change the way information is produced and consumed, the next question in line is ‘what is interactivity?’ Loaded with positive connotations, interactivity is a multidimensional and overused construct (Ha and James, 1998; Jensen, 1998; Massey and Levy, 1999). Yet, as Sheizaf Rafaeli wrote “it is an underdefined concept. […] It has high face validity, but narrowly based explication, little consensus on meaning, and only recently emerging empirical verification of actual role.” [7] Several definitions have been provided by scholars in an attempt to define the general construct.

In Steuer’s (1992) view interactivity can be defined as “the extent to which users can participate in modifying the form and content of a mediated environment in real–time.” [8] Rogers (1995) argued that interactivity is ‘the degree to which participants in a communication process can exchange roles and have control over their mutual discourse.’ [9] A classic definition was provided by Rafaeli and Sudweeks (1997) who conceptualized interactivity as “the extent to which messages in a sequence relate to each other, and especially the extent to which later messages recount the relatedness of the earlier messages”.

According to David Fortin (1997) interactivity is ‘the degree to which a communication system can allow one or more end users to communicate alternatively as senders or receivers with one or many other users or communication devices, either in real time (as in video teleconferencing) or on a store–and–forward basis (as with electronic mail), or to seek and gain access to information on an on–demand basis where the content, timing and sequence of the communication is under control of the end user, as opposed to a broadcast basis.’ [10] Jens Jensen (1998) defined interactivity as “a measure of a medium’s potential ability to let the user exert an amount of influence on the content and/or form of the mediated communication”, while Ha and James described interactivity as “the extent to which the communicator and the audience respond to each other’s communication need.” [11]

Another body of literature addresses the concept of interactivity from the perspective of media features (Lee, 2000; Sundar, et al., 2003). Researchers under this model define interactivity based on how many and what types of features allow for interactive communication. Much of this feature–based tradition grows out of Heeter’s (1989) work, who suggested that interactivity resides in the process, or features of a communication medium.

Stromer–Galley (2004) argues that the term refers to two distinct phenomena: interactivity between people and interactivity between people and computers or networks. The former orients research on the process of interactivity. The latter orients research on the product of interactivity. It is argued that interactivity–as–product occurs when a set of technological features allows users to interact with the system.

Journalism–specific definitions

As the concept of interactivity became riper in communication research and practice, media scholars articulated definitions which were more journalism–specific. Studying the interactivity of news sites, Fortunati, et al. (2005) maintain that the concept can be distinguished into three types: interactivity confined to users, interactivity between users and editorial staffs and interactivity between users and specific journalists or moderators.

Bucy (2004) identified two types of interactivity. The first is content (or user–to–system) interactivity, which involves the control that news consumers exercise over the selection and presentation of editorial content. Unlike traditional media platforms, the online environment allows users to more fully interact with the medium itself by clicking on hyperlinks, taking part in polls, downloading information, calling up streaming media, searching archives and customizing information delivery. The second, less common type of interactivity that may occur online, is interpersonal (or user–to–user) interactivity, involving person–to–person conversations mediated by the network. Such computer–mediated communication includes both synchronous (real–time) and asynchronous (delayed) exchanges, whether in the form of e–mail or its various permutations such as instant messages, chat room discussions and blogs. Both types of interactivity may be facilitated by the same Web site depending on the features offered.

When discussing online journalism in particular, what these disparate views do share is the notion that Web journalism has the potential to empower its audiences; content producers can harness the technological capabilities of the Internet to give consumers means for controlling their interactions with the day’s news (Massey and Levy, 1999). Furthermore, the concept of interactivity refers to that special trait of the Internet which facilitates association, enabling people not only to receive information, but also to disseminate it (Deuze, 2003), challenging thus the dominance of traditional journalistic roles, such as gatekeeping, and giving way to the emergence of an editorial function centred on gate–opening processes. Finally, with rapid feedback between equal communication ‘partners’ the concept of a mass audience becomes archaic. Now readers are linked to other readers directly, creating smaller, fragmented audiences who share much in common, comprising a community rather than a mass audience (Kenney, et al., 2000). Based on the importance of connectivity as a significant element of the Internet, Odlyzko (2001) emphasized the need for communication services to invest in it, even more than in content, since connectivity has always been appropriated by consumers. In more explicit terms it is widely accepted that the term implies: a) substantial degree of user control; b) inducement of receiver feedback; c) participatory communication; d) opportunities for creative involvement [12] for users; e) facilitation of interpersonal communication; and, f) mutual influence between producer and receiver.

Types of interactivity

Having reviewed the main definitions and components of the interactivity construct, we ought to mention the various sub–concepts (Jensen, 1998), levels (Deuze, 2002) or dimensions (Heeter, 1989) provided by media researchers in an effort not merely to define, but also to measure interactivity.

Jensen (1998) argues that interactivity can be divided into four sub–concepts [13]:

  1. transmissional interactivity: a measure of a media’s potential ability to let the user choose from a continuous stream of information in a one–way media system without a return channel and therefore without a possibility for making requests.
  2. consultational interactivity: a measure of a media’s potential ability to let the user choose, by request, from an existing selection of pre–produced information in a two–way media system with a return channel.
  3. conversational interactivity: a measure of a media’s potential ability to let the user produce and input his/her own information in a two–way media system, be it stored or in real time.
  4. registrational interactivity: a measure of a media’s potential ability to register information from and thereby also adapt and/or respond to a given user’s needs and actions, whether they be the user’s explicit choice of communication method or the system’s built–in ability to automatically ‘sense’ and adapt.

The sub–concepts articulated by Jensen point to Dueze’s (2001) view on ‘levels’ of interactivity. He categorises interactivity as navigational, functional and adaptive. In the first case the user is allowed to navigate in a more or less structured way through the site’s content. In the second case, the user can to some extent participate in the production process of the site by interacting with other users or the producers of a particular page — for example direct mailto links, discussion groups, etc. Adaptive interactivity refers to the case where every action of the user has consequences for the content of the site as the site’s programming adapts itself to the surfing behaviour of every user and remembers the user’s preferences (for example allowing people to upload, offer chat rooms or personal customisation through smart Web design).

