Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Benjamin J. Bates

Committee Members

Donald R. Ploch, Charles E. Caudill, James A. Crook


The World Wide Web poses significant challenges for traditional media companies who must design Web sites to meet the needs of the online audience. This exploratory study focused on visitors to local television station Web sites, surveying their uses and gratifications, Web design preferences, and Web content usage.

Twenty-eight U.S. television stations promoted an online survey, accessible from station Web sites. 2634 responses were gathered over a two-month period in 1997. The sample was non-random and self-selected, yet appeared demographically representative of the Internet audience as compared to other published surveys.

Thirty uses and gratifications agreement items were adapted from television uses and gratifications studies of the 1980's. Six gratification factors emerged and were given exploratory labels: "Entertainment," "Pass Time/Habit", "Information/Leaming," "Companionship," "Social Interaction," and "Site Preference." "Site Preference," or using the Web to access specific sites and information, was the most dominant reason respondents said they used the medium.

Web Design elements such as color, photographs and search tools were evaluated by degree of preference. Exploratory factor analysis grouped these aspects into three dimensions: "Aesthetics," "Interactivity," and "Multimedia." "Interactivity," or the ability for the user to control the navigation experience, was most highly preferred.

Web content elements or activities such as "Browsing," "Checking news headlines," and "Online shopping" were rated by frequency of use. Exploratory factor analysis grouped the activities into five content categories: "News," "Research," "Leisure," "TV," and "Music." The dimensions of "TV" - visiting television related sites - and "News" were most dominant.

Items in the three major areas: uses and gratifications, design, and content were assigned to summated scales for correlational analysis. "Site Preference" gratifications were positively correlated with the "Interactivity" design feature (r = .25) and "Research" content (r = .20). "Entertainment" gratifications were positively correlated with the "Aesthetics" design aspect (r = .28) and "Leisure" content (r = .36).

Conclusions for the uses and gratifications field include the need for Web-specific measures with Web use possibly explained by fewer factors. Conclusions for television stations include understanding the uniqueness of the Web medium and designing content that is complementary to broadcast programming.

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