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The News User on Social Media: A comparative study of interacting with media organizations on Facebook and Instagram


Abstract and Figures

Online trends and platforms come and go, and media professionals have historically shown a keen interest in adopting novel modes of content distribution in order to capture the interest of the elusive online audience. The paper at hand provides insights into the employment of online interactivity by news media users in relation to the social media presences of a selection of Norwegian media outlets. Adopting a comparative approach, the study features analysis of data from online mainstay Facebook and from the comparably novel Instagram platform. Among other things, results suggest that the previously noted tendency for audience members to prefer 'lighter' or less demanding modes of interaction with online news content is further strengthened – especially on the latter of the two studied platforms. Given that Instagram tends to attract comparably younger users, implications for the news media industries as well as for future trends regarding audience interaction in relation to news are discussed.
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Pre-print version of paper accepted for publication in Journalism Studies
The news user on social media
A comparative study of interacting with media organizations on Facebook and
Anders Olof Larsson
Faculty of Management
Westerdals Oslo School of Arts, Communication and Technology
Online trends and platforms come and go, and media professionals have historically shown a
keen interest in adopting novel modes of content distribution in order to capture the interest of
the elusive online audience. The paper at hand provides insights into the employment of
online interactivity by news media users in relation to the social media presences of a
selection of Norwegian media outlets. Adopting a comparative approach, the study features
analysis of data from online mainstay Facebook and from the comparably novel Instagram
platform. Among other things, results suggest that the previously noted tendency for audience
members to prefer ‘lighter’ or less demanding modes of interaction with online news content
is further strengthened – especially on the latter of the two studied platforms. Given that
Instagram tends to attract comparably younger users, implications for the news media
industries as well as for future trends regarding audience interaction in relation to news are
While some online services become highly popular and succeed in maintaining their
popularity for extended periods of time, other services enjoy comparably shorter periods in
the limelight after which they fade from popularity. As shown in the research field of political
communication, while a service like MySpace was utilized by candidates during the 2008 US
presidential election (e.g. Bronstein 2013), it was described as “declining” (Nielsen and
Vaccari 2013, 2339) in the same political context a mere two years later. Similarly relating to
scholarly efforts dealing with political actors online, Hoffman (2012) suggests that “even
though […] technology is so quickly changing, scholars must be able to adapt to and
investigate the ways in which citizens are using it for political purposes(2012, 233). The
basic premise of the current study, then, is that very similar claims should be made with
regards to the study of the media industry. Indeed, as pointed out by Nielsen and Schrøder
(2014), the increased use of services and platforms collectively known as social media “is in
the process of changing how news is produced, disseminated, and discussed(2014, 472).
Given that previous research into online adaptation within the media industry has focused
primarily on either producers (e.g. Chung 2004; Domingo 2008; Hedman and Djerf-Pierre
2013; Larsson and Christensen 2016; Larsson and Ihlebæk 2016) or on users (e.g. Bergström
2008; Costera Meijer and Groot Kormelink 2015; Giglietto and Selva 2014; Larsson 2011;
Picone 2016), scholarly approaches that integrate both types of actors appear to be somewhat
rare (e.g. Almgren and Olsson 2015; Bergström and Wadbring 2015; Karlsson et al. 2015).
Drawing on this, the study at hand provides a structural analysis of activities undertaken by
both types of actors, focusing on how the contents posted on social media by a series of media
Pre-print version of paper accepted for publication in Journalism Studies
producers is interacted with by their respective audiences (as suggested by Karlsson and
Clerwall 2013; Picone, Courtois, and Paulussen 2015).
With specific regard to the media industry, Chyi and Chada (2012) point out that
“it is indeed difficult to find a technology that newspapers do not embrace(2012, 431).
Perhaps due to increasingly challenging economic realities, the media industry could be seen
as scurrying from service to service in order to find some financially viable solution that
could perhaps replace traditional paper- or broadcast-type emissions. With this in mind, the
research design employed in the paper at hand features a comparative approach, detailing
media organization and audience activity on two currently popular social media services –
Facebook and Instagram. While the former of the two has been described as the most popular
service of its kind from a global point of view (Ju, Jeong, and Chyi 2013, 2), the latter,
picture-focused Instagram service is primarily gaining traction among comparably younger
users (e.g. Manovich 2016; Shannon Greenwood, Perrin, and Duggan 2016). As such, while
both services should arguably be of relevance for media outlets who are supposedly
scrambling to attract younger consumers, Instagram would appear to be especially interesting
in this regard. Beyond tracing the degree to which Facebook and Instagram are utilized by a
selection of media actors, a series of conceptualizations regarding the ways in which audience
members have chosen to interact with online content will guide the presented analyses.
The study is set in Norway, providing an interesting empirical context for
several reasons. For instance, the Norwegian context is characterized by internationally high
degrees of newspaper readership (e.g. Ihlebaek and Krumsvik 2015) as well as by high levels
of use for the social media services dealt with here (e.g. Ipsos/MMI 2016; Kalsnes 2016).
Following Nielsen and Schrøder (2014), then, it could be especially interesting to study issues
like the ones dealt with here in a country like Norway, where indeed “more than half the
population use Facebook” (2014, 2). Given these factors, the Norwegian case could be
considered as an especially interesting one to study in relation to our current interests.
With the above in mind, our efforts are guided by the following two research
questions, geared towards assessing the activities undertaken by a selection of Norwegian
media organizations and their audiences:
RQ1: To what extent are the studied media organizations making use of their
Facebook and Instagram accounts?
RQ2: To what extent are media consumers interacting with the content provided
by the studied media organizations?
The remainder of the paper is structured as follows. Following this introduction,
a section on the possibilities and difficulties involved when applying a comparative
perspective to studying the specified social media platforms is offered. A section detailing the
concepts relating to interaction utilized in the paper is next, followed by a description of the
methods employed for data collection and analysis. After the subsequent results section, the
findings are discussed and the limitations of the work performed are acknowledged.
