Estonian World in the view of its readers and editors

Here’s a brief summary of the results of the bachelor thesis of Raido Remmel, a student of information science at Tallinn University’s Institute of Digital Technologies; the thesis, “Estonian World online magazine in the view of its readers and editors”, was successfully defended in the university in May 2022.

The aim of thesis was to find out the development history and perspectives of Estonian World and the readers’ evaluation of the outlet.

I started from the research question whether the ambitious claim by Estonian World’s founders that it is the only English-language independent global online magazine about Estonia and Estonians is true.

The research tasks were to describe the nature and structure of Estonian World, to analyse the target group and position of the online magazine in the media landscape; to present the development history of the outlet, to find out and analyse the evaluation of Estonian World’s readers alongside the editorial positions and to point out the future perspectives.

To fulfil the aim of the work and research tasks, the sources found in the public information space were collected and analysed, a structured questionnaire survey was conducted to find out the evaluations of the readers of the online magazine, and an expert interview was conducted with the editor-in-chief of Estonian World. The conclusions of the present work are based on these components.

As a result of the research, it became clear that Estonian World is currently a unique web platform in terms of its nature and structure, both in Estonia and neighbouring countries; websites in Baltic states with a similar target group and a Canadian portal were examined. Uniqueness lies in both the format and the content.

An emphasis on quality

All the online platforms surveyed were portals that collected and disseminated information from other sources in addition to their own production, while Estonian World is an exclusive online magazine producing original content, edited according to certain rules and standards, with an emphasis on quality. For these reasons, Estonian World also differs from blogs.

Estonian World is also the only fully independent, English-language online magazine about Estonia and Estonians that has been operating continuously for ten years – since 2012, when it was founded by three Estonian expats in London, the UK. The English language as lingua franca has enabled the magazine to reach a wider target group all over the world, which are Estonians at home and abroad, foreigners related to Estonia and simply estophiles.

Estonian World’s founders Sander Saar (left), Silver Tambur (middle) and Sten Hankewitz (right), pictured here in Tallinn in 2022.

Estonian World is not affiliated with any state organisation or political party or any corporate business, it operates completely independently.

Therefore, the above statement of Estonian World can be considered true, with conclusion that the Estonian World model is unique not only in Estonia but also elsewhere.

The questionnaire surveyed the readers and found out the evaluations of the online magazine, which has not been done in this form before. There were 147 respondents within a week.

Most readers come from the Anglosphere

It turned out that one-third of the readers who responded are from Estonia and two-thirds from abroad, which coincides with the editorial idea of their audience. In addition to Estonia, most users come from the United States, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, which can be explained by the large diaspora of Estonians and a unified English-speaking space. But Estonian World has also tens of thousands of readers in Finland, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Latvia, France, Spain, Italy and other countries.

Readers generally had a strong connection with Estonia: they were native Estonians abroad, new immigrants/emigrants or foreigners living-working-studying here. There were also estophiles who liked other aspects of Estonian culture, without having a personal connection. The research confirmed that the target group is in line with the vision of the online magazine.

Estonian World’s readership in 2022: the online magazine is read in every country and territory, except North Korea.

Users’ evaluation of Estonian World is surprisingly positive. A large majority of respondents considered the content of the online magazine to be objective, with only seven per cent considering it biased. They are satisfied with the quality of the content of Estonian World as well as with the use of good English. Original content creation is valued.

Other positive keywords were credibility, readability, free content, and a variety of topics. The articles in the Culture and Life sections are mostly read; stories about history, information technology and politics are expected – but the users also said that sports and entertainment-related topics have received little attention.

There is also no youth content in the online magazine. Some readers therefore rated the online magazine as dry and boring, too polished and conservative. Some also considered the web design unattractive, albeit decent and solid.

Very loyal readers

The online magazine was also mentioned of having too few authors and of reusing some of the stories. The proposal was to increase the editorial staff. However, in the last ten years, over 400 authors have contributed to Estonian World, and over 3,700 articles have been published, which is by no means a small number.

Estonian World users are also very loyal. Only 10 per cent of respondents had used an online magazine for less than a year, and 29 per cent for more than five years.

It can be said that Estonian World is a unique online magazine in its current form and time, with a strong audience and a recognised position in the media landscape. It is maintained on the one hand by the enthusiasm and mission of its creators, and on the other by certain rules and standards.

The problem is the limitation of resources, which does not make editing of the online magazine easy, but the motivation is the loyalty and goodwill of its readers, as well as the constant growth of users.

The purpose and tasks of this work were fulfilled. The aforementioned statement of Estonian World was confirmed.

The present research could be of interest to those who engage in or are interested in online journalism, have contact with online-born media or want to establish one. It could also inspire other research on similar topics.

Read also: Craig Nash: Why I support Estonian World

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