Structural and perceived interactivity

Finally, in defining and measuring interactivity, it is essential to distinguish between the structural and experiential aspects of the construct. According to Liu and Shrum (2002), the structural aspect refers to the hardwired opportunity of interactivity provided during an interaction, whereas the experiential aspect is the interactivity of the communication process as perceived by the communication parties. The latter aspect of interactivity has also been articulated by Newhagen, et al. (1995), who characterised the mode in which the audience responds to and uses the interactive possibilities offered as the dimension of perceived interactivity. According to that position, the experience of interactivity is variant across people and without measuring how people perceive it, it is difficult to understand the essence of interactivity. The concept of interactivity is an emergent outcome from the intersection of structural (or functional) and perceived interactivity, and in no case should it be reduced to either a technological attribute or a personal characteristic (Sohn and Lee, 2005).



Why such a big fuss about interactivity?

‘why such a big fuss about interactivity?’ Firstly, from an industry perspective, interactivity is a key element of economic viability for Web news organisations (Shaw, 2001; Hwang and McMillan, 2002; Liu and Shrum, 2002; Sundar, et al., 2003; Gustavsen and Tilley, 2003). Online news is a commodity, and with the enormous growth of news sites, news organisations face three major challenges: a) to get people to visit for the first time (reach); b) to make them stay at the site (stickiness); and, c) to get people to repeatedly visit the site (frequency) (Dholakia, et al., 2000).

In other words, traffic depends not only on unique content but on repeated visits, and winning sites are those that are more convenient, user friendly, better organized and more visually appealing (Schiff, 2003). Communication scholars and practitioners have agreed that interactivity is a good thing to have because it can make surfing a more satisfying experience to users, and thus the more of it, the better (Liu and Shrum, 2002). Empirical research has confirmed the above assumption showing that increased interactivity is associated with increased satisfaction and a greater sense of self–efficacy (Sundar, et al., 2003), while Rafaeli and Sudweeks (1997) concluded that interactivity is linked to a higher sense of involvement, belonging and satisfaction. Users not only want navigational control, but they actually want to be heard. For over a decade it is not a secret that most people have become profoundly sceptical of what they read in the mass media. “People want to bypass those channels, to increase the level of direct experience, to have a much more direct contact with reality and with the subjects they feel closely about” (Barlow, 1996) [14]. Hwang and McMillan (2002) found that people have more favourable attitudes towards sites that they perceive as interactive, and concluded that in formulating a positive attitude towards a Web site, perceived interactivity is a stronger predictor than involvement.

Dholakia, et al. (2000) proposed a scheme which helps to secure users’ loyalty. Interactive possibilities of a Web site increase the degree of perceived interactivity, which in its turn gives a boost to a sense of empowerment and social presence [15]. As a result the user has a strong sense of satisfaction, which consequently would provoke revisits to the site in the near future. Others have extended the results of the scheme to behaviours such as referring others to the site and purchasing from a site (Hwang and McMillan, 2002). Similar studies suggest that specific interactivity features of online newspaper Web sites as well as the newspaper site’s overall interactivity potential are significantly related to site–usage frequency and intensity metrics (Gerpott, 2004). “Interactive features are keys to driving page views”, claims Schiff [16]. Considering the serious trouble traditional media are having in attracting young audiences, a target group so desired by advertisers, the possibility to engage young users — through new technology and immersive presentational techniques — is an efficient way of building and sustaining a new base of young readers.

Despite, the above mentioned ‘rewards’ of providing interactivity, editors have been having a hard time accepting the prospective benefits of offering interactive products. However, as the impact of an increasingly flourishing online news market is becoming evident in the face of massive layoffs and steep drops in circulation figures of traditional newspapers (Witt, 2006), editors have no alternative than to seriously experiment with interactivity. Based on that assumption, Witt (2006) proposes a 14–step framework, addressed to both media professionals and academics, as a model which will allow citizen journalism to penetrate into news media in an effort to reinvent journalism. The essence of Witt’s model lies in the reappraisal of the traditional top–down journalistic hierarchy and in the creation of an open source product characterized by increased participation, transparency and pluralism.

The latter argument puts forward the second reason for which interactivity is of upper significance. Competitive and revenue issues aside, media organizations may stand to benefit by recognizing the non–monetary contributions of Web news to the broader news mission aiming at enhanced coverage and media credibility (Bucy, 2004). The seemingly limitless news hole of the Internet allows for in–depth analysis, hyperlinks to relevant sources, creation of integrated news packages containing audio and video material, constant updates, experts’ commentary on topics and events, hosting of blogs and forums promoting civic engagement and discussion, pieces expressing people’s opinions and posted directly to the site. Regarding local content, in particular, which receives little coverage by national broadsheets or television news bulletins, journalists who have established a two–way communication with their readers have discovered new topics and sources since users point out upcoming events, broken links or new stories in their communities (Lasica, 1998). Also, through dialogue and e–mail, reporters can assure extra input by building a collection of contacts ready to provide different perspectives on stories.

Schudson (1995) argued that an ideological gulf has developed between reporters and their audiences, resulting in credibility loss for newspapers. The public is increasingly sceptical of news emanating from news organizations. Yet, new media can enhance media credibility. Beyond stimulating interest in news and keeping users captivated, interactivity could cultivate a more credible and pluralistic manner of news presentation. In this context, media experts argue that the real challenge for Web journalism is to extend the best of traditional publishing, such as the credibility of well–known papers into the Web, while taking advantage of all the interactive and multimedia features available on the Internet (Kamerer and Bressers, 1998). A fascinating example were the eyewitness reports posted by New York–based bloggers, whose descriptions — often accompanied by images and video from the scenes of the September 11 attacks — were enormously significant. Such stories illustrate how news sources do not need to be restricted to traditional sources; with a wide range of material posted on popular newspaper sites, readers access diverse information in a variety of formats which otherwise would be difficult to locate quickly. Since September 11, many media organizations have published, or linked to, user–generated content produced by a growing number of ‘witnesses to news’ containing stories, photos and video published on blogs (Lasica, 2005).

