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«13TH INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS RESEARCH CONFERENCE “Ethical Issues for Public Relations Practice in a Multicultural World” Holiday Inn ...»

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Based on the previous studies on blogs, journalistic behaviors are characterized by six features. The first is commenting on issues in a timely manner, because bloggers who post 598 professional and critical opinions on their blogs have the power to rapidly mobilize people (Blood, 2004; Delwiche, 2005; Wall, 2005). The second is editing or filtering information. From the third person perspective, if bloggers summarize issues for a general audience, they can be considered journalists (Andrews, 2003; Bar-Ilan, 2005; Blood, 2004). The third and fourth are fact checking and error correction in their blogs. Since the blog conversation is ongoing, credibility is guaranteed by continuous fact-checking and error correction of one’s own blogs. The fifth is on-the-spot reporting. Several bloggers not only stay at the computer, but also go out the scene of the event in question and report as eyewitness-journalists (Bowman & Willis, 2005; Matheson, 2004). These bloggers’ grassroots methods of reporting complement traditional journalism practices (Blood, 2002b). The last feature is watching the media. Some bloggers have ruthlessly monitored the mass media’s biased and unfair reporting (Usborne, 2004), rallying readers and fellow bloggers to bring about social and political change (Kaye, 2006). In sum, bloggers’ journalistic behaviors on certain issues can be defined as bloggers’ commenting, filtering information, reporting on the spot news, checking facts, correcting errors, and watching mass media practices.

Issue Involvement The question now is not whether bloggers can act as journalists, but which factors influence bloggers to behave as journalists. The BPS model conceptualizes issue involvement, which combines the variables of problem recognition and level of involvement as used in situational theory, as one independent variable. If bloggers perceive the situation as relevant or of consequence for them, they pay attention to and communicate about that problem. Bloggers for whom the issue is of direct importance will be more readily involved, thus aroused out of inactivity quickly.

Even though previous studies have used independently the two variables—problem recognition and the level of involvement (Grunig, 1978, 1983, 1988, 1989; Grunig & Hunt, 1984;

Grunig & Repper, 1992)—this study suggests that the two variables can be taken together as one dimension since both dimensions are overlapped in meaning. In fact, several researchers have indicated that the two variables of situational theory are highly associated with each other (Grunig, 1983; Major, 1998; Slater, et al., 1992). Involvement, defined as a person's assessment of connectedness, and problem recognition, measured by asking respondents how often they stop and think about a given issue, may be easily perceived as indistinguishable by respondents.

Furthermore, these overlapping variables are sub-items of Zaichkowsky's (1994) Personal Involvement Inventory (PII): important and relevant meanings. Indeed, accumulated studies in advertising research have used personal involvement to measure people’s connectedness with an issue and perception of importance for an issue (Zaichkowsky, 1985, 1994). Not surprisingly, this is why the situational theory has a multicollinearity problem.

–  –  –

involvement is considered to be the most suitable variable to explain online communication behaviors (Postmes & Brunsting, 2002). Additionally, research on blogs-as-a-genre has also addressed issue involvement as a useful variable in classifying blogs’ characteristics (Blood, 2002b; Herring, et al., 2005; Krishnamurthy, 2002). For instance, when bloggers are involved with a topical issue, they are likely to function as filter blogs which behave like editors in print newspapers (Krishnamurthy, 2002). Accordingly, issue involvement is an independent variable used to predict bloggers’ journalistic behaviors. Bloggers with high issue involvement are better able to raise issues using a more sophisticated schema, utilizing processing strategies that are well prepared to make sense of an issue and present their points effectively.

Blog Self-efficacy Even if issue involvement positively predicts bloggers’ journalistic behaviors, bloggers’ psychological mechanism will be to foster journalistic behaviors in their blogs. The present study suggests a new concept for bloggers’ psychological competence on blogs as blog self-efficacy. By passing the traditional gatekeepers, bloggers have the potential to attract widespread attention from organizations, and can bring the organizations to their knees (Edelman & Intelliseek, 2005; Scoble & Israel, 2006). With few structural constraints in the blogosphere, blogger publics can be organized and involved in the discussion of problems depending on their capacity to bring issues to the table for discussion.

Classically, self-efficacy is a person’s judgment of his or her own capability to organize and execute the actions required in attaining designated types of performances (Bandura, 1977, 1982, 1983, 1997). Self-efficacy is related to an individual’s psychological mechanism which determines the actions or skills taken by an individual, not the skills one possesses. It is important because people may have both positive and negative expectations of the perceived consequences of a behavior. When a person expects positive outcomes, the expectations help to build self-esteem, self-satisfaction, and pride. On the contrary, expectation of negative outcomes leads to selfdevaluation (Bandura, 1997). Shortly, self-efficacy is essential because the judgments of personal efficacy are the most central and pervasive self-referential thoughts which influence human motivation and action.

Numerous concepts have developed as an extension of individual self-efficacy, such as computer self-efficacy (Compeau & Higgins, 1995), Internet self-efficacy (Eastin & LaRose, 2000), web users self-efficacy (Eachus & Cassidy, 2006), information search efficacy (Vishwanath, 2007), political information efficacy (Kaid, McKinney, & Tedesco, 2007), etc.

Computer self-efficacy research, for instance, has focused on one’s competence in utilizing technology related tasks (Compeau & Higgins, 1995); Internet self-efficacy is a broader concept concerning perceptions of one's ability to accomplish Internet-related behaviors (Eastin & LaRose, 2000). In general, the concepts of self-efficacy have been emphasized as a psychological mechanism: the beliefs, expectations, and confidence that have a profound impact on achieving one's objective.

