To date, the pioneers of media convergence have been thoroughly studied by Chinese scholars. Other press groups as ‘followers’, particularly the local press groups that adopted the dominant path of media convergence, are less highlighted and rarely focused within journalism studies, although they are precisely what have crucially endowed the landscape of Chinese media convergence with regional diversity. The deficiency in relevant studies has entailed the urgent choice of Chinese scholars to focus on media convergence of the local press industry.
To date, only a few studies have evaluated the influences of media convergence from a Chinese journalists’ perspective. Limited research has reflected the equivocal attitude of journalists towards media convergence and disclosed various factors that affect journalists’ attitude. Chan et al. (2006) conducted a survey involving full-time journalists in Shanghai and Hangzhou and indicated that journalistic websites founded by traditional media have higher credibility than their counterparts founded by commercial portal website. However, the perceived credibility of mainstream media organisations’ websites and commercial portals varies with the beliefs of journalists on journalism. A case study of the Shenzhen Newspaper Group conducted by Yin and Liu (2014) revealed a pessimistic view of media convergence from this organisation’s journalists and emphasised that the analysis of media convergence in non-Western countries must be contextualised within the relationship between state and media. Based on previous studies, a conclusion can be drawn as follows: To provide an insight into the effects of media convergence on the Chinese press industry, the relationship among state, media and journalists should be considered.
16 Expertise is defined as a source's “presumed knowledge and ability to provide accurate information.” See Petty, R. and Wegener, D., Attitude Change: Multiple Roles for Attitude Change (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1998), p. 344. Objectivity refers to perceptions of media sources to be unbiased, accurate, fair and “to tell the whole story.” See Iyengar, S. and Kinder, D.R., Psychological Accounts of Agenda-Setting (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1985); Miller, J. and Krosnick, J., “News media impact on the ingredients of presidential evaluations: politically knowledgeable citizens are guided by a trusted source,” American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 44, No. 2 (2000), pp. 301–15.
Moreover, most journalists willing to provide news to the new media centres are from party organs, whereas the majority of the metropolis newspaper journalists resisted collaboration. To understand the reason behind such contrast, note that new media centres are governed by party organs in terms of administrative hierarchy and are completely independent of metropolis newspaper offices in terms of finances. Compared with the metropolis newspapers, the party organ has relatively few barriers to the new media centres and a high degree of resource sharing. Such disparity has resulted in an operational obstacle between metropolis newspaper offices and the new media centre. To the new media leadership, this obstacle is precisely the underlying reason for newspapers and the new media to continue to be integrated but stay incompatible. The pattern of this relationship affects journalists’ willingness to collaborate.
The official statement of the objective of Chinese media convergence lies in coping with the impacts generated by the information technology revolution. Among those impacts, the decline of tax revenue from media industries is one catalyst for Chinese press industry playing the role of precursor of media convergence. In early 2008, the press industry experienced a phase of decline. Until 2015, China’s television industry firstly took on a gliding tendency in the totality of media placement of advertising, with the advertising revenue of the radio industry deemed stable (Cui, 2016: 6–8). The decline of circulation and advertising revenues is often attributed to the effects of new media such as the change in habits of media exposure. Compared with the radio and television industries, the press industry faces more severe challenges from new media. Thus, the press industry has substantially intense impetus to converge with new media.
64 Moderately aware citizens tend to be most easily persuaded by news media messages, because poorly aware citizens do not receive media messages and the highly aware are more resistant to change their pre-held attitudes. McGuire, W. (ed.), Personality and Susceptibility to Social Influence (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1968), pp. 1130–87; Converse, P.E., “The nature of belief in mass publics,” in Apter, D. (ed.), Ideology and Discontent (New York: Free Press, 1964), pp. 206–61; Zaller, J., The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
Focusing on the ‘top-down design’ of media convergence, market-oriented research relatively lacks in social solicitude and theoretical construction; valuing the ethics and obligations of converging media, the norm-oriented research demonstrates intense social solicitude but hardly receives industry-wide recognition. Both types of research fail to explain the full influence of media convergence. Considering that journalists are the critical actors of news production, the advancement of media convergence cannot proceed without the institutional arrangement from the top to the bottom as well as without the commitment and involvement of journalistic practitioners, particularly journalists, from the bottom to the top. The interaction between these two processes ultimately determines the scope, intensity and nature of the influences of media convergence.
Before and after 2009, all major press groups in Fujian started to establish e-newspapers and transfer the newspaper contents to their official news websites to cope with the loss of readers as a result of the prevalence of computer technology as well as to maintain and expand the influence of traditional media. The popularity of Weibo and WeChat emerged between 2011 and 2012, thereby prompting the local press groups in Fujian to try out both platforms. During this period, newspapers were the pillar of the press groups’ revenue. Within most press groups in Fujian, Weibo and WeChat remained under the operation of newspaper editors and journalists on a part-time basis and received limited emphasis from the leadership.