Article

The Matthew Effect in social media news use: Assessing inequalities in news exposure and news engagement on social network sites (SNS)

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Abstract

Social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become a key part of online users’ news diets. On social network sites, even individuals who are not motivated to seek out news are believed to be exposed to news posts due to the sharing activities of friends or inadvertently witnessing discussions about current events. Research on this incidental news exposure (INE) has largely focused on its potential for positive effects on information gain or political participation, while simultaneously turning a blind eye to the inequalities in news exposure and engagement. This article aims to address this issue by proposing and explicating the existence of a ‘Matthew Effect’ in social media news use. It is argued that INE research needs to consider the unequal chances to both be exposed to news on social network sites and to actually engage (i.e. read and interact) with ‘accidentally’ encountered news content.

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... For example, a search about the National Basketball Association season may unexpectedly include stories about racial justice or players engaging in political activism. While the degree to which people are incidentally exposed to news via each of these routes depends on a number of individual and environmental considerations (Kümpel 2020;Thorson 2020;Weeks and Lane 2020), it is clear that the contemporary media environment makes at least some incidental exposure online likely. ...
... While the Internet and social media can create information-rich environments and have great potential to function as "animated stimuli" that can facilitate passive learning, the extent to which such a process occurs is unclear. No two individuals live in the same online information environment; passive learning effects likely depend on a number of contextual factors like the types of sites visited (e.g., portal sites) or composition of online social networks (Kümpel 2020;Thorson 2020;Weeks and Lane 2020). Survey research using general Internet or social media use as a proxy for incidental exposure has not found strong links between online media use and political knowledge (e.g., Boukes 2019; Dimitrova et al. 2014;Lee and Xenos 2019;Shehata and Strömbäck 2021). ...
... p < .001). It is also reasonable to suspect that politically knowledgeable and educated people exist in online environments where social connections are more likely to share news and political information, thus increasing opportunities for exposure (Kümpel 2020;Thorson 2020;Weeks and Lane 2020). Consistent with this expectation, incidental exposure was moderately correlated with political knowledge, education, and offline and online news use in both 2012 and 2016, providing evidence of convergent validity (see Tables A4 and A5 for correlations). ...
Article
Concerns persist over the potential for the fragmented media environment to promote motivation-based political knowledge gaps between those who are interested in politics and those who are not. Yet, there is also evidence that the Internet can provide opportunities for individuals to incidentally encounter and learn from news, which may decrease these knowledge gaps. The current study tests this possibility using two, two-wave panel surveys of adults in the United States conducted during the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections. Across two distinct electoral contexts, we find evidence that incidental exposure to online news and political information promotes learning about presidential candidates’ policy positions over the course of the campaign. In addition, the data suggest the least politically interested benefit the most from this incidental exposure, as they see the largest gains in political knowledge. These findings indicate that opportunities to learn via incidental exposure have the potential to reduce motivation-based knowledge gaps.
... Similarly, while some have the ability to differentiate between low-and high-quality information, others have less skills in media and information literacy. The result is likely to be increasing inequalities in media and information use, and in extension how much and what people learn from whatever media and information they make use of (Aalberg et al., 2013;Castro et al., 2021;Damstra et al., 2021;Dimitrova et al., 2014;Kümpel, 2020;Wei & Hindman, 2011). In line with this argument, research suggests increasing differences in news media use across time, that news avoidance has increased, and that factors such as political interest and educational level as well as political preferences have become more important predictors of news media use (Aalberg et al., 2013;Bergström et al., 2019;Blekesaune et al., 2012;Karlsen et al., 2020;Prior, 2007;Strömbäck et al., 2013;Stroud, 2011;Toff & Kalogeropoulos, 2020). ...
... When people get the news from social media, they are in contrast mainly exposed to headlines, filtered by their respective social networks and algorithms. In most of these cases, people do not click on the links leading to the full news stories (Kümpel, 2020), meaning that the headlines might be all they see. This may nevertheless contribute to an illusion of knowing (Leonhard et al., 2020). ...
... Beginning with political interest, among those not interested in politics, news avoidance has become more common (Prior, 2007;Strömbäck et al., 2013; but see Karlsen et al., 2020). Research shows that these groups rely more on social media for news, and that they are less likely to pay attention to political news on social media (Bode et al., 2017;Kümpel, 2020). As a consequence, people tend to learn less from using social media for getting the news (de Zuniga et al., 2017;Shehata & Strömbäck, 2021). ...
