Implementation of alternative publishing channels by Greek newspapers
First Monday

Implementation of alternative publishing channels by Greek newspapers by Evagelia Avraam, Andreas Pomportsis, and George Tsourvakas



Abstract
As technology for the distribution of journalistic information in various forms has become more easily available, and with the Internet and the World Wide Web’s introduction into companies and households, the tendency has been for the larger media organisations and companies to have several publication channels at their disposal. This study investigates the implementation of multiple publishing channels by Greek newspapers. It attempts to identify the pattern in implementing the publishing channels and the factors that relate to the adoption of alternative publishing channels.

Contents

1. Introduction
2. Technology diffusion
3. Distribution channels
4. The situation in Greece
5. Methodology
6. Results
7. Discussion and conclusions

 


 

Introduction

The importance of the print media industry has grown rapidly over the last decade, fueled by the potential for increased profits as a result of the introduction of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Digital technologies have been a part of the daily newspaper world for many decades. Newspapers began setting type using computers in the early 1960s. By the early 1980s, most newspapers were using digital systems to set type in galleys, which were cut and pasted into pages, and then imaged. During the past two decades computer technology has revolutionized newspaper production work. Journalists and reporters of today use computers and computerized editorial systems to write text, process images and report on news events (Sabelström, 2000). Today the world’s leading newspapers are moving to 100 percent digital page assembly and distribution, streamlining workflow processes while ensuring higher quality (Veglis, 2005).

But while ICTs have revolutionized the workplaces and the workflow the basic format of the medium has remained the same (Chisholm, 2002). For a long time, newspaper organizations were occupied only with the distribution of newspapers in print while television companies produced and broadcast only television programmes. As technology for the distribution of journalistic information in various forms has become more easily available, and with the Internet and the World Wide Web’s introduction into companies and households, the tendency has been for the larger media organisations and companies to have several publication channels at their disposal (Sabelström, 2000). The Internet has proven to be neither a threat nor the opportunity some researchers claimed. In the last 11 years the Web sites of many newspapers are enhancing their services and are used to expand their readership in print and digital forms. Many believe that in time media companies will have completely altered forms and strategies. Reporters will be covering events with several possible publishing channels in mind (Bartlett, 1994). And for some companies this time has come. A recent study indicated moderate use of alternative publishing channels by the top 10 U.S. dailies (Veglis, 2007).

This paper addresses the issue of implementation of alternative publishing channels by newspapers in Greece. More precisely it attempts to identify the patterns in implementing publishing channels as well as the factors that contribute to their adoption. In order to achieve this goal we employ Rogers’ diffusion of innovation theory (Rogers, 1995).

 

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2. Technology diffusion

Diffusion of innovation, a theory applied most directly to communication studies by Rogers (Rogers, 1995; Rogers and Shoemaker, 1971), is the acknowledged starting place for studies attempting to describe implementation and use of new technologies. In their original conceptualization, Rogers and Shoemaker (Rogers and Shoemaker, 1971) defined adoption behavior as the relationship between the time at which an individual chooses to adopt a technological innovation and the time at which other members of his social system do so. Rogers noted that diffusion of an innovation may not always be univariate and unchanging. Very often, innovations go through a process of reinvention in which the innovation is changed or modified by a user in the process of its adoption and implementation (Charters and Pellegrin, 1972).

Diffusion theory models the dynamics of technology adoptions, including the rate of adoptions and the eventual spread of the innovation in a social system (Lievrouw and Livingstone, 2002). A new technology (or other innovation) is introduced in a social group (community, organization, nation, market, industry), often by a change agent with an interest in promoting it (private firm, public agency or influential individual). Typically a few actors are the first or early adopters; the success of the innovation often depends on their social status or influence. Other members of the group, who are either directly acquainted with, or share similar interests with the early adopters, may be persuaded to adopt the innovation, and they in turn influence others. Successive waves of adoption continue until the innovation reaches a saturation point or ceiling that varies depending on the characteristics of the innovation and the social system. Important concepts in diffusion include the adoption threshold, the number of adopters necessary to induce one more actor to adopt an innovation (Valente, 1995), and critical mass, the point at which enough actors have adopted an innovation for it to succeed, based on the rate or momentum of adoption (Allen, 1983; Mahler and Rogers, 1999; Markus, 1987; Rogers, 1995).