Thirdly, provided the above goals are met, journalism will approach its fundamental mission of serving the public interest and provoking increased interest in news as well as enhancing civic engagement and knowledge. Interactive networking is said to offer perhaps the most potential for consolidating and mobilizing audiences (Schiff, 2003). The Internet has been hailed as the saviour of alternative or radical media in terms of promoting civic journalism [17] (Downey and Fenton, 2003) and bringing about new modes of producing and consuming news content. Interactivity above all connotes that the ‘mouse–clicker’ is in control. “Increased interactivity forgoes some traditional journalistic control and gives citizens some space to have a voice.” [18] The public may finally be able to use journalism as it was intended, as a set of guidelines and talking points that convene a discussion among an informed citizenry (Scott, 2005). Such a development makes questions about an involved and informed citizenry — the basis for a theory of the public sphere [19] — more timely than ever.



Exploring interactivity: Empirical research

The Internet is, by definition, an interactive medium, but not every communication mediated by the Internet is interactive (Schultz, 1999). “Receivers of messages on the Internet may or may not move fluidly from their role as audience members to producers of messages.” [20] At the first level this possibility depends on the interactive potential offered by the Web site.

Gubman and Greer (1997), after conducting an analysis of U.S. newspaper sites, concluded that online newspapers were making strides in placement of news and reader interaction. Kamerer and Bressers (1998) argued that ‘repurposing’ content from the printed editions may be the dominant trend, but the growth in interactivity of online newspapers is noteworthy. The findings produced by Schultz (1999) revealed that more sophisticated tools of interactivity, such as videoconferencing, were not encountered at all, yet newspapers have not totally ignored the Internet’s conversational potential. In an attempt to track the dominant trends in U.S. online publishing, Peng, et al. (1999) concluded that online editions were primarily used for promoting print products, while Kenney, et al. (2000) argued that little has changed as far as interactivity of online newspapers is concerned after comparing their study with those conducted by Ha and James (1998) and Tankard and Ban (1998). “Online newspapers seem to consider themselves interactive if they provide some hyperlinks and e–mail addresses,” concluded Kenney, et al. [21]. In their study of the European online landscape, Quinn and Trench (2002) claimed that there is limited adoption by online news services of a wide range of expressions of interactivity. Online organizations show a remarkably weak interest in tracking usage of their sites as a basis for redesigning them and rethinking their publishing practices and relationships to users. Greer and Mensing (2003) found that some online newspapers are experimenting and offer “more of everything –content, multimedia, interactivity”, yet interactivity levels show remarkably slow development.

Bucy (2004) found that some news sites are offering users a growing amount of interactivity and information accessibility — which revolves mainly around making content readily available, easily comprehended and personally tailored as well as facilitating interaction. Paulussen (2004), after analysing online news production in Flanders, concluded that online news media do not fully explore the Internet’s interactive potential. In fact, the interviews he conducted with editors indicate that there is a gap between the perceived potential of online journalism and the actual use of these added values by online media professionals.

Salaverria (2005) examined online news coverage of September 11 and concluded that online editions have evolved from offering textual contents to more interactive and technology–driven formats and information genres. Yet, Salaverria’s study points to the Web’s editorial immaturity and reluctant use of its interactive possibilities. Fortunati, et al. (2005) explored interactivity in four European countries and maintain, that with the exception of few newspapers that have a high interactive structure, online editions remain rooted in the concepts, culture and practices of print newspapers. It is argued that the asymmetric power relation between media organizations and readers is not in play as more complex types of interactivity, such as ‘conversational’ interactivity, are not used.

On the other hand, among media experts and practitioners, the intention of exploiting interactivity is widespread. Even since 2001 the need to incorporate interactive features was well–established among professionals. In a survey conducted by the Pew Center for Civic Journalism [22], nine out of ten editors claimed that the future of the industry depended on even more interactivity with readers.

Although traditional journalistic practices are still influencing online news content and the gatekeeping role is still very much present, the trend towards participatory journalism and the benefits earned by the extensive use of interactive media tools were unanimously acknowledged at the Online News Association conference held in New York in October 2005. Online news organisations are increasingly realizing that the key to success lies in giving readers what they want and when they want it. That means constant updating, creating interactivity, giving readers options and control. As Lowrey put it “;online journalism no longer sees editors as gatekeepers, but as ‘pathfinders’” [23].

The gap between actual implementation of online journalism–specific attributes and the perceived value of them can be explained by confusion surrounding the role of online journalism. There is a lack of definition in the role that interactive media are called to play in the information chain. “Internet publications do not know yet who they are, what their informative tasks are, and how they can perform them with sufficient technological reliability.” [24] The lack of an established viable economic model exacerbates this confusion even further. Investigating eight business models that describe comprehensively the commercial and management approaches to online news, Schiff (2003) concluded that a consensus exists among experts. They predict that the interactive model offers the most promise of eventually capturing the majority of online news consumers, but so far it is the least explored unique medium feature.



Online journalism in Greece

Makedonia in 1995 was the first Greek newspaper to make its debut online. Today approximately 80 percent of Greek newspapers have an online edition. The majority moved into cyberspace under fear and with little knowledge about the function and potential of the new medium. Yet, in order to remain important players in the media landscape, many papers set up an early online service. Due to this defensive starting point they did not invest neither in journalistic expertise nor in technology, but simply relied on the fact that start–up costs for repurposing content were relatively small.

A basic reason to launch an online edition was an attempt to reverse declining circulation by building a new base of readers, and especially young and computer–savvy users. Secondly, it had to do with developing a new source of advertising revenue by basically offering the same product in differing formats. Furthermore, the Internet seemed as a smart move to protect their advertising base, and particularly classified ads. Finally, following the global trend of going online, publishers felt that an Internet service would elevate a given newspaper’s prestige. Besides, the Greek media market as a whole has the tendency to mimic media developments taking place elsewhere (Arampatzis, 2004), irrespectively of whether the local market actually ‘permits’ them. In short, economic reasons, rather than journalistic purposes, trigger online journalism in Greece. Although it is only natural for media to pursue efforts that insure economic viability, the industry has silently agreed that “technologies and their associated applications will succeed only if the market believes that they create value that is currently absent today.” [25]




The research question

The research question (RQ), therefore, is: ‘What and how many (different) interactive options do Greek online newspapers offer?’ To what extent, are Greek newspapers in the course of keeping up with international trends?