Comparing Facebook and Instagram
While social media services like the ones under scrutiny are often understood as separate
entities, van Dijck (2013) suggests that they are not independent of one another but that they
“ecosystem of connected media” (van Dijck 2013, 21) , suggesting considerable overlap
between these and other, similar platforms (see also Vis 2013). With media producers in
mind, then, previous research from the US and the UK (Bastos 2015) as well from our current
case country (Skogerbø and Krumsvik 2015) have pointed out that overlapping tendencies are
Pre-print version of paper accepted for publication in Journalism Studies
indeed present also from an organizational point of view. Indeed, while previous work
looking into the use of social media by media industry professionals has largely focused on
Twitter (as pointed out by Engesser and Humprecht 2015; Hermida 2013; Lawrence et al.
2013), a comparably smaller amount of work has featured insights into the uses of Facebook
(Skogerbø and Krumsvik 2015). Even fewer insights are available into the uses of Instagram
in this regard (e.g. Brandtzaeg et al. 2015; Larsson and Ihlebæk 2016), save for a few studies
dealing with the visual aspects of photo journalism on Instagram (e.g. Alper 2014; Borges-
Rey 2015). As such, our current efforts will provide a structural overview of media producer
– and consumer - engagement on the two platforms.
For analytical purposes, Facebook and Instagram must be seen as two separate
platforms, employed in potentially different contexts and for potentially different reasons.
Moreover, the two services are – at the time of this writing, at least - different with regards to
appearance, terminology and technological infrastructure. Nevertheless, Facebook and
Instagram alike offer their users a series of options for interacting with posted content that
appear as similar. Drawing on previous work (e.g. Larsson 2015a, 2015b; Sormanen et al.
2015), we can identify two main options for audience engagement that were equally
integrated into both services at the time of data collection for the study at hand. First, both
Facebook and Instagram allow for users to provide what could be regarded as some sort of
acknowledging reaction – a like – to a specific provided post. Partaking in ‘liking’ posts has
been considered as “slacktivism” (e.g. Morozov 2011) or indeed “clicktivism” (Karpf 2010),
and has as such largely been viewed as a less demanding mode of interaction. Similarities can
arguably be found between the affordances of the proverbial ‘like’ button and the
functionalities that were typically available on the web pages of media organizations. For
instance, studies on media audiences online have typically found the utilization of comparably
less demanding features, such as reader polls, to reach higher levels of use than functionalities
that could be considered as more demanding - such as providing comments or engaging in
citizen journalism (e.g. Bergström 2008; Larsson 2011). While Facebook redesigned and
diversified the ‘like’ functionality into a series of Reactions during the studied time period,
the end-user aspect remains the same – an easy-to-use, one-click mode of interaction (Krug
2016; Stinson 2016). Similarly, from a technical standpoint, reactions appear to be treated by
the Facebook API in bulk with likes – an amalgamation of sorts that makes our current cross-
platform comparative efforts suitable.
Supposedly more demanding, then, is the possibility for users of both studied
services to provide comments to content posted on a Facebook Page or an Instagram account
operated by a media organization. Indeed, previous studies have shown that at least for
audience interaction on Facebook, comments tend to be few and far between in comparison to
‘likes’ as described above (Larsson 2016a, 2016b). Certainly, such a scarcity of audience
interactvity through commenting could have to do with the sometimes rather low levels of
online engagement found among journalists (e.g. Hille and Bakker 2013). Taken together,
these results could be seen as contributing to a situation where media professionals and media
consumers alike appear as rather skeptical towards the functionality under discussion (see also
Bergström and Wadbring 2015).
In relation to liking and commenting, while the functionality to redistribute
posts made by other users is available on both studied platforms, this possibility for sharing
must be considered as more integrated into Facebook. While sharing has been a basic
functionality of this service for some time, the ability to repost or indeed ‘re-gram’ content
posted to Instagram was only available through a series of plug-ins or separate apps that
needed to be installed in combination with the original one at the time for the study at hand
(Schwarze 2017; Walters 2016). Given this imbalance with regards to the sharing
functionality on the two studied platforms, our empirical focus will be placed on a
Pre-print version of paper accepted for publication in Journalism Studies
comparative assessment of the uses of likes and comments across the profiles upheld by a
series of Norwegian media actors on Facebook and Instagram.
Regardless of platform, the studied functionalities can be understood as
providing opportunities for users of the services under scrutiny to interact in some way with
the content offered, or indeed with other users. The subsequent section of the paper at hand,
then, provides an overview of how the how the online news user and online interactivity have
been conceptualized.
The interactive news user
So far, the term ‘media consumer’ or ‘media audience’ has been employed to denote those
involved as readers, viewers or listeners in relation to content made available. While such a
conceptualization might seem straightforward enough, it also signals a certain degree of
docility in that it describes the audience member primarily as a passive consumer. Granted,
such consumption has been shown to take a series of different forms. For instance, research
has shown how presumed consumers are indeed active in terms of interpreting or rejecting
what are sometimes referred to as the “preferred readings” (Hall 1980, 134) of mediated
Such a more active role for the media consumer leads to the necessity of seeking
out new ways way of conceptualizing the group under discussion. With the influx of the
Internet, the view of media consumers as active in relation not only with regards to the
interpretation of content, but also in relation to the creation of media products gained traction
(e.g. Bowman and Willis 2003; Bruns 2005; Gillmor 2004). Other scholars would point to the
rather low interest of audiences to collaborate with journalists to any larger or more
demanding extents (e.g. Bergström 2008; Larsson 2012b), or to similar difficulties with
audience participation as expressed by media producers (e.g. Domingo 2008). Indeed, the
literature seems to suggest that such collaborations between producers and consumers seemed
like a good idea in theory but proved to be difficult in practice. A series of issues have been
pointed to as explanatory factors – among others, financial reasons (e.g. Karlsson et al. 2015),
the perceived low quality of audience contributions as expressed by media professionals (e.g.