The pattern by which an innovation spreads through a social system has been well documented and follows a classic S–shaped curve of adoption over time (Davenport, et al., 2002). Five distinct categories of adopters and also the approximate percentage of individuals included in each category have been described, based on the degree of their “innovativeness.” These categories are: Innovators (2.5 percent), Early Adopters (13.5 percent), Early Majority (34 percent), Late Majority (34 percent) and Laggards (16 percent). These classifications can be used to understand the process by which information technology has become part of the journalistic profession (Rogers, 1995).

According to Rogers’ diffusion of innovation theory (Rogers, 1995; Li, 2003), three sets of variables, technology ownership, adopters’ characteristics, and innovation attributes, have enduring impacts on the adoption of new technologies. The present study takes the two first sets of variables into consideration in order to examine the adoption of alternative publishing channels by Greek newspapers. A future study may examine the attributes of each publishing channel in relation with the degree of adoption.

 

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3. Distribution channels

Newspaper publishers are increasingly distributing their editorial and advertising material over several delivery channels, primarily a combination of print and World Wide Web (Sabelström and Enlund, 1999). Next we briefly present the different publication channels that are available today:

Print: It is the oldest and most widely used publication channel. The print channel has its limitation within a certain filed of applications, for example printed products take a long time to produce. Overall, the process from planning the product to print is time-consuming and, in many cases, complex (Veglis, 2007).

CD/DVD-ROM: The main advantage of CD and DVD ROMs over print is the functional capabilities they can include. Information included in CDs and DVDs is structured as databases that offer searching functions (Enlund, 1996). The information can include multimedia material, such as images, animation, sound and video (Sabelström, 1998).

Web: The main advantage of World Wide Web over other publishing channels is the transportation of information over great distances, and the possibility of continuous updating (Negroponte, 1995). Information on the Web does not require physical transportation, which is preferable from both economic and environmental points of view (Veglis, 2007).

E–mail: E–mail is employed by newspapers in order to inform their readers about news, sending headlines of main stories (with links to entire articles included in an online versions of a newspaper), or sending as an attachment an entire edition as a PDF file (Schiff, 2003).

Webcasting: Webcasting can be broadly defined as the delivery of media content on the Web. The content may be audio and video. By compressing the digital signal and enabling the user’s computer to decode and play the signal almost immediately in the correct order, consumers can enjoy video and audio content in quality similar to television and radio (Veglis, 2007).

RSS: Information overload makes it more and more difficult for users to get the right information at the right time. The solution to this problem is a data distribution technology in which selected data is automatically delivered (pushed) to the user at prescribed intervals or based on some specific event (Käpylä, et al., 1998). The most dominant form of push technology is RSS. Today many newspaper worldwide are employing RSS in order to alert their readers about news headlines.

Blog: A blog is a Web site where entries are written in chronological order and displayed in reverse chronological order. One feature that distinguishes blogs from other Web sites is the ability for readers to leave comments (Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog). Many newspapers world wide have included blogs as a supplement to their Web editions, thus giving their journalists the opportunity to comment on current events and to their readers the ability to interact with them (Veglis, 2007).

TabletPC: TabletPCs are actually pen–based portable PCs, that include wireless connection to the Internet. Thus newspapers are able to provide readers with visually rich content in a fixed format that can retain each publication’s established brand identity (Veglis, 2007).

PDF: PDF is a file format that is portable, platform–independent, highly compressed, searchable and supports interactive features (Veglis, 2007). That is why many newspapers have used this format to deliver exact copies of their printed editions. Since many newspapers already use PDF format in the post–production process, this alternative channel is very easily implemented (with minimum cost) (Avraam and Pomportsis, 2005).

PDA: PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant) are light, portable and include small screens that support true colour. They also support wireless connections through mobile phone networks. Thus they are able to provide headlines and abbreviated stories without graphics, typographic embellishment and advertisements. Today many newspapers world wide offer PDA versions of their editions (Budde, 2001).