A working definition

Grounded in Stromer–Galley’s (2000) position that interactivity should be thought of as a medium characteristic, and when dealing with interactivity–as–product, what is of interest is the quality and prevalence of features available on a given site. This paper aims at measuring the structural interactivity of Greek newspaper sites. Following Jensen’s (1998) definition of interactivity as criteria, the research was based on Heeter’s (1989) theoretical model. In order to assess interactivity a scale based on predetermined parameters is needed (Kiousis, 2002). Heeter’s model produces criteria which determine whether or not a Web site is interactive. The underlying logic of Heeter’s model is that the sheer presence of functional features in an interface is sufficient evidence of interactivity. The higher the number of such manifestations included on a Web site, the higher its interactivity.

However, the mere fact that a Web site provides many communication options to users does not guarantee that the site is highly interactive. It is conceivable that enhanced functionality and increased number of interactive choices can lead users to experience high levels of interactivity. The problem is that a threshold exists — called perceived interactivity — and is variable across individuals and subject to idiosyncratic conditions. After that threshold, researchers are unable to precisely characterise the interactivity level of a Web site (Lee, 2000). However, this notion of perceived interactivity is beyond the purpose of this paper. It has been found that users might have a greater interaction when they are exposed to more features in a Web site regardless of their personality or motivation (Chung and Zhao, 2004).


Research was based on Heeter’s (1989) theoretical model which identifies six dimensions of interactivity, and permits quantification of interactivity within a Web site:

  1. complexity of choice available: choice complexity is defined as the range of content topics online journalists make available to readers. An online newspaper’s interactivity depends on the diversity of material it contains. Users are empowered with many choices so that they can customize content in accordance to their needs and interests.
  2. effort users must exert: [26] it is associated with how user friendly a site is in terms of design, so that users can find information and exercise control over content with the least possible effort. It refers to those features or mechanisms which allow a user to navigate through a site and choose content as well as the sequence and timing of communication.
  3. responsiveness to the user: this dimension can be defined as ‘potential for responsiveness’ [27]; it refers to those features which allow the user to interact with the journalists of a given Web site. Users can contact reporters/editor to express public concerns, pose questions, requests and opinions and expect feedback.
  4. facilitation of interpersonal communication: it refers to a Web newspaper’s potential to offer itself as a digital conduit through which a reader can carry on a synchronous, one–to–one interaction with another reader; it has to do with those features which allow users to communicate with each other and exchange arguments, points of view and material.
  5. ease of adding information: it refers to the ability given to a user to contribute to content by adding information on a given Web site. It permits readers to express themselves on an asynchronous basis and connotes the interchange of roles between producers and consumers of news.
  6. monitor system use: it refers to those monitoring devices which permit a site operator to track visitors, which part of a given site they have visited and for how long in order to document surfing habits of a variety users over time.

The model of Heeter (1989) has been extended to include certain variables. Each one of the six dimensions was measured through variables, which in accordance to the literature, can be described as critical to the construct of interactivity in news sites. The model can be characterised as ‘inclusive’ because it contains an extensive variety of features. Furthermore, assuming that not all interactive features have equal interactive functionality, the variables used were further distinguished, to apply to Mark Deuze’s (2002) types of interactivity (navigational, functional and adaptive), in order to define the level of interactivity.


The sample consisted of online editions of existing newspapers and did not include any Web natives (see Table 1). The choice was based on the fact that there is increased evidence that large corporate portals and media trademarks are dominating online attention for news (Tewksbury, 2003; Dahlberg, 2005). The Newspaper Association of America (NAA) (2001) claimed that online newspapers attract more visitors than any other local Web sites in 60 percent of the top 81 U.S. markets [28]. Within the Greek online market, besides a few portals [29] which enjoy significant popularity an online paper of general interest — which doesn’t have a print counterpart — does not exist. Because daily newspapers in Greece are divided into morning and evening papers, the sample was made up of the three morning and the three evening newspapers whose print editions have the largest circulation [30].

In order to have a more complete picture of the results, two foreign online papers with printed editions were included in the sample: The New York Times and The Guardian. This selection was made for two reasons; firstly on the basis of the popularity of the online editions. In the overall ranking of the 500 most popular sites The New York Times was seventh and The Guardian was fourteenth [31]. Yet they ranked first and second respectively among newspaper sites of existing titles. Second, because both sites sare highly regarded by their peers. The New York Times site took three Online News Association Awards at the organization’s sixth annual celebration in 2005 [32]. The site won in the categories of general excellence, breaking news and outstanding use of multiple media for large sites [33]. The Guardian’s site, on the other hand, scooped the prize for best online newspaper for a second successive year at the Webby Awards’ tenth anniversary show that took place in May 2006 [34].

Table 1: Sample & date of examination.
The following online newspapers were examined in June 2006
Morning newspapersEvening newspapersForeign newspapers
1. Kathimerini
1.Ta Nea
1. New York Times
2. To Vima
2. Eleyferotypia
2. Guardian
3. Rizospastis
3. Ethnos

It should be noted that the comparison is not fair in terms of size. Production of original news content and incorporation of interactive services are contingent upon size as they can be labor–intensive and economically constrained (Chyi and Sylvie, 1998; Greer and Mensing, 2003). Both non–Greek sites under investigation are among the leading news outlets and enjoy global reach due to their prestige [35] and, of course, the language they use. It is only natural therefore that the professional standards employed would be more advanced. However, the choice of the sample was made so as to eliminate the common mistake met in some of the first wave of scholarly work about interactivity, which focused merely on the potential and not the reality of online journalism. Early studies were formulated upon “an expression of hope” [36] rather than based on pragmatic terms. In that sense non–Greek sites function as a practical yardstick in order to evaluate the relative status of the Greek online press.


Content analysis was used to examine the entire Web site of a given newspaper. The unit of analysis was the entire newspaper site. Each site was entered through its homepage, and then navigated its various sections. Repetitive visits were made to sites in order to observe extensively features under investigation. First, each site was coded for the presence or absence of 46 specific interactive elements. Second, a scored rating emerged from recording and calculating the ‘value’ (points) of each variable. Using this scoring method, the maximum score was defined to be 100 points, while the minimum was zero. Each feature received a rating from 1 to 3. A rating of 1 indicates a low level of interactive functionality. A rating of 2 indicates a moderate level, whilst a rating of 3 shows a high level of interactive functionality.