Braun and Gillespie 2011) or a general sense of losing control over one’s journalistic integrity
(e.g. Curran et al. 2013; Heise et al. 2013)
While problematic, the potential for increased audience engagement has
nevertheless led scholars to elaborate on suitable conceptualizations for those who in some
way, shape or form take part of online media content. For our current purposes, the term news
user could be deemed as a suitable term with which to gauge the concepts under investigation.
Relating to what Singer and co-authors (Singer 2011; Singer et al. 2011) have described as
active recipients of news, Picone (2016) suggests that the term at hand provides a suitable
description of activities typically undertaken when visiting the web presences upheld by
media actors – commenting on articles, clicking and selecting various options et. c. Moreover,
the term also suggests a delimitation of the types of activities that such news users are allowed
to partake in. For instance, Hille and Bakker (2013) have demonstrated that the types of
functionalities typically made available for news users tend to primarily focus on the latter
stages of news production – such as the types of functionalities for Facebook and Instagram
dealt with in the current study.
Regardless of the collaborative interests of these news users, they are dependent
on the opportunities provided to them to interact with news items. As alluded to previously,
the initial attempts of news media online involved a certain degree of openness and
experimentation with their web page presences. These early efforts sometimes allowed for
visitors to engage in the earlier stages of news production – providing news items of their
Pre-print version of paper accepted for publication in Journalism Studies
own, for instance (as shown by e.g. Chung 2004; Larsson 2012a). Understanding these
functionalities as examples of online interactivity, Himelboim and McCreery (2012) suggest
that the literature on the use of interactive features on news websites goes almost as far back
as the scholarship on interactivity itself (2012, 428-429). Indeed, a number of models and
conceptualizations regarding online interactivity appear to co-exist and have done so for some
time (e.g. Bordewijk and Kaam 1986; Downes and McMillan 2000; Heeter 1989; Kiousis
2002; McMillan 2002a, 2002b; McMillan 2005; Rafaeli 1988; Rafaeli and Sudweeks 1997;
Rogers 1986). While these conceptualizations all provide varying foci with regards to
interactivity, it is often suitable to differentiate between two main, overarching varieties of
interactive functionalities – medium interactivity and human interactivity (as suggested by e.g.
Bucy 2004; Chung 2007; Lee 2000; Stromer-Galley 2000, 2004). Medium interactivity,
sometimes also referred to as user-to-system, user-to-document or content interactivity,
denotes interaction between a user and some technological interface. In studies of the web
pages operated by online newspapers, such features would typically involve the ability to
click and select news items in a variety of ways. As for our current empirical setting, the
process of interacting by means of ‘likes’ could be seen as an example of medium
interactivity. For the human variety, then, these types of functionalities are sometimes also
labeled as user-to-user or interpersonal interactivity. Again relating to newspaper web pages,
these types of features typically involve opportunities for users to engage with each other by
means of online chatting or through partaking in discussion forums. Relating to our current
empirical context, the comment functionality available on both Facebook and Instagram could
be understood as an example of the human variety of interactive features – a variety that is, as
mentioned previously, often seen as more demanding that its medium counterpart.
These conceptualizations of interactivity were derived from what could be
considered as a previous iteration of the Internet – a ‘web 1.0’, if you will. Employing them
for analyzing activities on social media platforms is arguably not without its challenges. The
selected approach nevertheless appears as suitable given the need for longitudinal insights
regarding how these modes of interaction are employed over time, and on different services
(e.g. Larsson 2015a). As such, the paper at hand heeds the call by Ksiazek and co-authors
(2016) who suggest that “it would be interesting to compare user–content [understood here as
medium interactivity] and user–user [understood here as human interactivity] interactivity as
they play out on news sites and on other sites(Ksiazek, Peer, and Lessard 2016, 12). Given
the previously discussed tendencies for news users to be rather conservative in their
employment of interactive functionalities, we should expect similar patterns to emerge from
the empirical material dealt with in the paper at hand. Specifically, levels of medium
interactivity (understood here as likes) are likely to be higher than levels of human
interactivity (operationalized here as comments). While these expectations seem very likely
given the findings from previous research projects, our current comparative design adds to the
research field by allowing for insights into any differences regarding organizational and
audience employment on the two platforms under scrutiny. As previously mentioned,
Facebook is used by a majority of Norwegians, while Instagram is currently seen as the social
media of choice for comparably younger cohorts. As such, the study design employed here
will allow for diversified insights into preferences regarding news interaction across different
platforms with different demographics.
Four Norwegian media outlets were selected for the study: the broadsheet newspaper
Aftenposten; its tabloid print competitor VG; public service broadcaster NRK and commercial
broadcaster TV2. These are among the most popular media outlets in Norway (e.g. Vaage
Pre-print version of paper accepted for publication in Journalism Studies
2016) and were thus deemed as suitable for our current purposes. Table One provides some
basic information regarding the social media presences of the selected media outlets.
The descriptive statistics presented in Table One provides insights into the diversions that
these market leading media actors apparently undergo when making the transition to social
media. For instance, while the public service broadcaster in our sample – NRK – appears as
more popular than their commercial competitor (TV2) in terms of the percentage of
Norwegians taking part of their contnet on an average day, the state-operated media actor
emerges as less successful when it comes to gaining traction on the online platforms under
scrutiny. On these, TV2 emerges as enjoying more popularity – especially, it would seem, on
Instagram. Essentially, then, what we are studying here are two tabloid actors (VG and TV2)
and two broadsheet actors (NRK and Aftenposten). As previous research has suggested that
actors within the former of these two “media traditions” (Karlsson and Clerwall 2013, 69)
might employ novel services such as those under study here to higher extents, the
comparative aspect detailing both different actors and different platforms as used by those
actors and their respective audiences should come in handy.
Focusing on the official Facebook and Instagram presences of the specified
media actors, data for the former were collected using the Netvizz application (Rieder 2013),
while data for the latter were gathered by means of the instaR package for the R programming
language (Barbera 2016). Every post made by the specified media organizations between
January 1st and May 31st 2016 were gathered. While other, similar studies analyzed data from
comparably shorter periods – a week (Hedman 2016) or a month (Engesser and Humprecht
2015) – the study at hand thus features a lengthier empirical set-up, as recommended by a
series of previous authors (e.g. Ksiazek, Peer, and Lessard 2016; Sjøvaag, Stavelin, and Moe
Beyond assessing the extent of posting undertaken by the studied media
organizations (as expressed in RQ1), the data also allows for insights into the number of likes
and comments that each post had received at the time of collection (as expressed in RQ2).