SMS: SMS is a service offered by network providers that allows customers to send text messages over their mobile phones (Veglis, 2007). Many newspapers worldwide are employing SMS in order to send the users the main headlines or to alert them about breaking news.

WAP: The Wireless Application Protocol is a secure specification that allows users to access information instantly via handheld wireless devices such as mobile phones, pagers, two–way radios, smartphones and communicators (Heijden and Taylor, 2000). Some newspapers are offering a WAP edition that usually includes the headline and a small summary of each article.

 

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4. The situation in Greece

The first Greek online newspaper appeared in 1995. Today many Greek newspapers have an online edition. A recent survey by World Association of Newspapers (WAN, 2006), reports that the number of online newspaper in Greece seems to remain constant (see Table 1). Also WAN indicates that the overall number of newspapers is declining and circulation remains approximately constant. Veglis (2002) studied the features and search facilities of Greek online news resources. His study concluded that Greek online newspapers are still at an early stage and require a great deal of development. His findings indicated that the Greek online newspapers have not integrated multimedia features in their editions. Another study (Spyridou and Veglis, 2003) investigated the interactivity of Greek online newspapers. The results of this study suggested that online newspapers present a low degree of interactivity. The authors claimed that the development of Web publishing is hindered due to particular political, economic and cultural traits of Greece as well the current dominant journalistic culture in the country.

 

Table 1: Number of online editions in Greece.
Source: WAN, 2006.
 19981999200020012002
Dallies 1012131315
Non–dallies56778

 

 

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5. Methodology

The present study surveyed the Web sites of all newspapers that are included in data of the Athens Daily Newspaper Publishers Association (http://www.eihea.gr). Thus our survey includes all national newspapers. We have also included one English–speaking newspapers as well as two regional newspapers from Thessaloniki (the largest city in Greece after Athens). The sample included 42 newspapers. The survey was conducted during the second half of November 2007. In order to have a better insight on the impact of the introduction of alternative publishing channels in the case of the Greek market, the following research questions were posed:

RQ1: Are Greek newspapers using alternative channels to deliver their products?
RQ2: Is there a model in implementing the different publishing channels?
RQ3: What factors influence the introduction of the alternative publishing channels?

To conduct the study, a descriptive survey design was utilized. A survey consisting of 12 items was constructed. Items consisted of dichotomous choices to assess use of publishing channels and demographics, combined with a set of five–point scales to assess the circulation of the print edition of Greek online newspapers. Data were analyzed with the help of SPSS 15.

 

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6. Results

First we examine the implementation of alternative publishing channels by Greek newspapers. We focus on the Web, CD/DVD supplements to printed versions, PDFs, Webcasting, WAP, PDA, TabletPC, SMS, e–mail, RSS and blogs. None of the Greek newspapers distributes a CD/DVD as a supplement to a given printed edition. That means that newspapers do not produce special versions of their articles in electronic format (that can include additional material — text and multimedia). On the contrary the majority of newspapers provide movies on CDs or DVDs with some print editions. In addition, none of the newspapers has yet employed TabletPC as an alternative publishing channel. This can be explained by the absence of the TabletPC in the Greek computer market.

 

Table 2: Publishing channels of Greek newspapers.
Note: * Web site includes only the home page.
NewspaperPrintCD/DVDWebPDFWebcastingWAPPDATabletPCSMSE–mailRSSBlog
Morning newspapers
1. Kathimerini X X      XX 
2. To VimaX XX      X 
3. RizospastisX X         
4. TrafficX           
5. AvgiX X         
6. LogosX           
7. ANO–KATOX           
8. NikiX           
Evening newspapers
9. NEAX XX        
10. EleutherotipiaX X  X     X
11. EthnosX XX        
12. Eleutheros TyposX X X      X
13. EspressoX X         
14. ApogeumatiniX X*         
15. Adesmeutos TtposX XX        
16. EleutherosX           
17. AvrianiX X*         
18. HoraX           
19. BradiniX           
20. EstiaX X*         
21. Eleytheri OraX XX     XX 
Weekly newspapers
22. PrinX X*         
23. To ArthroX           
24. EpoxiX           
25. To PontikiX X       X 
26. KarfiX X*X        
27. ParonX XX        
28. ThemaX X         
29. O Kosmos toy EpenditiX           
Financial newspapers
30. ApofasiX           
31. NaytemporikiX XX XX  XX 
32. IsotimiaX X     XX  
33. ImerisiaX X         
34. KerdosX X      X  
35. ExpressX XX    XX  
36. XrimatistirioX X       X 
37. Eksipno XrimaX           
Free newspapers
38. City PressX X         
39. MetroX XX        
English newspapers
40. Athens NewsX X         
Regional newspapers
41. MakedoniaX X         
42. AgelioforosX X         