Table 2: Results of content analysis.
 Interactive features Rating Kathimerini To Vima Rizospastis Ta Nea Eleyferotypia Ethnos Guardian New York Times
 I. Complexity of choice available 
1Classification of thematic categories 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
2Classification of thematic subcategories 2             2 2
3Main news menu of the day 1 1     1 1 1 1 1
4Latest news section 2 2 2   2   2 2 2
5Picks of the day 1 1   1 1 1 1 1 1
6Picks of the week 2             2 2
7Special reports on important issues 3       3     3 3
8Archives 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
9Links to other relevant articles 2 2     2 2 2 2 2
10Links to sources outside Web site 2             2 2
11Internal search engine 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
12External search engine 2           2 2 2
13Time of updating 1       1   1 1 1
14Inclusion of multimedia features: Photos 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
15Inclusion of multimedia features: Sound 2             2 2
16Inclusion of multimedia features: Video 3               3
17Podcasts 3             3 3
18Special databases on issues 3 3           3 3
19Interactive guides 3             3 3
20Special services providing specialised and extensive news coverage 3             3  
 Subtotal 40 14 7 6 15 9 14 37 37
 II. Effort users must exert 
21Customization possibilities of a Web site via e–mail 3             3 3
22Advanced search tools 2             2 2
23Direct printing option 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
24Headline and lead drop–down menu within each category 2 2     2 2 2 2 2
25Breaking news service 3             3 3
26Mobile SMS services 2       2 2   2 2
27Desktop alerts 2             2  
28Internal RSS feeds 2 2   2       2 2
29External RSS feeds 3             3 3
 Subtotal 20 5 1 3 5 5 3 20 18
 III. Responsiveness to the user 
30Direct e–mail link to the article’s author 3             3  
31E–mail contacts to the editor/journalists 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
32Publish letters of readers 1             1 1
33Provide answers from journalists about their articles 3               3
34Provide answers to readers’ questions on any topic 3               3
35Service featuring the most read stories and blogs 1             1 1
 Subtotal 12 1 1 1 1 1 1 6 9
 IV. Facilitation of interpersonal communication 
36Talkboards on different topics 3       3     3 3
37Polls and surveys 3       3   3 3 3
38Newsblogs 3             3 3
39Classification of newsblogs 3             3 3
 Subtotal 12 0 0 0 6 0 3 12 12
 V. Ease of adding information 
40Hyperlinks that add information to the site 3                
41Mechanisms that allow users to make contributions to stories 3               3
42 Option of directly e–mailing an article 3           3   3
43Publication of opinion articles or stories written by readers 3           3 3 3
 Subtotal 12 0 0 0 0 0 6 3 9
 VI. Monitor system use 
44Cookies 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
45Request registration 1   1         1 1
46Profile data requested 2             2 2
 Subtotal 4 1 2 1 1 1 1 4 4
  Total: 100 21 11 11 28 16 28 82 89

The first observable finding is the clear supremacy of non–Greek sites over Greek newspaper sites. The Guardian and New York Times scored a total of 82 and 89 points respectively, whilst the Greek sites rated much lower, securing scores ranging from 11 to 28 points. In particular, the highest Greek scores — 28 points — were achieved by Ta Nea and Ethnos, followed by Kathimerini with 21 points. Eleyferotypia scored 16 points, while Rizospastis and To Vima got 11 points each (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Total scoring of Web sites (points)
Figure 1: Total scoring of Web sites (points).

A second observable finding is that the Greek newspaper sites provide homogenous interactive elements. In other words, there is a significant similarity of interactive features noted in the examined sites. With the exception of Ethnos — which scored in all six dimensions and Ta Nea which scored at five — the remaining sites were confined to four out of the six dimensions (see Figure 2). Indeed, not only did the sites score in the same categories, they also scored for the same variables. In addition, only the previously mentioned sites scored some three–point features, a rating indicating a higher level of interactivity. As we move towards more complicated types of interactivity — such as functional interactivity or adaptive interactivity — Greek sites seem to have remained behind.

Figure 2: Interactivity achieved per dimension (percentage)
Figure 2: Interactivity achieved per dimension (percentage).

Complexity of choice available

In more explicit terms, regarding the first dimension labelled ‘complexity of choice available’ the supremacy of the non–Greek sites is overwhelming. Both English language sites scoring 37 points each, while the Greek sites ranged between 15 and 7. To some, 2005 was a milestone for Greek newspaper sites, witnessing a radical restructuring of both design and content (Spyridou and Veglis, 2006). Richer content, some of which is exclusively produced for the Web, as well as portal–style presentation forms, updates, filtering via drop–down menus and searching tools have converted Greek online editions into digital products instead of just print replicas.

The non–Greek sites, on the other hand, have adopted elements enabling conversational and registrational interactivity. Furthermore, they contain a vast diversity of material not found in print editions and make extensive use of multimedia. The New York Times in particular contains a feature called ‘Get the latest in NY Times video’. Underneath the main stories the sites provide links to special reports, useful links, blogs and interactive guides. It is worth mentioning that the English–speaking sites do not hesitate to offer external RSS feeds. Such moves demonstrate that these sites are not afraid of competition from traditional media. Instead they have embraced an attitude that the more options and control they yield to their users, the more likely they are to earn their audiences’ preference and loyalty. Also, customization options in accordance to the user’s needs and preferences are available via special services. The Guardian offers 12 different specialized news services upon various topics (some subscription only) delivered via e–mail. for instance The Wrap includes the best of the day’s newspapers, handpicked and delivered to readers by 9.30 AM every weekday morning. The Cashpoint offers news and views on weekly personal finance issues.

The non–Greek sites are in constant renewal, adopting the latest technological developments to produce exclusive, interactive and catchy material. As a result their online editions are deeply differentiated from print versions. In 2006 both sites added podcasts (audio files of featuring well–known personalities, experts and journalists) as well as interactive guides (brief and to–the–point presentations on major events combining graphics and text).

Effort users must exert

As far as ‘the effort users must exert’ dimension, principles of Web design encourage a simple design, making a given site more user friendly. Despite the large amount of content on the examined non–Greek sites, it is clearly accessible, while a plethora of services and options allowing users to navigate easily. The Guardian is slightly better in this dimension in terms of this study, compared to the New York Times.