... When people get the news from social media, they are in contrast mainly exposed to headlines, ltered by their respective social networks and algorithms. In most of these cases, people do not click on the links leading to the full news stories (Kümpel, 2020), meaning that the headlines might be all they see. This may nevertheless contribute to an illusion of knowing (Leonhard et al., 2020). ...
... Beginning with political interest, among those not interested in politics, news avoidance has become more common (Prior, 2007;; but see Karlsen et al., 2020). Research shows that these groups rely more on social media for news, and that they are less likely to pay attention to political news on social media (Bode et al., 2017;Kümpel, 2020). As a consequence, people tend to learn less from using social media for getting the news (de Zuniga et al., 2017;Shehata & Strömbäck, 2021). ...
... As a consequence, people tend to learn less from using social media for getting the news (de Zuniga et al., 2017;Shehata & Strömbäck, 2021). Thus, while using social media might facilitate incidental news exposure (Fletcher & Nielsen, 2017), most people do not pay attention to or engage with news that they are incidentally exposed to (Kümpel, 2020;Oeldorf-Hirsch, 2018;Park & Kaye, 2020). Furthermore, those who do pay attention to and engage with news they are incidentally exposed to tend to be those who are more politically interested, suggesting that incidental exposure does not have a leveling effect on knowledge. ...
... Recent advancement in the field highlights that although unintentional, incidental exposure is not always entirely accidental. Rather, it is sometimes dependent on a user's active customization of the information environment and algorithmic inference and prediction based on the user's past behaviors and connections (Kümpel, 2020;Thorson, 2020). Engagement with news and having a politically active social graph contributes to a user's algorithmic identity being classified as interested in politics, which increases the likelihood of the user encountering political posts incidentally (Thorson et al., 2021). ...
... We instead emphasize the non-intentionality of incidental contact with counter-attitudinal information in this study. While acknowledging that those interested in politics may be more likely to encounter news and politics on social media (Kümpel, 2020;Thorson et al., 2021), we also argue that these incidental contacts are not directed by specific goals or driven by particular psychological needs that dictate the subsequent information processing. Although whether and how a user processes the information after an unintended contact may still be influenced by various factors including the person's underlying goals and interest (Kümpel, 2020;Wieland and Kleinen-von Königslöw, 2020), existing research also shows that coming across article previews in news feeds can provide some awareness of the covered political stories irrespective of political interest (Bode, 2016). ...
... While acknowledging that those interested in politics may be more likely to encounter news and politics on social media (Kümpel, 2020;Thorson et al., 2021), we also argue that these incidental contacts are not directed by specific goals or driven by particular psychological needs that dictate the subsequent information processing. Although whether and how a user processes the information after an unintended contact may still be influenced by various factors including the person's underlying goals and interest (Kümpel, 2020;Wieland and Kleinen-von Königslöw, 2020), existing research also shows that coming across article previews in news feeds can provide some awareness of the covered political stories irrespective of political interest (Bode, 2016). More importantly, the information exposure and subsequent engagement happens in a non-political context that can make people more receptive to disagreement and facilitate deliberation (Wojcieszak and Mutz, 2009). ...
Article
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The Internet and social media create an environment in which individuals can selectively approach information supporting their political worldviews while also being incidentally exposed to socially shared information that challenges their beliefs. These competing information consumption patterns may help explain whether and how digital media contribute to affective polarization (i.e. affect-based division between political groups). This study examines how pro-attitudinal selective exposure and counter-attitudinal incidental exposure in tandem influence political emotions. Using data from 2, two-wave panel surveys conducted during the 2016 and 2020 US presidential elections, our findings demonstrate that seeking consonant political information is consistently associated with anger toward political opponents and enthusiasm toward like-minded partisans. In contrast, despite the purported democratic benefits endowed on political disagreement, cross-cutting incidental exposure does not temper political emotional responses associated with pro-attitudinal selective exposure. However, we find little evidence that unexpected exposure to disagreeable information backfires either.