The date at which data collection was aborted was not arbitrarily chosen – rather, as
Instagram instated a set of limitations on the ways in which data could be accessed on June
1st, 2016 (Instagram 2016), the collection process had to be adjusted according to these
changes (see also Rieder et al. 2015 or Vis 2013 for more in-depth discussions on working
within API limits). As such, the study at hand provides insights into uses of social media
based on data that have recently become rather difficult to obtain.
Summing up the principles applied for data collection, the study at hand follows
the call from previous research and places its focus on both media actors and news users (as
suggested by Almgren and Olsson 2015; Bergström and Wadbring 2015). Featuring actual
use data (as recommended by Karlsson and Clerwall 2013; Ksiazek, Peer, and Lessard 2016;
Livingstone 2013; Picone, Courtois, and Paulussen 2015), the study provides comparative
insights regarding the online prioritizations of the media companies listed above – as well as
findings concerning how news users have chosen to interact with the contents provided as
defined previously.
Data analysis was performed by means of a series of quantitative approaches
(utilizing SPSS). In an attempt to provide some nuance and detail to the findings, the
quantitative results are complemented by a few closer looks at the posts made by the studied
media organizations that succeeded in gaining particularly high amounts of traction.
Pre-print version of paper accepted for publication in Journalism Studies
Relating to RQ1 and our interest in the use of Facebook and Instagram by media professionals
and media users, Figure One provides an overview of the degree to which these two services
were employed during the studied time period.
Employing the interpretation guidelines provided for Figure One, the comparably larger white
bars suggest that for three out of four studied media organizations, Facebook emerges as the
preferred platform when compared to Instagram. Given the aforementioned high levels of
popularity for the specified service among Norwegian Internet users, such a prioritization is
perhaps not that surprising. Indeed, such arrangements of activities would seem even more
suitable when one considers the ease with which posts on Facebook can be shared by news
users. As discussed previously, while such sharing is indeed possible on Instagram as well, it
was not integrated into the basic user interface for this latter service at the time of the study at
hand. With this in mind, a focus on Facebook by media actors is likely to result in higher
amounts of redistributed posts – possibly increasing the potential for the content provided by
the media organization to ‘go viral’ (e.g. Nahon and Hemsley 2013).
What could be considered as somewhat surprising, however, are the bars
representing the activity undertaken by the commercial broadcaster TV2, visible to the right
in Figure One. In comparison to their competitors, TV2 emerges as having taken a rather
equal approach to the two platforms under study. This differing prioritization on behalf of
TV2 could be seen as a strategic attempt to cater to comparably younger viewers – indeed, a
group that makes up a large part of their key demographic (e.g. Vaage 2016) and that are, as
discussed previously, often pointed to as ardent users of Instagram. Moreover, given the
comparably recent diminishing broadcast ratings reported for the commercial broadcaster
(Hauger 2015), the focus on Instagram uncovered here could be seen as an attempt by TV2 to
increase their popularity.
TV2 aside, the remaining three media organizations – the broadsheet newspaper
Aftenposten, its tabloid competitor VG and the PSB actor NRK - are shown in Figure One as
adopting rather similar modes of social media engagement across Facebook and Instagram.
Such similarities, then, have been uncovered in the Norwegian case as well as for other cases
when it comes to a variety of modes of online engagement by media organizations. Results
emanating from Sweden has shown similar tendencies when it comes to the use of multimedia
features across broadsheet and tabloid news sites (Karlsson and Clerwall 2012), the use of
hyperlinks on such sites (Karlsson, Clerwall, and Örnebring 2015) as well as regarding
frequency of Facebook use by media organizations (Larsson 2016b) - albeit not with regards
to the types of news stories shared on Facebook by such organizations (Larsson 2016a).
Nevertheless, the strategy sometimes labeled as “hedging” (Boczkowski 2005), where media
actors closely follow the behavior of competitors, appears to be present also in the Norwegian
context – with the commercial broadcaster TV2 exhibiting a different approach as shown
above. As such, while the dominance of Facebook over Instagram is less stated for this latter
actor than for its competitors, our first research question can clearly be answered in favor of
While Figure One provided overarching details of media organization
employment of Facebook and Instagram respectively, it does not provide us with much detail
in relation to our second research question - detailing the degree to which news users interact
by means of medium (liking) and human (commenting) interactivity. Figure Two, then,
provides more insights regarding these matters.
Pre-print version of paper accepted for publication in Journalism Studies
Given the highly skewed distributions shown, Figure Two presents medians rather than
averages (as suggested by e.g. Larsson 2017; Nielsen and Vaccari 2013; Raynauld and
Greenberg 2014).
We turn first to the reported uses of likes, represented in Figure Two by white
bars for both services. For both services, this variety of medium-type interactivity emerge as
clearly more popular than the commenting or indeed human variety. A series of independent
samples Kruskal–Wallis tests revealed that the differences between the median amount of
likes and comments emerged as significant within the data emanating from Facebook and
Instagram respectively (p < 0.05) – except for the case of comments and likes as measured
from the Facebook Page operated by the broadsheet newspaper Aftenposten (p > 0.05). As
such, the supposedly less-demanding liking functionality is clearly the most popular one
across both studied platforms – with its dominance emerging as even more stated for the
Instagram service as seen in the right part of Figure Two.