Among the Greek sites Kathimerini, Ta Nea and Ethnos are better than the rest of the sample, yet lack a breaking news service. Online news should offer immediate and ubiquitous coverage of news events (Massey and Levy, 1999; Schiff, 2003). The absolute lack of content customization options, partially a consequence of limited breaking news content, is also a great deficiency considering that personalization is one of the Internet’s strongest capabilities. The maturation of the Internet as a news medium is in direct correspondence with the production of a news content tailored to individual needs and preferences (Bucy, 2004; WAN, 2006).

Responsiveness to the user

‘Responsiveness to the user,’ a main element of participatory journalism, is one of the least used dimensions by the Greek sites. Apart from providing a general e–mail address, and in some cases e–mail addresses corresponding to various departments within a given newspaper, no other features are available. Even the non–Greek sites did not perform well in this dimension, compared to their performance in other categories. Even though in quantitative results both non–Greek sites scored high, direct e–mail to specific journalists is available selectively (usually to columnists) and the same goes for answers upon various topics. The New York Times justifies its policy in this area based on its inability to process all queries and comments in a timely fashion.

Facilitation of interpersonal communication

The fourth category of interactive features named ‘facilitation of interpersonal communication’ nowadays is embodied by blogs, which can be classified by topic and hyperlinked to stories. None of the Greek sites have incorporated blogs, a significant and notable absence. Blogs allow a reader and user to become also a producer of news content. Blogs not only encourage greater civic engagement but sometimes they can even generate new content (Wall, 2005). The blogs of the Guardian are outstanding — very wide in scope, easy to search and participate. Talkboards on various subjects, which can be considered as the predecessors of blogs, contributing to more pluralistic, two–way dialogue journalism, are offered only by Ta Nea, while online polls and surveys are adopted by both Ta Nea and Ethnos. Both non–Greek sites scored the maximum in this fourth category.

Ease of adding information

‘Ease of adding information’ is an advanced interactive dimension; none of the sites under investigation allow for direct publishing of content by readers. The New York Times — under the title “The Public Editor” — has developed a service which allows readers to be heard through questions, views and submission of opinion articles, while the Guardian maintains a section where users’ stories can appear. The case of Ethnos is worth noting; although the Ethnos’ site did not get a high score overall, it incorporates a mechanism enabling readers to directly e–mail a story or comment and also to contribute to a reporter’s article. As a result it scored six points in the ‘ease of adding information’ category, while the Guardian earned only three. Of course, whether the amount of material sent is actually read and published, and to which extent is modified, is another matter to be investigated. Finberg, et al. (2001), for instance, argue that the New York Times actively discourages its journalists from responding to reader–generated e–mail messages. In analysing the interactive elements in European newspaper sites Fortunati, et al. (2005) argue that “although contact through e-mail was present in the whole sample, however the management of e–mail remained mysterious.” [37]

Monitor system use

‘Monitor system use’ goes hand in hand with established commercial and profit goals. Apart from cookies no other monitoring tools were documented in the Greek sample in contrast to the non–Greek, which featured a variety of options. This comes as no surprise since concrete profit and marketing strategies were actually incorporated in Greek online newspapers only at the end of 2004 (Spyridou and Veglis, 2006).

Overall, navigating through the Greek sites, the reader gets the impression that editors, to a lesser or greater extent, are repurposing content from the print versions into online editions. Features and stories from print are transferred into the digital counterparts, enriched slightly with interactive options which allow for transmissional and consultational interactivity, but which definitely do not create a highly interactive environment. A given online paper is viewed as a supplement to a traditional print product rather than as an original product with its own characteristics and functions. Traditional journalistic practices and values seem to prevail in the online environment, yet an ‘obligation’ to the digital genre is clearly detected in the sites.

Finally, it is interesting to comment on the case of To Vima, one of the leading newspapers in Greece both in integrity as well in circulation [38]. To Vima, until June 2005, presented a picture similar to Kathimerini when the company decided to create a new digital product. The Web site was reconstructed and an advertising campaign promoted the new Digital Vima. For promotional reasons, Digital Vima was freely available for about three months to develop a loyal base of readers then the content would be available only to subscribers. As surprising as it may sound, Digital Vima was not very inventive, a mere ‘transfer’ of print to the Web. Content was only available with Adobe Acrobat Reader, eliminating interactivity. PDF versions of print editions are common, but generally are not the sole or primary digital product. Ethnos and Ta Nea offer PDF files on their sites.

When navigating through British and American sites, there is an emphasis on the audience. They provide a wide range of structural interactive features, confirming Sonia Livingstone’s remark that new media enable audiences and users to be increasingly “active, selective, self–directed, producers as well as receivers of texts.” [39] The New York Times seems to have a greater balance in the distribution of interactivity among the six dimensions, while in The Guardian interactivity is not so evenly distributed. Both sites offer a multitude of options and possibilities, with the New York Times having precedence over the Guardian in the third and fifth dimension (i.e., responsiveness to the user [40] and ease of adding information), while the British site offers higher levels of navigational interactivity and material diversity.

To sum up it is clear that Greek newspaper sites are characterised by significantly low levels of interactivity even though a decade has passed since their online debut. They are built upon a common pattern regarding both design and content and they are greatly influenced by print versions. The absence of integrated news packages and the sporadic presence of interactive elements is a serious deficit. Over time, the sites have definitely become more user–friendly and richer in content, but transmitional interactivity is the dominant form. Despite the fact that the prevailing trend in online publishing supports enhanced interactivity, Greek newspaper sites lack interactive features of high functionality. The new paradigm of journalism, which treats the news audience as active rather than passive media consumers, has not been seriously introduced into the Greek digital landscape.



Discussion of the findings

The Web sites of the Guardian and the New York Times are highly interactive and dynamic, in accordance with scholarly analysis of new media in journalism [41]. The substantial lack of possible forms and expressions of interactivity in Greek online newspapers demonstrates a slow and ineffective development of online journalism in Greece. Reasons for this outcome can be attributed to certain political, social and economic factors as well as to the unique nature of Greek journalism.