... These decisions are fed into highly responsive algorithms that influence which content is featured in a given social media user's feed. Two types of personalization can be distinguished: (1) Explicit associated with personalization, especially in the context of hard news and political information (see also Kümpel, 2020;Thorson et al., 2019). While "news junkies" (Prior, 2007) that heavily engage in explicit personalization and follow a lot of news providers or journalists are likely to encounter more and diverse news, the same cannot be expected for users without an interest in news, as they are a) unlikely to deliberately follow news accounts on social media (no newsrelated explicit personalization), and b) thus unlikely to be targeted with algorithmic recommendations centering around news (no news-related implicit personalization). ...
... Examples from non-online environments include viewing a news ticker on public transport screens, seeing the last minutes of a newscast while awaiting one's favorite TV show, or noticing a headline while passing a newspaper vending machine. This type of 'offline incidentalness,' however, differs from the one experienced in social media, which is heavily dependent on the aforementioned processes of implicit and explicit personalization (see further: Kümpel, 2020;Thorson, 2020). ...
... For 'regular,' retrospective survey studies on INE, it might prove fruitful to not simply ask participants about how often they come across news when they have been going online for another purpose but to acknowledge that incidental news exposure is more continuous, depending on previous behaviors and algorithmic interest classification. Accordingly, the phenomenon might best be reflected by developing multiple indicators that point to a user being more or less likely to 'stumble' upon news in their feed (see also Kümpel, 2020;Thorson, 2020). ...
Article
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Social media have become a central source for news and current affairs information. This article focuses on the overarching attributes that shape how people come in contact with news, engage with news, and are affected by news on social media. Although all social media are different and change constantly, news experiences on these platforms can consistently be characterized as personalized, incidental, non-exclusive, as well as granularized and social (PINGS). Accordingly, this article introduces the PINGS framework, which acts as a systematization of social media news experiences and can be used to map key opportunities and challenges of using news across various social media platforms. In addition to presenting the framework components, the article also discusses how researchers can investigate PINGS in empirical studies.
... Yet, despite such theoretical potential, empirical studies have dampened this optimism. For instance, many studies failed to find the incidental learning effect of social media (e.g., Feezell & Ortiz, 2019;Kümpel, 2020;Oeldorf-Hirsch, 2018) despite some exceptions (e.g., Lee & Kim, 2017). One of the plausible explanations was that incidental news exposure does not necessarily make people deeply process the content, which thus does not necessarily translate into knowledge. ...
... One of the plausible explanations was that incidental news exposure does not necessarily make people deeply process the content, which thus does not necessarily translate into knowledge. Recent scholarship also suggests that since content exposure is likely to be filtered by algorithms, one's networks, and one's preferences (Lee & Xenos, 2020;Thorson & Wells, 2016), incidental exposure to news is limited to those who are already interested in news/politics, thus not producing much learning effect (Kümpel, 2020). ...
Article
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Despite early promise, scholarship has shown little empirical evidence of learning from the news on social media. At the same time, scholars have documented the problem of information ‘snacking’ and information quality on these platforms. These parallel trends in the literature challenge long-held assumptions about the pro-social effects of news consumption and political participation. We argue that reliance on social media for news does not contribute to people’s real level of political knowledge (objective knowledge), but instead only influences people’s impression of being informed (subjective knowledge). Subjective knowledge is just as important for driving political participation, a potentially troubling trend given the nature of news consumption on social media. We test this expectation with panel survey data from the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. Two path model specifications (fixed effects and autoregressive) support our theoretical model. Implications for the study of the ‘dark side’ of social media and democracy are discussed.
... Results like these suggest that the use of SNS might be especially beneficial with regard to news use for people who tend to less actively seek out and follow news online as SNS use facilitates incidental exposure. However, researchers have also argued that there might be a "Matthew Effect," meaning that the positive effect of social media use is more pronounced for individuals who already consume a comparably high amount of news and, accordingly, also show higher political interest and knowledge (e.g., Kümpel, 2020). For example, knowledge about the topic of a given story has also been shown to affect intentions of reading the full story (Karnowski et al., 2017). ...
... Typically measured through surveys by means of a multi-item construct (Gil de Zúñiga et al., 2017, p. 112), the items in the NFM scale ask respondents to judge (1) how well they feel informed, (2) how much they rely on peers for information, and (3) how regularly they actively seek for information. There are versions of the NFM scale with a total of three (e.g., Park & Kaye, 2020), four (e.g., Gil de Zúñiga & Diehl, 2019;Gil de Zúñiga et al., 2017, 2020, or six (e.g., Song et al., 2020) items, and the items are answered on either 7-or 10-point Likert-type scales. Typically, the items have then been aggregated into a mean score to look at a "monotonic relationship with other variables" (Song et al., 2020, p. 65). ...
