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Paperback | $21.00 Text | £14.95 | ISBN: 9780262524391 | 264 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 31 illus.| January 2005

Essential Info

Digitizing the News

Innovation in Online Newspapers


In this study of how daily newspapers in America have developed electronic publishing ventures, Pablo Boczkowski shows that new media emerge not just in a burst of revolutionary technological change but by merging the structures and practices of existing media with newly available technical capabilities. His multi-disciplinary perspectives of science and technology, communication, and organization studies allow him to address the connections between technical, editorial, and work facets of new media. This approach yields analytical insights into the material culture of online newsrooms, the production processes of new media products, and the relationships between offline and online dynamics.

Boczkowski traces daily newspapers' early consumer-oriented non-print publishing initiatives, from the now-forgotten videotex efforts of the 1980s to the rise of the World Wide Web in the mid- 1990s. He then examines the formative years of news on the Web during the second half of the 1990s, when the content of online newspapers varied from simple reproduction of the print edition to new material with interactive and multimedia features. With this picture of the recent history of non-print publishing as background, Boczkowski provides ethnographic, fly-on-the-wall accounts of three innovations in content creation: the Technology section of the New York Times on the Web, which was initially intended as the newspaper's space for experimentation with online news; the Virtual Voyager project of the, in which reporters pushed the envelope of multimedia journalism; and the Community Connection initiative of New Jersey Online, in which users became content producers. His analyses of these ventures reveal how innovation in online newspapers became an ongoing process in which different combinations of initial conditions and local contingencies led publishers along divergent paths of content creation.

About the Author

Pablo J. Boczkowski is Professor and Director of the Program in Media, Technology, and Society at Northwestern University. He is the author of Digitizing the News: Innovation in Online Newspapers (MIT Press) and News at Work: Imitation in an Age of Information Abundance.


"This book is a real gem. It has the makings of a classic, and there is not much else out there like it. I would say that it is a major contribution to the new field of 'infrastructure studies.' As such, it will be read by scholars interested in the history of communication, information science, journalism, and communication theory. It's also a good read: Boczkowski tells his story so that the introduction of the digital newspaper becomes an integral part of the growth of the Internet and its associated publics. It will doubtless have a large impact on the social study of technology and its associated communication processes."
—Susan Leigh Star, Professor of Communication, University of California, San Diego, coauthor of Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences

"Digitizing the News is a rich, nuanced account of the divergent ways that established print media reacted to new digital technologies. Reluctant to relinquish their gatekeeping role and the dominant logic of 'we publish, consumers read,' newspapers were slow to accommodate non-print forms of information delivery. Boczkowski shows how these decisions were shaped by both the politics of newsrooms and differing conceptions of the audience. This lively book deserves attention from students of technology and the media."
—Walter W. Powell, Stanford University

"In Digitizing the News, Pablo Boczkowski's keen eye for organizational detail, insistence on the importance of history, and rich appreciation for scholarly ideas combine to produce an astute investigation of the way newspapers have confronted the challenge of the World Wide Web."
—Joseph Turow, Robert Lewis Shayon Professor of Communication, Annenberg School For Communication, University of Pennsylvania

"Finally, a study that moves beyond the early, deterministic hype about the revolutionary effects of the Internet and instead adopts a more evolutionary, actor-based approach to explore how established media adopt and respond to new communications technologies. Digitizing the News is a very important study of the newsroom and news routines in transition, and a smart, nuanced account of the often contradictory nature of technological change within organizations and, indeed, within society at large."
—Susan J. Douglas, University of Michigan

"Digitizing the News shows how dramatic innovations can unfold from the coevolution of social and technical choices made over several decades. Putting the news online is changing the production, editing, and consumption of news in ways that shape content in significant ways. How different enterprises have made these choices around the Internet and the news has created a variety of paths to the future of electronic news media. Students in the social sciences and humanities, particularly within communication and journalism, will value this book, which illustrates how research on new media can inform, and be informed by, social studies of science and technology."
—William H. Dutton, Director, Oxford Internet Institute