Focusing next on internal differences for likes on Facebook and Instagram
respectively, the patterns of likes for the former of these platforms show that while the more
tabloid of the four studied news organizations – VG and TV2 – enjoy significantly higher
median amounts of likes per post than their competitors (Independent samples Kruskal–
Wallis tests resulted as p > 0.05 for VG and TV2 compared to both Aftenposten and NRK),
no significant difference could be discerned between the included tabloid newspaper and
commercial broadcaster. At least for Facebook, then, these more tabloid media formats appear
to be more prone to audience ‘liking’ rather than commenting on the content provided (see
also Larsson 2017). For the two tabloid media outlets, VG and TV2, the content that appears
to raise the level of ‘likes’ in this regard is largely related to two separate categories. For VG,
the data suggest that they gain comparably higher numbers of Facebook likes when posting
ready-made video content, more often than not from international media houses – content that
can simply be funneled on to the Facebook Page without much editing needed. For instance,
we can point to a series of posts that emerged as comparably popular in this regard: a clip of a
fisherman videotaping his chance meeting with a whale while disembarking from a small-boat
marina1, news about Norwegian2 as well as Swedish3 royalty, stories about celebrities4,
sports5 or human interest-type news items6. For TV2, they appear to reach higher numbers of
likes when they provide content related to their own choice of programming – largely
consisting of a variety of reality television series franchises7, but also relating to what is
seemingly a format of their own – Petter Uteligger (Norwegian for ‘Homeless Peter’), about a
reporter who goes undercover to live as a homeless person on the streets of the Norwegian
capital. In sum, while TV2 emerges as successful in terms of gaining Facebook likes when
featuring self-produced content, the same does not appear to be true for VG, where newswire
type content of the more tabloid variety emerge as particularly ‘likeable’.
For comments, then, while this mode of interaction is literally dwarfed by the
‘like’ variety, the median amount of comments per post on Facebook emerge as significantly
Pre-print version of paper accepted for publication in Journalism Studies
higher than the comparable statistic for Instagram across all studied media organizations
(independent samples Kruskal–Wallis test: p < 0.05) save for TV2 (p > 0.05), indicating that
while commenting is indeed not as common as likes, Facebook appears to be the platform of
choice for the former of these activities.
We turn next to gauging internal differences on Facebook and Instagram
respectively. A few tendencies stand out in this regard. For instance, while VG emerges as
successful in terms of gaining higher median amounts of comments on Facebook than the
three other media organizations (independent samples Kruskal–Wallis test: p < 0.05 when
comparing VG with Aftenposten, NRK and TV2 respectively), no such significant difference
was found on Instagram. Indeed, while TV2 emerged as more popular in this regard on
Instagram - boasting a median amount of seven comments per post made - this difference did
not prove significant using the independent samples Kruskal-Wallis test (p > 0.05).
Nevertheless, we can gauge the data emanating from these media organizations to get a closer
look at what kind of content appear to yield comparably higher amounts of comments. On
Facebook, then, the most popular actor in this regard – the tabloid newspaper VG – succeed in
gaining higher amounts of comments when providing content similar to that which was
discussed previously – dealing with what could be described as tabloid or indeed ‘softer’
news items (Reinemann et al. 2012). Focusing on Instagram – more specifically, on the
commenting activity undertaken by visitors to the comparably popular TV2 account – the
majority of such content involves the broadcaster encouraging their Instagram visitors to
comment – for instance, urging them to tag other users who they think would be suitable
participants in an upcoming reality TV-show8. Much as for the most ‘liked’ posts, then, TV2
appear as most successful in this regard when featuring their own content over other types of
content. As for the results in relation to RQ1, the results presented with regard to the use of
interactive features appear to differ across the studied platforms. Indeed, the medium-type
interactive feature found on both platforms – likes – dominate over the human variety –
comments - on both Facebook and Instagram. At the same time, Figure Two clearly showed
that this dominance was arguably more stated on the latter of the two studied services. These
findings are discussed in the subsequent final section of the paper.
History tells us that each new technological innovation within the field of communication will
come paired with ideas, predictions and sometimes even visions regarding the proposed uses
and indeed effects that the novelty du jour will have in relation to some societal issue or
malady (e.g. Winston 1998). Such tendencies are perhaps especially visible when studying the
history of technology in conjunction with journalism. Remembering Pavlik’s claim that
“journalism has always been shaped by technology(2000, 229), we can point to a series of
historically more distant as well as recent suggestions as to how developments in the
technological realm would come to influence both production and consumption of media (e.g.
Cardoso 2007; Castells 1996). Curran (2010), for instance, discussed how the developments
leading up to cable television and supposedly interactive digital television were seen as
bringing extensive changes to the ways in which media content was produced and consumed -
or indeed, used. As discussed elsewhere, such often overtly techno-utopian views on the
influence of innovations on rather established practices – like that of news consumption and
interaction (Larsson 2012b) – have often been met with empirical efforts suggesting that these
types of developments tend to develop in an incremental fashion at best (e.g. Karlsson et al.
2015; Picone, Courtois, and Paulussen 2015).
Pre-print version of paper accepted for publication in Journalism Studies
With specific regard to social media, the results presented in the study at hand
could be seen as in line with such previous scholarly efforts. Indeed, the perceived difficulty
for media professionals to handle more attention-intensive human interactive features –
operationalized as comments in the current study - has been pointed to in a series of preceding
studies that have focused on these issues as they played out on newspaper web pages. Such
skepticism on behalf of both producers and consumers has already been mentioned, and the
findings presented here thus indicates that the introduction of Instagram into the fold of social
media platforms utilized by media producers does not challenge the apparent preferences of
the average online news user. Thus, the results presented here could be regarded as
reinforcing the previously uncovered lack of interest in human type interactive features,
strengthening what more and more appears as the preferred medium type of interaction –
exemplified in the study at hand as the act of ‘liking’ posted content. While this claim needs
to be somewhat modified for the data emanating from Facebook, the overall trend is
nevertheless clear and present on both services.
Nevertheless, the results presented here need to understood in relation to
practical and technical issues that are undoubtedly at play here. For instance, while Facebook
– at least in its current form – is largely built around a ‘feed’ of news, events and updates that
one encounters when logging on to the specified service, Instagram does not feature a similar
stream of suggestions regarding what to interact with. Future research could perhaps shed
more light on end-user perspectives to interaction on these services, utilizing interview
methods or perhaps ethnographic or “walk-along” varieties for data collection (see, for
instance, Hujanen and Pietikainen 2004, who studied similar issues in relation to newspaper
web pages.)
