In recent years, a variety of funders have begun to invest substantially in efforts to assess the impact of media initiatives such as documentary films and journalism ventures. These efforts reflect a fundamental shift in how media performance is assessed (and whose assessments matter) in an environment of extreme audience fragmentation and increased challenges to monetizing media content. This presentation focuses on ongoing research that seeks to define and assess the field of media impact assessment. In addressing these issues, this analysis seeks to:
- identify important points of distinction between contemporary notions of media impact and more traditional notions of media effects;
- assess the methods and metrics being employed to assess media impact;
- identify the key challenges and tensions inherent in such efforts.
This presentation also illustrates that impact represents only one of a number of aspects of journalistic performance that are being converted to quantitative performance metrics. Related areas of ongoing research include efforts to assess the health of local media ecosystems and the quality of journalistic content. The broader implications of this wide-ranging transformation in how journalistic performance may be assessed is considered.
Philip M. Napoli (Ph.D., Northwestern University) is Professor of Journalism & Media Studies in the School of Communication & Information at Rutgers University, where he leads the Media and the Public Interest Initiative. His current research projects include an analysis of the functioning of the New York City information ecosystem during and after Hurricane Sandy (funded by Internews) and the News Measures Research Project (funded by the Democracy Fund and the Dodge Foundation).