This study applies the self-efficacy concept to bloggers within the blog context, and suggests the notion of blog self-efficacy. Blog self-efficacy refers to the psychological aspect which predicts 600 and determines the activity of blogging. That is, the level of blog self-efficacy is one’s relative desire and confidence to influence the issues by using blogs, leading to different actions in blogging. The BPS model posits that blog self-efficacy will be positively associated with bloggers’ journalistic behaviors. This means that active engagement with issues in the blogosphere will depend on bloggers’ capacities–blog self-efficacy–which carries the issues into the public arena of the blogosphere.

The Blogger Public Segmentation Model Blogger publics are segmented as groups who are inactive or routine but who migrate toward the active journalistic state as their levels of issue involvement and blog self-efficacy in a problem increase. In the BPS model, issue involvement, a triggering factor, connects bloggers with an issue and leads them to behave journalistically in the blogosphere. Individual bloggers with high issue involvement are more likely to journalistically post blog articles and arguments about a topic on their blogs. Likewise, blog self-efficacy, a psychological factor distinct from issue involvement, is an embedded attribution of the individual blogger to raise an issue and solve the problem using blogs. Bloggers with high blog self-efficacy are more likely to go the blogosphere and more likely to behave journalistically to solve problems. The BPS model which typolosizes bloggers as active, constrained, latent, and routine publics is illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Typology of Blogger Publics in the BPS Model

Active blogger publics are defined as bloggers who have high levels of issue involvement and blog self-efficacy in a topic. This definition is consistent with the traditional use of the term active public defined as a group of people who have identified a problem and who organize to effect change. High issue involvement and high blog self-efficacy are necessary conditions for activating bloggers’ journalistic behaviors in response to a specific topic. Active blogger publics can include the opinion leaders, agenda setters, and commentators, as well as their close followers who have 601 high blog self-efficacy and are able to demonstrate problems saliently and frame situations as issues.

Constrained blogger publics are bloggers with high issue involvement but low blog selfefficacy concerning a problem or how to resolve it. Constrained blogger publics include bloggers who have recognized a potential problem or issue but lack high enough conviction or confidence to move into a journalistic role. They have motivation, but find their blogs’ efficacy lacking to organize the issues to blogosphere’s agenda. Constrained blogger publics are akin to the potential followers of active blogger publics.

Latent blogger publics include bloggers who have high confidence in using their blogs to solve a problem but are not involved in the problem personally. Latent blogger publics also incorporate what Grunig and Hunt (1984) called all-issue publics. They are generally confident in their blogs’ capability to affect change, but are not likely to comment or report on a particular issue.

Routine blogger publics are bloggers who have low levels of blog self-efficacy and issue involvement in a topic. Routine blogger publics represent an inactive public or a non-public in the blogosphere. They lack the motivation to post articles on their blogs or attend to communication.

Rather than behave journalistically, they remain in the private sphere, using blogs as personal diaries.

Research Hypotheses

The main purpose of this study is to disprove the applicability of situational theory for bloggers, and propose and verify a new blogger public segmentation model. For this purpose, first, we examine situational theory’s structural (path) model using Structural Equation Modeling (SEM).

First, for determining statistically whether the model has not too large of a discrepancy between the theoretical and observed relations, the goodness of model fit indices for situational theory are tested. As noted previously, since situational theory has limitations in applying to the blog context, it is estimated that situational theory will have unacceptable model fit indices in its SEM analyses. Based on the literature reviews, the structural model of situational theory can be constructed as: problem recognition positively predicts information seeking and processing; and involvement also positively predicts information seeking, whereas constrained recognition negatively predicts information seeking and processing. Hence, given the structural model of

situational theory as presented in Figure 2, the first hypothesis is suggested:

–  –  –

Based on the literature reviews, a new public segmentation model, the BPS model was proposed. This new model hypothesizes that issue involvement and blog self-efficacy will have positive associations with journalistic behavior. In the BPS model, four types of blogger publics— active, constrained, latent, and routine—will be characterized by different levels of journalistic behavior. The active blogger public will, importantly, have a higher level of journalistic behavior than other types. Relating to the structural model of the BPS model is presented in Figure 3, the

following hypotheses are suggested:

H2. Issue involvement will positively predict journalistic behaviors.

H3. Blog self-efficacy will positively predict journalistic behaviors H4. The active blogger public type, as described by the BPS model, will have a higher degree of journalistic behavior than other publics.

–  –  –

Internet sites including blog.ohmynews.com, www.allblog.net, and www.blogkorea.net, etc.

Ultimately the 895 respondents used for analysis were Korean, and the male to female ratio was 74.5% to 25.5%, with the age ranging from 11 to 71 years, and with an average of 29.11 years old (SD = 9.080). In terms of education, 54.8% of the respondents were college graduates, 22.8% were high school graduates, 13.8% were middle school graduates, and 8.6% were graduate school students or graduates. In addition, approximately 85.3% had a monthly income of less than $3,000.

To demonstrate the usefulness of BPS modeling in identifying blogger publics around an issue, this study applies the example of Korea’s food security problem. At the time this study was conducted, this issue was the one of the most frequently reported on topic in Korean mass media.

In October 2008, most Korean media dealt with the food security and public health problem because of the 2008 Chinese milk scandal. 14 The Korean mass media treated this issue as a major news topic, which also received heavy discussion in the blogosphere. Thus this study considered this food security problem as a timely subject to examine how blogger publics become segmented by a given issue.

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