The results presented in relation to our second research question seem to suggest
a series of benefits for news providers seeking to curate their online presences. As Twitter is a
relatively small platform – at least in the Scandinavian context – and as the number and
content of comments on Facebook as well as elsewhere can be overwhelming to deal with for
editorial staff, the apparent limited interest of Instagram users to engage in human
interactivity could be seen as beneficial in terms of decreasing the workload of those
employed within media organizations. Add to this equation that Instagram use is particularly
frequent among comparably younger cohorts, and the benefits seem obvious – the platform is
primarily used by a group whose attention is particularly coveted by the media industry, and
this group of users do not seem to be explicitly interested in modes of interaction that demand
more attention from those professionals who are involved in updating, curating or otherwise
working with the online presences of media organizations. As pointed out by Hujanen and
Pietkainen (2004) in their study of young Finnish news consumers, news items were very
much seen by their informants as finished products, provided for them by professional
journalists and in little need of comments, amendments or other types of more advanced or
demanding interaction. This tendency, then, seems to be very much present on Instagram,
while somewhat less tangible on Facebook.
Another interesting difference between the two platforms under scrutiny –
although not one that was explicitly studied here – has to do with the sharing of content. As of
this writing, Instagram was not as clearly geared towards redistribution of content as was the
case with Facebook – as discussed, posts can be shared on Instagram, but such a utilization of
the service demands that one or more third-party applications are installed. Such a limitation
of the ways in which content can be shared can be observed also in other comparably novel
social media platforms - like Snapchat, for instance. Comparably newer social media services,
then, would seem to be less oriented towards sharing and more towards personal, private
interaction. As such, while the utilization of such novel services for journalistic purposes
could be seen by media professionals as positive as these services apparently do not
Pre-print version of paper accepted for publication in Journalism Studies
encourage more demanding forms of audience interaction, the fact that platforms like
Instagram and Snapchat do not easily allow for the sharing of content in the same way as
Facebook or Twitter does is perhaps a downside or a challenge. Without the possibility to
share, viral effects are unlikely to occur - arguably a challenge for professionals within the
news media industry, who must seek to spread their content beyond the original receiver.
Finally, while the quantitative approach presented here has provided useful
insights into the uses of social media in the online news context, it is limited in that it cannot
fully take into account the specific topics dealt with in the posts provided by the studied news
organizations. Future research might find it useful to approach the study of interactivity in the
online news context with some form of qualitative design in mind. Nevertheless, as the
analysis of what content emerged as more ‘liked’ or indeed more commented upon found that
such stories were more or less aligned towards tabloid or ‘soft’ news content, one can wonder
what kinds of repercussions such patterns might have with regard to the priorities of news
media organizations. Given that younger cohorts tend to get their news from various online
platforms – such as social media (Vaage 2016) – we might be wary of the content
prioritizations of news providers in relation to Instagram in particular. Most likely, results
similar to those presented here have been reached in a series of news media audience analysis
departments operated by the studied media organizations. Giving these younger cohorts more
of what they like in terms of news content might be a valid strategy for keeping them coming
back to an Instagram account – but such a mode of practice could and should be seen as
problematic when one considers the role of the media in contemporary democracies.
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print or
audience /
827 000
321 374
1 920 000
379 682
35 %
120 183
28 %
169 973
Table One. Followers for the studied media organizations across Facebook and Instagram.
1 = For newspapers, average online visitor data from 2015 are presented (Medienorge 2016).
For broadcasters, the average percentage of Norwegians who reported to had taken part of the
specified channel on an average day is presented (Vaage 2016).
2 = N of followers at the time of data collection (May 31st, 2016). While Facebook provides a
precise number of followers for each Page, Instagram appears to round off their follower
counts to the nearest hundreds.
Pre-print version of paper accepted for publication in Journalism Studies
Figure One. Degree of activity by media organizations on Facebook (white bars) and
Instagram (black bars).
N of posts, % of posts by each organization on both services shown.
Pre-print version of paper accepted for publication in Journalism Studies
Figure Two. Median N of likes (white bars) and comments (black bars) per post provided by
the studied media outlets on Facebook (left part of Figure Two) and Instagram (right part of
Figure Two).
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... Ligeledes viser nogle studier, at traditionelle nyhedsmedier i stigende grad selv er aktive på sociale medier med egne sider (Larsson, 2018). Modsat tidligere forskning, der ofte begraenser sig til at undersøge udviklingen på få platforme, inkluderer denne analyse både traditionelle nyhedsmedier (online og offline), sociale medier, herunder traditionelle mediers brug af disse, samt alternative nyhedsmedier. ...
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Artiklen analyserer og diskuterer forandringer i det politiske informationslandskab i Danmark. Det politiske informationslandskab kan forstås som udbud og efterspørgsel af politiske nyheder og politisk information inden for et givet samfund. Artiklen fokuserer på udbuddet og efterspørgslen af (politiske) nyheder (offline, online og på de sociale medier) i forhold til traditionelle og alternative nyhedsmedier. Analysen viser, at de traditionelle nyhedsmedier stadig står centralt i forhold til danskernes brug af nyheder, men at lavtuddannede og lavtlønnede uden for hovestaden tilgår nyheder mindre hyppigt end resten af befolkningen. I forhold til de sociale medier viser analysen, at Facebook stadig er danskernes foretrukne sociale medieplatform. Samtidig er det kun er 13 pct. af danskerne, der samlet set betragter kategorien ”sociale medier” som deres vigtigste nyhedskilde. Endelig viser analysen af forskellige typer alternative nyhedsmedier, at de traditionelle nyhedsmediers ”monopolposition” som leverandør af news og views til et bredt publikum er ved at blevet udfordret af en meget heterogen skare af nye onlinemedier, der inkluderer både hyperpartiske medier, slow news medier og debatorienterede medier. Artiklen afslutter med at diskutere, hvordan forandringerne i det politiske informationslandskab kan påvirkevirke den demokratiske samtale i Danmark.