 

Sixty percent of the newspapers maintain a Web site with content that is more or less similar to the content of printed editions. Another 12 percent of the newspapers have a Web site with only the front page of the printed version of the newspaper or have a Web site under construction. That means that 72 percent of the newspapers under investigation have — or are going to have in the near future — an online edition.

PDF versions are available from 26 percent of the newspapers. The PDF version can be downloaded or accessed via the newspaper’s Web site. Fourteen percent of the newspapers use e–mail as a publishing channel. RSS feeds are available from six newspapers (14 percent). Five percent of the newspapers use WAP to supply main headlines to their readers. Additionally, five percent use SMS and blogs. Finally webcasting and PDA are employed by one newspaper (2 percent) (not the same one). All the above results are included in Table 2.

Based on the above we can answer RQ1. Greek newspapers do no systematically employ alternative publishing channels. The main alternative channel seems to be Web. PDF is offered by 26 percent of the newspapers. Except the previous mentioned channels some other channels are also employed by only a small group of newspapers (2–14 percent). We must note that the existence of a Web site seems to be a condition for a given newspaper to utilize alternative publishing channels.

Next we studied the pattern of implementing various publishing channels by Greek newspapers. In Table 3 we have included the types of channels that newspapers have implemented along with the number of channels. The data in Table 3 allow us to determine the model of adopting new publishing channels. As it was mentioned earlier the Web is the first channel that newspapers implement. That can be easily explained by the fact that the majority of other publishing channels are based or are implemented through the World Wide Web. The next channel is PDF. This is usually an exact duplicate of the printed edition and can be deployed with minimal cost. The PDF file of the newspaper can be accessed through the newspaper’s Web site. RSS is the next channel in the model. Although it is considered to be a relative new channel, its nature makes it very attractive to newspapers since it is a push channel. Information is sent (fed) directly to the reader without him taking any action (apart from subscribing to the feed). E–mail is the subsequent publishing channel. It is also a push channel. Even though it is a different Internet service (and the oldest one) it depends on a newspaper’s Web site to subscribe to e–mail alerts. It is worth noting that although e–mail is one of the most popular Internet services, it is exceeded by RSS, a relatively quite new service. One might argue that this is caused by the instant reception of RSS feeds by readers, even though one can find on the Web today many free mail notifiers that can do the same job as RSS aggregators. The problem in that this requires the reader to download and install additional software that may not be so easy for many readers. On the other hand all the latest versions of Internet browsers directly support RSS feeds and this can justify the popularity of RSS channel in comparison with e–mail.

 

Table 3: Types of channels versus number of implemented channels.
Types of channelsNumbers of channels
1 2346Total
Web8952125
PDF0612110
RSS022116
E–mail012216
Blogs002002
SMS001102
WAP001012
Webcasting001001
PDA000011

 

The next channel is blog. This is quite a surprise since blogs are not very popular in Greece. The interactive nature of this channel makes it a quite interesting choice for newspapers. Of course one might argue that the percentage is very low (5 percent) but it seems to surpass SMS which was expected to be in a higher position, based on the percentages of mobile usage in the country (Eurostat, 2007). WAP comes next. Some years ago the WAP protocol was expected to achieve high penetration among mobile subscribers, but this expectation was not met. Hence only two newspapers have adopted this channel. In the penultimate position we find webcasting with only one newspaper, Eleutheros Typos, implementing this channel. This comes to no surprise since webcasting requires an infrastructure not available in most newspapers. Eleutheros Typos has strong business ties with a TV station from which it acquires multimedia material. In the last position we find PDA. This channel is available only from a well known financial newspaper, Naytemporiki. Recent surveys indicate that the majority of its readers are familiar with PDA devices (available at the newspapers Web site at http://www.nagtemporiki.gr). The popularity of this channel depends on the greater diffusion of PDA devices in the Greek market.