First, low interactivity can be explained by production and delivery barriers. Digital newspapers are not easy to manage and require special skills, teamwork and strategies. Most Greek online newspapers operate with insufficient staff both in numerical terms as well as in terms of online expertise. The Guardian, for instance, has invested heavily in its online services and as a result it has created a highly interactive structure and gained the largest online readership in U.K., some 7.3 million readers (McCarthy, 2003). There are additional problems in Greece as well with target audiences utilizing outdated computers and software as well as slow Internet connnections. At a time when broadband is widespread in developed countries, Greece has the fewest broadband connections, largely due to their high costs. The EU has repeatedly criticized Greece on this point because the EU regards broadband connectivity as the most powerful tool for a transition to the Information Society.

Second, the Greek media market being is small. Although the number of Internet users in the country has been growing rapidly (penetration has tripled since 2000 when it was measured at around 12 percent), today Internet penetration is estimated at 30 percent when the European average is 48.6 percent [42]. Only 11.7 percent of Greeks go online for information retrieval and news (V–PRC, 2004), making the online news audience small. Eurostat figures [43], published in April 2006, revealed alarming results concerning Internet usage in Greece. The European Statistics Agency provided evidence according to which 18 percent of the Greek people use the Internet at least once a week while the corresponding European average is 43 percent. Regarding students, 48 percent of the Greek students use the Web at least once a week, while the European equivalent is 79 percent.

Despite students being the most avid users of new media (compared to the general population), young adults are inattentive to news; the dominance of an atrophied civil society (Mouzelis, 1995) and the rise of cynical and alienated attitudes towards politics among the Greek young citizens has resulted in low news consumption rates. Even though the Web seems to be doing better, in comparison to traditional sources, still the attentive news audience is very small, not encouraging the development of a quality online news press. In addition, media commodities produced in Greek are hardly appealing to the international market. Consequently, high–budget interactive news are not favoured.

A relevant parameter is the fact that targeted Greek audiences for newspapers are characterised by low levels of Internet proficiency and familiarity (Arampatzis, 2004) rendering sophisticated Web sites inappropriate for the market [44]. For example, Althaus and Tewksbury (2000) found that higher levels of computer anxiety were significantly and negatively related to time spent using the Web for any purpose.

Media commercialization provokes harsh competition, in turn a significant determinant of how the news media operate. This phenomenon is especially dominant in Greek journalism, “which has been led by the needs of competition rather by a solid, or unanimously accepted, professional culture.” [45] As a result owners do not feel ‘compelled’ to improve their sites as long as a better product is not available in the market. This explains Web homogeneity in both design and content found in Greek online newspapers.

The printed press in Greece, with very few exceptions, has remained obtrusively partisan, excessive, and at times cross–patronising (Papathanasopoulos, 2001). Newspaper sites are just digital counterparts to print editions with their established political ties and identification and lack of credibility. Readers will not turn to read ‘one of the same’ and newspaper owners do not risk investing in operations which at the moment cannot be profitable. As an excuse, newspaper bureaucracies see little reason to invest in online services that have difficulty in becoming a ‘habitual part of the user’s routine’ (Schudson, 1996).

Furthermore, the modernization of the Greek mass media system has taken place in the absence of a truly independent journalistic body of ethics. Greek journalism has evolved around the interplay between media owners and political power centres and the battle for control for the public agenda, instead of focusing on objectivity, exchange of information and dialogue (Papathanasopulos, 2001). As a result, attempts which promote ‘civic journalism’ and render the public as active receivers and producers of news will, only with great difficulty, become part of established journalistic practices.

There certainly is a persistent and old mindset [46]. The development of a solid, interactive online journalistic culture is hindered by journalists who view themselves as the mediators between the authorities and the public. Journalists see themselves gatekeepers, filtering what is newsworthy and what isn’t. Such responsibilities provide to some prestige and status. Different levels of interactivity undermine the ‘we write, you read dogma’ of modern journalism (Deuze, 2002). Greek online newspapers, with little interactivity and participatory forms of journalism, struggle to retain cultural authority over a dramatically changing news process, confirming Ruggiero and Winch (2004).

Although journalism and communication university departments were founded in Greece in the early 1990’s, older professionals insist that a journalist ‘is made on the job’. A university degree does not seem to be a serious qualification for starting a career as a journalist. Yet, online journalism requires specific skills and knowledge that most old journalists ignore. Young, educated newcomers pose a serious threat as far as their job, tasks and status are concerned. As a result the older generation of Greek journalists see online developments as unnecessary and a waste of money and time.




Online journalism is in a transition. “The days when many in the newsroom looked at Web operations with disdain, when newspapers worried about ‘scooping themselves’ online, seem out of another lifetime.” [47] Greek editors, on the other hand, do not seem to have realized what research has revealed: the more interactive opportunities Web sites provide to users, the more involved users will feel about sites even though they may not take full advantage of them (Deuze, 2002). Greek journalists are not ready to relinquish any of their cultural authority, denying the benefits of the Web’s unique interactive characteristics and remaining attached to traditional practices of producing and delivering news, irrelevant to the new medium.

The findings of the present study are in tune with Deuze’s (2002) conclusion that “introducing multimedia and interactivity in a news media organisation perhaps has less to do with using all kinds of new resources and hardware or software applications, but more about understanding and developing a different, diverging journalistic news culture. It has to do more with values than with skills.” [48] The slow evolutionary route of Greek online newspapers confirms Boczkowski’s (2004) observation that innovation in online newspapers is an ongoing process in which different combinations of initial conditions and local factors lead publishers along different paths.



Future research

Two future studies appear appropriate. On one hand, to conduct ethnographic research interviewing the executives of online newspapers in order to explore in detail the organizational and journalistic obstacles regarding interactivity–driven journalism. A comparison of responses from journalists of different educational and professional background would be interesting. In addition, a study exploring interactivity from the perspective of users would be useful. How do readers evaluate online journalism? Do they use interactive features? Which ones do they prefer and why? Findings would yield valuable information to both newspaper executives and media scholars, by exposing trends and local peculiarities and creating the necessary data for further cross–national comparisons. End of article


About the authors

Paschalia–Lia Spyridou is a doctoral student at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki from where she received her BA in Journalism and Mass Communication in 1998. In 2000 she received an MA in Communication from the University of Westminster, London. At the moment she works as an adjunct lecturer at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication of Aristotle University. Her research interests revolve around online journalism, interactivity of Web sites, media consumption, democracy and digital media.