... While research regarding EU engagement on social media has often remained focused on the content of social media interactions about EU issues, our study investigates different nuances, guided by the overall question of what characteristics of EU news coverage trigger different forms of online engagement. We distinguish reactions, sharing, and commenting: While the sharing of and commenting on information on social media might be seen as forms of engagement requiring most user commitment compared to reactions (e.g., "like"), the latter are distinctly more common (Larsson, 2018). All interactions increase a content's reach and fostering interaction might be seen as the main objective of elite actors on the platforms (e.g., Kelm, 2020). ...
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The EU is diagnosed with a participation deficit, rooted in a lack of public communication. While news media are the primary source of information about EU politics, social media have become an important channel for political information. Importantly, social media platforms offer unique opportunities for citizens to engage with information about the EU. Such engagement is under-researched despite users’ responses offering valuable information about the potential effects of EU news on public engagement. Therefore, we systematically analyze social media users’ engagement with news about the EU. Drawing on the concepts of news values and shareworthiness, we investigate the proximity , conflictuality , negativity , and emotionality of EU news content posted on mainstream media Facebook accounts to explain the variation in reactions, shares, and number of comments. Using semi-supervised machine learning, we analyze articles from the largest newspapers in Austria for the period 2015–2019, along with Facebook users’ reactions to them. Results resonate only partly with prior literature, with negativity of EU news leading to more reactions and shares but fewer comments; emotionality , to fewer reactions and shares but more comments; and conflict mainly decreasing user engagement. Concerning proximity , a national angle leads to distinctly more engagement, whereas news about other EU member states and the EU as such do mostly not. Our study contributes to the discussion on how citizens engage with information on the EU and how to promote informed debate on social media through elites’ communication.
Segmentation in political marketing seems to be a very useful tool and takes new instructions in the age where the social media is playing a crucial role for political parties. This research uses market segmentation theory in the field of politics through the study of behavior and motives of voters/social media users. Based on a structural equation model there are strong indications for two segments greatly influenced by politicians’ marketing on social media as far as behavioral results of active participation, word of mouth, and voting goals. The results revealed that information, entertainment and activism are positive motivation mechanisms for political engagement. Further, to follow actively and to vote politicians with the information motive appears to perform as a generic construct affecting overall. These results assist political marketing consultants to apply the suitable strategy campaign through social media and gives new directions for more depth research on this.
Along with the pandemic, there is now a lot of news emerging about Covid-19 circulating on Instagram social media. The news is not immediately able to make someone wonder about the occurrence of a pandemic crisis. This type of research is quantitative explanative. The population of this research is students of Muhammadiyah University of Surakarta who use social media Instagram with a sample of 97 respondents obtained from the slovin formula with purposive sampling technique. Data collection techniques in the study were carried out through a survey with a questionnaire instrument. The data analysis technique used is simple linear regression data analysis between the independent variable Instagram as the Covid-19 news media and the dependent variable is the level of student confidence. The results of this study explain that Instagram as a media for reporting on Covid-19 has a significant effect on the level of student trust. The influence of Instagram as media coverage of Covid-19 on the level of student confidence is 38.6% with a significance of 0.000. Keywords : Media, Covid-19 News, Instagram, Addiction Theory, Trust
News media are increasingly interwoven with social media platforms. Building on institutional theory, we trace the repercussions of the platform infrastructure inside a media organization by focusing on organizational discourses and practices in connection with the journalistic use of social media. The empirical material includes interviews, field notes, chat logs, and documents collected from a public service media organization during a 6-month on-site and virtual ethnography. The findings show how platform pressures intertwine with content production, audience representation, journalistic values, and organizational development, thus manifesting the infrastructuralization and institutionalization of platforms in the media industry. While the interviewees articulated tensions related to adopting social media, the fieldwork data revealed forms of mimetic and normative isomorphism, mediated by platform data and professional roles in the organization. Moreover, the platform infrastructure seems to cultivate both critical and aspirational talk in the organization, which implies a more complex relationship beyond coercive platform power.
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Introducción: Algunos expertos coinciden en el papel fundamental que tienen las redes sociales en el aumento de los delitos de odio en los últimos años, sobre todo entre la población más joven. Conscientes de dicha realidad, estas plataformas toman continuamente medidas para evitar que los discursos de odio se propaguen por la red. Sin embargo, también es necesaria la colaboración del resto de implicados en el proceso comunicativo. Uno de ellos son los medios de comunicación. La presente investigación se centró en analizar los comentarios realizados en las publicaciones de Instagram de los principales diarios españoles de tirada nacional (El País, El Mundo, ABC, La Vanguardia y 20Minutos) relacionadas con la conocida como “Semana del Orgullo”. Metodología: La metodología empleada fue el análisis de contenido cuantitativo y empírico de todos los comentarios que se hicieron en las publicaciones (N=20) de las cuentas de Instagram pertenecientes a dichos periódicos. Resultados: El corpus obtenido resultó ser de 6.013 comentarios: 41,8% clasificados como “otros”, 32,6% “a favor”, 16% “críticas”, 4,9% “burlas”, 3,1% “menosprecio”, 1,5% “insultos” y 0,1% “amenazas”. Discusión: Los resultados coinciden con otros trabajos en que los filtros establecidos por Instagram reducen los discursos de odio en esta red, a diferencia de otras como Twitter. Conclusiones: La mayoría de los mensajes respecto al colectivo LGTBIQ+ están a favor, y, aunque la mayor parte de los mensajes en contra pueden clasificarse como críticas, existe un pequeño porcentaje de mensajes que pueden ser considerados discursos de odio.
