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Abstract

The development of the World Wide Web (Web) has allowed publishers to move away from traditional newspaper models of news presentation to introduce more flexible products that offer both an information source and more scope for interaction with and between users. The opportunity to involve users more in the creation of news content has been exploited in various ways: for instance as discussion forums or as visitor responses to particular questions. This paper reports on an experiment investigating one form of this new kind of interaction, drawing on data from an e-mail questionnaire sent to visitors to The Guardian newspaper's Election 97 website who observed or participated in a series of themed discussion forums in the run up to the 1997 British general election. We present an evaluation of the visitors’ behavior in the forums, their motivation and their perceptions of the discussion space. We discuss the findings in relation to the underlying model of the website, pointing out how, despite the flexbility offered by this new mode of interaction, the traditional publisher-contributor relationship remains preferable to both users and developers.