Andreas Veglis is Associate Professor at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Thessaloniki. He received the BS degree in Physics in 1988, and the MS degree in Electronics and Communications in 1992 from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. In 1995 he received a PhD degree in Computer Science, also from Aristotle University. His research interests include information technology in journalism, distributed printing and new media.



1. Source: Nielsen/Net Ratings, November 2005. The popularity of newspaper Web sites grew 11 percent year–over–year, amounting to 26 percent of the active U.S. online population, while growth of the active Internet universe as a whole rose three percent year–over–year.

2. CDP, The term ‘shovelware’ is used in the academic literature to describe an online newspaper which is a duplicate of its print version.

3. Peng, et al., 1999, p. 54.

4. Weir, 1999, p. 62.

5. Deuze, 2001, p. 3.

6. Lasica, 1998, p. 1.

7. Rafaeli, 1988, p. 110.

8. Steuer, 1992, p. 84.

9. Rogers, 1995, p. 314.

10. Cited in Dholakia, et al., 2000, p. 5.

11. Ha and James, 1998, p. 459.

12. The phrase ‘creative involvement’ is used to signify that interactivity should not merely allow for the user’s active participation in navigation, but also offer opportunities for sophisticated involvement and responsiveness. For that reason there has been extensive writing on the levels of interactivity offered by a Web site.

13. Jensen, 1998, p. 201.

14. John Barlow in his interview to J.D. Lasica, 1996.

15. The term ‘social presence’ is used to signify the degree to which a Web site conveys the perceived presence of communicating participants in the two–way exchange. Interactivity is likely to create feelings of social presence for the user through the availability of open channels allowing for two–way communication.

16. Schiff, 2003, p. 33.

17. The idea is that institutional and ideological pluralism prevents the establishment of a monopoly of power and truth, and counterbalances those central institutions which, though necessary, might otherwise acquire such monopoly (Gellner, 1996, p. 4 in Downey and Fenton, 2003, p. 192).

18. Schaffer, 2000, p. 2.

19. That aspect implies the notion of the public sphere as expressed by Jürgen Habermas. From Habermas’ work it can be extrapolated a model of a public sphere as a neutral zone where access to relevant information affecting the public good is widely available, where discussion is free of domination by the state, and where all participants in public debate do so on an equal basis. Within the public sphere, people collectively determine through the processes of rational argument the way in which they want to see society develop, and this shapes in turn the conduct of government policy. The media facilitate this process by providing an arena of public debate, and by reconstituting private citizens as a public body in the form of public opinion. Despite its limitations (stemming from its highly idealised and elitist character), Habermas’ theory is a powerful yardstick of evaluating the role of the media in democratic societies; see Boyd–Barrett, 1995.

20. Morris and Ogan, 1996, p. 5.

21. Kenney, et al., 2000, p. 19.

22. “Pew Center survey finds editors support interactivity,” Write News (1 August), at; see also Pew Center for Civic Journalism at

23. Lowrey, 1999, p. 15.

24. Salaverria, 2005, p. 84.

25. Picard, 2000, p. 61.

26. Ease of use is a key issue for news Web sites interested in attracting a large audience as usability studies show that a large percentage of new users have difficulty navigating within online environments; see Nielsen, 2000.

27. This dimension has been renamed as ‘potential for responsiveness’ because there is a difference between the ‘potential for responsiveness’ enabled by technological features and ‘actual responsiveness’ which entails the active participation of the journalistic staff; see Massey and Levy, 1999.

28. Cited in Schiff, 2003, p. 14.

29. has steadily been the most popular portal; To Vima (25 June 2006), p. A56.

30. Source of circulation figures: To Vima (14 May 2006), p. A62.

31. Alexa, 2004, at

32. ONA 2006 awards have not been announced yet.

33. Giura, 2006.

34. Andrews, 2006.

35. Relevant research has confirmed that brand loyalty is a strong determinant of Web site usage (Thorbjornsen and Supphellen, 2004). Established brands are visited by a large number of users and have a relevant advantage over small papers of national reach; their profit potential is substantially bigger and thus they can invest on offering advanced interactive services.

36. Quinn and Trench, 2002, p. 6.

37. Fortunati, et al., 2005, p. 423.

38. To Vima is the leading morning newspaper with an average daily circulation of 57,821 copies, covering 45.92 percent of the market; AADNP, 2005.

39. Livingstone, 2004, p. 79.

40. As noted earlier the study examines the potential for responsiveness as opposed to actual responsiveness. There have been studies which indicate that the New York Times actively discourages its journalists from responding to e–mail messages from readers (Finberg, et al., 2001, p. 10). In analysing the interactive elements of European newspaper sites, Fortunati, et al. (2005, p. 423) argue that although contact through e–mail was present in the whole sample, management of e–mail messages remained mysterious.

41. “Recent digital technologies have radically enhanced the level of interactivity by explicitly emphasizing the user’s response and active assistance in the formation of the media text itself and by developing particular tools to facilitate this”; Fornäs, et al., 2002, p. 23.

42. To Vima (19 March 2006), p. A54.

43. Anonymous, 2006. “Eurostat confirms: Greek people, the most technologically illiterate in the EU” (6 April), at, accessed 12 April 2006.

44. “The electronic newspaper is obviously not a piece of computer equipment as much as it is a media product, but knowledge of computer systems seems a reasonable way to assess an individual’s likelihood of adopting such a product”; Weir, 1999, p. 64.

45. Papathanasopoulos, 2001, p. 515.

46. “Newspaper companies are business first, and they culturally and corporately unable to understand the egalitarian, decentralised, peer–to–peer, autonomous nature of communication on the Net”; Martin and Hansen, 1998, p. 46.

47. Rieder, 2006, p. 1.

48. Deuze, 2002, p. 7.



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Editorial history

Paper received 28 November 2006; revised 2 January 2007; accepted 2 April 2007.

Copyright © 2008, First Monday.

Copyright © 2008, Paschalia–Lia Spyridou and Andreas Veglis.

Exploring structural interactivity in online newspapers: A look at the Greek Web landscape
by Paschalia–Lia Spyridou and Andreas Veglis
First Monday, Volume 13 Number 5 - 5 May 2008