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Political communication on social media is the topic of this dissertation. The Internet and social media platforms have provided participants in the public sphere with new ways to connect, communicate and distribute information. This study examines how and why the three main actor groups within political communication – political actors, media actors and citizens – connect and interact on social media during the electoral process in Norway in 2013. This hybrid media landscape is characterized by political actors who can bypass media as gatekeepers and communicate directly with voters on their own Facebook pages. Simultaneously, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are important traffic drivers for mass media, as well as convenient ways for political journalists to reach readers and political sources. Nevertheless, as I argue in this dissertation, the new mechanisms for attention, visibility and popularity on social media platforms is not sufficiently articulated or understood in the existing research literature. This dissertation suggests that the emerging theories of social media logic can help us understand how political communication occur in networked publics. Central in my arguments is a critical understanding of social media logic and affordances offered by communication technologies. Affordances are here understood as the action possibilities that communication technologies allow for, such as liking, sharing or measuring the response of an item. Based on the empirical findings from the articles in Part II, as well as the theoretical discussion in this cover chapter, I have developed the conceptual framework for political communication on social media, which allows us to analyse how political communication occurs on social media platforms. The conceptual framework consists of five high-level affordances: Publishing, visibility, networking, connectivity, and segmentation. I argue that these affordances are the building blocks of the social media logic in political communication. Lastly, this dissertation outlines the implications of the social media logic for the three key actor groups in this study. I argue that one of the main consequences of the social media logic is media actors’ weakening role as gatekeepers of information, potential turning media actors into curators of information.
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News sharing and commenting is arguably one of the most interesting aspects of how news are consumed and interacted with online. Finding answers to questions regarding who engages in these ways, what type of content gets engaged with and why certain items are shared and commented upon but not others are of the utmost importance for those who want to navigate the complex echo system of online news flows. The paper at hand addresses the latter two of the three posed questions – what gets shared or commented, and why – in the context of the social networking site Facebook. Detailing the influences of Reactions, an expansion of the 'Like' button launched during the spring of 2016, the presented analyses find that Reactions such as Love, Haha, Wow, Sad and Angry emerge as somewhat unpopular in relation to the original Like functionality. Moreover, while more positive forms Reactions appear to have a hampering effect on the willingness of news consumers on Facebook to engage by means of sharing and commenting, more negative varieties of Facebook Reactions appear to yield adverse influences.
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This article analyses transparency among groups of journalists by examining journalists’ tweets. It also answers a call from previous researchers on transparency on Twitter for further studies based on more representative samples of journalists. The study draws on a quantitative content analysis of Swedish journalists’ tweets during 1 week in spring 2014. The total number of tweets analyzed (N) is 1,500. A total of 24% of the journalists’ tweets can be described as being explicitly transparent. However, the findings indicate that while journalists on Twitter indeed discuss how the news are produced (disclosure transparency), they show less personal transparency, and hardly ever invite the audiences to interact or take part in the process of making news (participatory transparency).
While a good deal of research has examined the uses of Twitter in journalism, comparably few research projects employ comparative research designs in order to provide new insights. The present study details Twitter use by public service broadcasters (PSBs) during recent national elections in Norway and Sweden. Utilizing quantitative analysis of social media content in tandem with qualitative interviews with key PSB journalists, the main results indicate that while the PSB organizations—the Norwegian NRK and the Swedish SVT—are both frequently contacted by “regular” citizens on Twitter, they seem to prefer to retweet and interact with journalists, politicians or other “elite” users. Compared with the interviews performed, the study uncovers an interesting tension as journalists often talk about the need to engage with “regular” users—a practice that is arguably in line with PSB regulations, but that is seldom adhered to in the contexts studied here.
Whilst social media like Twitter and Facebook carry with them the potential for the practice of journalism, novelties like these are also associated with adaptation difficulties – perhaps especially when it comes to the interactive capabilities that services like these afford. This study employs a multi-method approach to study the different uses of Twitter and Facebook by one media company – the Swedish public service broadcaster (PSB) Sveriges Television – during the 2014 election year. Utilizing both quantitative and qualitative data, we find that Twitter was used more extensively and in a comparably more interactive fashion than Facebook. Hence we suggest Twitter, used more for interaction, functions as a ‘chat room’; whilst Facebook, used more for broadcasting messages, can be viewed as functioning like a ‘showroom’. As Twitter is often associated with societal elites in the Swedish context, it raises a question about the suitability for a PSB to engage to such a degree on this particular platform.
The online popularity of a few exceptional candidates has led many to suggest that social media have given politicians powerful new ways of communicating directly with voters. Examining whether this is happening on a significant scale, we find that, based on analysis of 224 major party candidates running in competitive districts for the U.S. House of Representatives during the 2010 congressional elections, most politicians online are, in fact, largely ignored by the electorate. Citizens' attention to candidates online approximates power-law distributions, with a few drawing many followers and most languishing in obscurity. Because large-scale direct online communication between politicians and ordinary people via these platforms is a rare, outlier phenomenon-even in the case of high-stakes, well-resourced campaigns-we suggest that the most relevant political implications of social media take the form of (a) new forums for indirect communication about politics and (b) institutional changes in political communication processes.
Swedish newspapers have hosted Web pages since the mid-1990s, and are often pointed to as some of the most popular online locations in the Swedish-speaking online sphere. These organizations have also taken to social media, maintaining presences on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. The current study is focused on the latter of the two. It features a twofold aim, detailing the types of content provided by the four largest Swedish newspapers on their Facebook pages, and the types and levels of interaction this content is met with by their page visitors. For tabloid newspapers in particular, the types of news most provided (human interest-type stories) are not matched by the types of news most interacted with by the audience members. Possible reasons for and implications of this apparent imbalance are discussed.
While previous research has focused on the uses of a variety of online services—such as Web pages and, more recently, Twitter—by media organizations and their audiences, a rather limited amount of empirical inquiry has been directed towards the often more and broadly used Facebook platform. The current paper contributes to the research field by providing a longitudinal study of journalist and audience engagement on the Facebook pages of Sweden's four major newspapers—Aftonbladet, Dagens Nyheter, Expressen and Svenska Dagbladet. Employing state-of-the-art methods for data collection, the results indicate that while audiences appear to be increasing their engagement with news organizations on Facebook—albeit mostly through so-called “likes”—the media organizations themselves are decreasing their engagement with audiences.