News Coverage Analysis

Since the launch of Oxford on iTunes U in October 2008, the podcasting activities at Oxford have attracted great attention from various media sources including national and international newspapers (e.g. Guardian, Telegraph, Times, Independent, Australia’s Age) and broadcast companies (e.g. CNN and BBC). Oxford Podcasting featured recently in an Apple iPad TV advert, which aired for the first time in the US on 1 November across all major US networks in prime time.

To gather articles related to Oxford’s podcasting, searches were done using Nexis and Google News. Two databases were used, as Nexis did not always list the latest news. After filtering out the duplicated articles, a total of 70 articles were identified by the two databases.

Table 1 (below) summarises the media coverage from October 2008 (the launch of Oxford on iTunes U) to the beginning of November 2010. The articles were categorised into web, newspaper, radio and TV. The newspaper articles were then further divided into international, national and local newspapers.

Media Number of articles Sub-categories
Web 48 [Footnote 1]
Newspaper 20 5 international, 14 national, 1 local
Radio and TV 2 1 local radio, 1 local TV

Table 1: Media coverage of Oxford on iTunes U since October 2008

After reading all the articles, we have noted that the news articles focused on a number of key events. Table 2 below summarises the number of media articles for each identified event.

Event Number of articles Sub-categories
Oxford iTunes U launch Oct-2008 15 7 Websites
6 Newspapers: 4 national, 1 local and 1 international
1 Radio
1 TV
Oxford downloads reached no. 1 in the iTunes U chart 9 8 Websites, 1 national newspaper
E-book announcement 4 The article ‘Oxford, Rice, Open University release eBooks on iTunes U’ has appeared on 25 websites

Table 2: Media coverage associated with a number of key events

A number of key points related to learning and teaching emerged, which are grouped according to their frequency/popularity.

Free for all: iTunes U has enabled Oxford University to provide free educational materials to the public. This was mentioned by almost all of the articles.
“450 hours of free podcasts, lectures, films and admissions guides up on the iTunesu academic portal, available to anyone who wants to download them.”[1]

Informative: Oxford iTunes U podcasts help prospective applicants to become familiar with the application process and Oxford life.
“Potential applicants will be able to access free podcasts about how to apply to the University, including choosing a college and a course, and preparing for interview. They will also be able to see what an Oxford tutorial is like.”[2]

Popular: the iTunes U effort at Oxford generated a number of headlines based on statistics.
“In the first week their [Oxford’s] 200 items were visited by 168,000 visitors and 60,000 downloads occur”[3]
“Information about the Oxford admissions process has proved very popular, attracting more than 30,000 downloads to date.”[4]
“Apple’s iTunes U sees more than 300M downloads, offers 350,000 educational files”[5]

Openness and reaching out: opening up to a wider audience, and contributing to the emerging OER market.
“We hope that this service will make Oxford’s diverse range of audio and video material more widely accessible to applicants, alumni, supporters of the university, and the intellectually curious”[6]

Easy access:
“… for the first time this brings everything together on one, easy to use website, that is really easy for people to navigate. It gives people a real sense of breadth and depth of the activities that are going on at the university.”[7]

Learners are in control:
“Providing material online means that students are more in control of how, where, when and the pace of their learning”[8]

Supplementary: the podcasts can supplement other sources of learning, rather than being a complete substitute.
“While most academics think that allowing students to experience content at a time that suits them is helpful, most also agree that it should only be used to supplement regular study. ‘This is by no means a substitute’…”[9]

Social responsibility, i.e. Educate the world
“At the end of the day that’s what universities are about… It’s about educating people and bringing new ideas to people, so it’s part of our overall mission.”[10]

Implication and reflection

By reading through all the articles discovered by the project team, it seems that there are a few patterns that may help us to learn how to boost the visibility in the future.

First, most of the media tend to produce their news based on the ‘press release’ articles provided by the University press office. For example, the news of the launch of Oxford on iTunes U was used almost verbatim by the majority of the 15 examined articles. This highlights the importance of a well-crafted press release featuring the key messages the University wishes to convey.

Second, significant milestone based stories attract further news reports. For example, Oxford reached the global number 1 positions in the iTunes U downloads chart, and in doing so attracted much attention from the media. So too did the launch of e-books titles derived from holdings in the Oxford Text Archive.

Third, as Oxford already has a strong reputation, “Oxford” was often mentioned in reports on other institutions. We should note the value of our prominence when promoting our future podcasting developments and milestones.

Finally, the association with a successful company (i.e. Apple) increases the chance of being publicised in the company’s marketing materials. For example, the quote from Apple of “Apple’s iTunes U sees more than 300M downloads” was reported by a large number of web sites and newspapers. Oxford’s relative prominence in download charts was also mentioned in all these articles.

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  1. The web articles have not been sub-categorised due to the complexities and overlapping nature of many of the websites. For example, is a blog site distinctive from a news site from an academic site? This area needs some further investigation.
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