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Research Talk 05.12.2022

05. Dezember 2022

"Readability as a mediatization strategy in media relations" - Dr. Claudia Thoms (University of Hohenheim, Germany) - Time & place: 2022-December-05; 18.00-19.30; D2.2.228.


Can comprehensibility contribute to the success of media relations? Or, to put it another way, what role does comprehensibility play in journalistic news selection? Based on the concept of mediatization, the study argues that observing basic comprehensibility rules can be seen as a strategic means of gaining media attention. This is because comprehensibility as a journalistic quality criterion is part of the media logic. Those who take this media logic into account when designing their own communications are in line with journalistic ideas about what is newsworthy in the first place and how to report on corresponding events. The basis for the empirical verification of this assumption is an input-output-analytical study of press releases of DAX-listed companies and the resulting coverage in selected media. Using a combination of manual and automated forms of content analysis, the linguistic complexity of the press releases is determined and the influence of this complexity on the journalistic handling of the press releases is examined. The results show that comprehensibility can help corporate messages find their way into the media. But they also confirm that other factors are more significant. Whether comprehensibility works as a mediatization strategy depends on which goal is being pursued. The chance of crossing the journalistic attention threshold is greater when texts are more comprehensible. Less comprehensible texts, on the other hand, are more often quoted verbatim – presumably because incomprehensibility prevents journalists from rephrasing texts. Such verbatim quotes are also a success. However, considering the final audience of press releases – the public to whom the mass media address themselves – it is questionable if such messages can be fruitful.


Claudia Thoms is a research associate at the Institute for Communication Science at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany. She joined the Institute in September 2013 while completing her master's degree and received her PhD in 2022. In her doctoral thesis, she investigated the influence of comprehensibility on the journalistic handling of press releases of DAX-listed companies. Her research focuses on the language and comprehensibility of different actors in business and politics, as well as on the effects of varying degrees of comprehensibility in communication. In her work at the Institute, she is regularly involved in the publication of studies on the comprehensibility of manifestos in the context of German federal and state elections, as well as of speeches by the CEOs of DAX-listed companies.

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