Based on the above we can construct the adoption model of the alternative publishing channels (RQ2). Figure 1 presents the stages of adoption that include the implemented channels. It is worth noting that the channels that are based on a mobile network appear only in the third stage of the adoption model. That was not expected since the percentage of mobile telephone users in Greece is three times higher than the percentage of Internet users (Eurostat, 2007). We also observe that second stage includes the two push channels (RSS and e–mail), thus indicating the importance that newspapers give to these channels.

Web site→→PDF
RSS
E–mail
→→Blogs
SMS
WAP
Webcasting
→→PDA
TabletPC
Figure 1: Model of adoption of alternative publishing channels.

Finally we examine the factors that influence the introduction of alternative publishing channels. In order to study the adoption of alternative publishing channels based on Roger’s diffusion of innovation theory, we investigate technology ownership and the adopter’s characteristics. As far as technology ownership is concerned, we can draw some conclusions based on the years that newspapers have maintained online versions. A more extensive study may include a detailed analysis of the technology infrastructure that each newspaper has deployed. However such data is not easily available from newspaper companies. The characteristics of adopters can be defined as the years of publication, circulation, and type of newspaper (morning, evening, weekly, financial). Table 4 includes Spearman’s ρ rank–order correlation coefficient for the previous mentioned factors. The results indicate that there is a strong positive correlation between the number of channels and circulation (_=0.545, df=40, ρ<0.002). The other three factors — type of newspaper, years of printed edition and years of online edition — do not appear to correlate with the number of publishing channels. Of course we must note that from Table 1 we can observe that the financial newspapers tend to implement more often alternative publishing channels; the newspaper with the highest number of alternative channels belongs to this category. As far as the years of printed edition factor is concerned, it seems to have a positive strong relation with years of the online edition ((_=0.668, df=14, ρ<0.005). In other words, old newspapers seem to have implemented earlier an online edition.

Based on the above we can answer RQ3. The number of publishing channels depends only on the circulation of a given newspaper. That means that newspapers with high circulation are interested in preserving and if possible increasing their readership by targeting new groups of readers. We must note that we have no circulation data available for financial newspapers since the majority of their readers subscribe directly to a given newspaper, not purchasing it from the newsstand.

 

Table 4: Spearman’s ρ rank–order correlation coefficient for various factors.
Note: ** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2–tailed).
  Number of publishing channelsCirculationType of newspaperYears of printed editionYears of online edition
Number of publishing channelsCorrelation coefficient1.000.545**.187.248.145
 Sig. (2–tailed) .002.237.157.578
 N4230423417
CirculationCorrelation coefficient.545**1.000.358.004-.062
 Sig. (2–tailed).002 .052.985.849
 N3030303012
Type of newspaperCorrelation coefficient.187.3581.000-.024-.395
 Sig. (2–tailed).237.052 .894.116
 N4230423417
Years of printed editionCorrelation coefficient.248.004-.0241.000.668**
 Sig. (2–tailed).157.985.894 .005
 N3430343416
Years of online editionCorrelation coefficient.145-.062-.395.668**1.000
 Sig. (2–tailed).578.849.116.005 
 N1712171617

 

 

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7. Discussion and conclusions

This paper studied the adoption of alternative publishing channels by Greek newspapers. The findings indicate that there is a moderate diffusion of alternative publishing channels. More precisely, 40,5 percent of Greek newspapers employ no additional publishing channels (laggards and late majority), 19 percent one channel (late and early majority), 21.4 percent two channels (early majority), 11.9 percent three channels (early adopters), 7.2 percent four or more channels (innovators). The adoption cycle is at the beginning and thus we can not clearly distinguish the five categories of adopters.

