The relationship between journalism and its audiences has always been complicated. On the one hand, journalism serves its audiences. It provides news which are needed and cared by audiences to realize its function of providing information, education and entertainment. On the other hand, audiences tend to be passive receptors of content. Although media coverage largely depends on audiences, journalists are those who decide what counts as news and what can be covered. The audience, in a sense, is oriented by journalism and plays a subordinate role. In the broadcast era, audiences were more limited. They had few opportunities to share their viewing experience and generate content.
Digital media, however, makes it possible for audiences to participate in the creating of news. Audiences can convey, share, discuss and even remix content of news happening around them through digital media such as Facebook and Google. Digital media creates digital audiences, which encourages audience participation. The participatory culture also facilitates the improvement of news: to be more truthful, timely and readable. This is because in many contexts, audiences tend to be the witnesses of an accident, who know the information more accurately. Thus, digital networked media continue and accelerate deep structural changes in the way public spheres are produced.
The journalist is no longer the sender and the audience is no longer the receiver. Audiences can also affect the selection, presentation, aggregation and distribution of information. ‘The shift away from the we write you read dogma of modern journalism’ (Loosen & Schmidt 2012, sec. 5, par. 4) shows the advancement of democracy and the re-connection between journalism and audiences.