Sustainable Journalism through the concepts of engagement and relevance: a scoping review [open access article]

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The concepts of relevance and engagement provide an approach to understanding new media companies’ search for a new sustainability model. This new model must complement the advertising revenue with subscriptions. The media need to ensure various sources of funding. They must regain relevance and maintain engagement with their audience; this paper presents the results of a scoping review. The objective is to identify and synthesise the academy’s vision concerning the relevance and engagement applied to the sustainability of journalism. The academy analyses the innovation processes in news media outlets in-depth and attempts to leverage its business model through paying users. The results show a growing interest in the media’s economic feasibility due to the demise of the advertising-based business model. The in-depth analysis of engagement shows the academy’s lack of a defined consensus, although new research has made valuable contributions. Moreover, there are significant differences between professionals’ and academics’ visions. Although to a lesser extent, Relevance is present in the sustainability debate through the visibility and trust that media brands bring.


Digital journalism; engagement; sustainability; media business; systematic review

Introduction and theoretical framework

This paper focuses on the news media companies’ sustainability in relevance and engagement in academic investigations. The advent of the internet radically changed how news is consumed, leading to the current crisis of media viability (Meier; Bracker; Verhovnik, 2017). The profound change in the advertising market and the proliferation of free content and sources of information has led to the media’s loss of relevance, as they have lost exclusivity not only as a source of information but also as an advertising media’s (Maestro Espínola; García Santamaría; Pérez Serrano, 2016), as digital platforms have absorbed advertising. This viability is considered part of this research’s theoretical framework,

The concept of relevance has two connotations. On the one hand, it can be defined as the media’s capacity to be an influential actor in society, an opinion shaper (Vázquez-Herrero; Negreira-Rey; López-García, 2019). In this sense, we refer to reputation. On the other hand, relevance can also be understood as the media’s degree of visibility on the internet, which in turn, is related to the medium’s reputation (Gundlach; Hofmann, 2020). This paper is set in the context of the internet, which is constantly changing, making it challenging to identify structures from all economic and cultural sectors, not only from the media (Nel et al., 2020). The academic sphere has emphasised the evolution in the industry, and in particular, the concept of journalistic innovation is often understood as a rescue platform for a sector seeking a new business model (Creech; Nadler, 2018).

The media are forced to adapt to the digital environment and decide, accordingly, the modus operandi of the continuity and change of the media (Zelizer, 2019). For this reason, digitalisation is the focus of this research, not in a technological sense but rather in a strategic sense. The work is based on the definition of Digital Journalism Studies, proposed by Eldridge et al. in 2019 (cited by Steensen; Wetslund, 2021): “Digital Journalism Studies should strive to be an academic field which critically explores, documents, and explains the interplay of digitisation and journalism, continuity and change.”

Since the emergence of social media, The main consequence of digitalisation is the loss of the media’s monopoly on audiences (Myllylahti, 2020). Not only the media communicates on the internet; governments, corporations, and institutions of all types share information on websites and social networks. News is separated from journalism (Steensen; Westlund, 2021), and media outlets compete with each other and any other content for the internet user’s attention (Krebs et al., 2020). For the media to be a viable business in this hypercompetitive environment, they must understand how audiences access news (relevance) and their consumption and engagement patterns. As Batsell (2015) points out, the more urgent engagement becomes, the more the digital transformation process progresses.


How to cite this article

Castells-Fos, L.; Pont-Sorribes, C. and Codina, L. (2022). Sustainable Journalism through the concepts of engagement and relevance: a scoping review. Doxa Comunicación, 35, pp. 19-38.

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