Efforts by newspapers are mainly focused on creating online editions that are usually exact copies of printed editions. A small number of newspapers also use e–mail, PDF and RSS in order to reach their readers. The rest of the channels are employed by a very low percentage of newspapers under study. That means that very few of them have evolved into true online newspapers (Veglis, 2002). Most Greek newspapers moved into cyberspace under fear and with little knowledge about the functionality and potential of the new medium. The basic reason to launch an online edition was to reverse declining circulation by building a new base of readers and users, more specifically young and computer–savvy readers, given the fact that start–up costs were relatively low. A second factor seems to be developing a new source of revenue by basically offering the same product in a slightly different format. There is a clear attempt to protect advertising base, particularly classified ads. Last, but not least, newspapers are going online for prestige. Following a global trend, a presence on the Internet improves a given newspaper’s image (Spyridou and Veglis, 2003).

This study also attempted to identify patterns in implementing publishing channels in an attempt to construct a model of adopting alternative publishing channels. This effort has resulted in the construction of a model that includes four stages (Figure 1). The majority of surveyed newspapers are still in the first or second stage.

Finally we have employed the diffusion of innovation theory in order to investigate factors that influence the introduction of alternative publishing channels. Only one factor has been identified — the circulation of the printed edition. Many major “old” Greek newspapers employ more publishing channels. This is also confirmed by the fact that a particular new newspaper (Thema), with a very high circulation, has only recently (during 2007) employed one alternative publishing channel (Web).

We must note that although the type of newspaper does not appear to relate to the number of publishing channels, financial newspapers seem to employ more aggressive alternative publishing solutions. In particular one of the financial newspapers that exhibited the highest number of publishing channels is Naftemporiki. A recent survey among readers of both the online and printed editions of this financial newspaper found that there is a significant difference among the two groups (BARI, 2007, available at the newspaper’s Web site at http://www.nagtemporiki.gr). Online newspaper readers appear to be close to the characteristics of Internet users as described in a recent survey (e–metrics, 2006) — young males in their thirties with higher education. But we must also note that the average reader of the print edition of Naftemporiki is also close to the Greek average Internet user. We may conclude that the type of newspaper is related to the adoption of alternative publishing channels, based on the fact that the profile of the average reader of a particular financial newspaper in very close on the profile of an average Internet user in Greece. This issue will be examined in a future extension of this study. The majority of alternative publishing channels can be characterized as Internet services. Hence obviously Internet use is a necessary pre–condition for a reader to use a specific alternative publishing channel offered by a given newspaper.

There is no doubt that the future of alternative publishing channels in Greece heavily depends on an increase in overall Internet use in the country. A recent survey indicated that Internet use in Greece is at 25 percent (Smihily, 2007), much lower than average European Internet use. An increase in Internet use, along with a need to increase readership, will undoubtedly force Greek newspapers to expand their production of new publishing channels. A future extension of this study will include a survey on the factors that contribute to the use of alternative publishing channels by newspaper readers.

Newspapers are on the verge of a renaissance. A wide range of alternative publishing channels have emerged (Chisholm, 2002). Newspapers must change and adapt to these opportunities in to order to survive. One thing is certain the newspaper of the near future will be much different than today’s printed edition. End of article

 

About the authors

Evagelia Avraam is a PhD student in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Her research interests include distributed publishing systems, electronic publishing, and information technology in journalism.
E–mail: avraam [at] jour [dot] auth [dot] gr
Direct comments to avraam [at] jour [dot] auth [dot] gr

Andreas Pomportsis is a professor in Department of Informatics at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. His research interests include computer networks, multimedia systems, value–added services and environments on the Internet.
Web: http://www.csd.auth.gr/personnel/info.php?id=pombortsis
E–mail: apombo [at] csd [dot] auth [dot] gr

George Tsourvakas is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. His research interests include media management, media economics and marketing communications.
E–mail: gtsourv [at] jour [dot] auth [dot] gr

 

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Editorial history

Paper received 5 December 2007; accepted 1 March 2008.


Copyright © 2008, First Monday.

Copyright © 2008, Evagelia Avraam, Andreas Pomportsis, and George Tsourvakas.

Implementation of alternative publishing channels by Greek newspapers
by Evagelia Avraam, Andreas Pomportsis, and George Tsourvakas
First Monday, Volume 13, Number 4 - 7 April 2008
http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2072/1954





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