Article
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Research on news exposure has shown that while political knowledge and interest largely determine the degree of active engagement with online news, some people are generally less willing to invest into actively staying informed. Instead, these people report to pursue a passive mode of relying on specific sources, such as social media, based on the belief that “news finds me” (NFM). Notably, the three dimensions of NFM—feeling informed, relying on peers, and not actively seeking news—combine intentions and perceptions related to news use. Understanding NFM perceptions, hence, requires an analytical distinction between active and passive modes of news use as well as reliable measures of (different types of) news exposure. We contribute to this field by combining a survey, tracked web-browsing data, and tracked Facebook data to investigate the relationship between NFM perceptions and exposure to online news, also taking into account political knowledge and interest as traditional predictors of active news use. Our results show that both political knowledge and interest are associated with more news exposure via web browsers and that political knowledge—but not political interest—is also associated with more news in people’s Facebook feeds. Compared with the NFM dimensions, political knowledge and interest are stronger predictors of online news exposure in our study. Taken together, the novel combination of Facebook and web tracking data provides evidence that online news exposure is shaped by a confluence of traditional factors and more diffuse interpersonal processes.
... Similarly, while some have the ability to differentiate between low-and high-quality information, others have less skills in media and information literacy. The result is likely to be increasing inequalities in media and information use, and in extension how much and what people learn from whatever media and information they make use of (Aalberg et al., 2013;Castro et al., 2021;Damstra et al., 2021;Dimitrova et al., 2014;Kümpel, 2020;Wei & Hindman, 2011). In line with this argument, research suggests increasing differences in news media use across time, that news avoidance has increased, and that factors such as political interest and educational level as well as political preferences have become more important predictors of news media use (Aalberg et al., 2013;Bergström et al., 2019;Blekesaune et al., 2012;Karlsen et al., 2020;Prior, 2007;Strömbäck et al., 2013;Stroud, 2011;Toff & Kalogeropoulos, 2020). ...
... The role of news in facilitating engagement in public life is well-established; there is a body of research that suggests that social media -social news in particular -can have a positive effect on citizen participation (e.g. Kümpel, 2020;Kwon et al., 2021;Nah et al., 2021;Yamamoto & Morey, 2019). Unlike with traditional mass media, social media arguably brings more opportunities for mobilization because they allow those who are inactive or marginalised from the current political system to be informed incidentally of civic and political opportunities. ...
Article
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This article presents a study of how civically engaged young adults engage with news on social media, within the context of a developing democracy – Singapore. Based on in-depth interviews with 20 young activists, it discusses how they approach social media as a source of news, what motivates them to engage in more than one social news platform, and how social news use fits into their political lexicon. The results reveal that despite their affinity towards news-related content on social media, they are neither partial towards mainstream, nor alternative news providers on this medium. Their primary social news platform is perceived to offer the best means to disseminate news-related information. However, they are also concerned about their privacy and practice certain strategies to mitigate this. Despite its drawbacks, the activists accept social news use as a viable means of political socialisation and mobilisation.
... Decades ago, in the so-called low-choice media environment, people often consumed news inadvertently in the lack of more preferable content. Although inadvertent exposure also exists today (Andersen et al., 2019), especially on social media sites (Bergström & Belfrage, 2018;Goyanes, 2020), media use is increasingly guided by people's content preferences, as algorithms also benefit those most interested in politics (Kümpel, 2020;Thorson et al., 2021). Generally, if people have a high interest in news, they can easily follow news constantly relying on both traditional sources, such as newspapers, radio, and TV, and new sources, such as social media and alternative news sites, although there may be differences across media types (Boulianne, 2011). ...
Article
Across the globe, extreme weather events have brought climate change into people’s daily lives. Extended heatwaves, droughts, and wildfires are now recurring in many regions across the globe. This paper asks how the exceptional 2018 summer influenced climate change beliefs among Swedish citizens. More specifically, the study looks deeper into belief formation dynamics under intense, consonant, and extended news reporting – addressing one of the most fundamental media effects in the literature: the over-time maintenance of societal beliefs through cumulative and repetitive exposure to a dominant issue frame. Using a unique three-wave panel survey, the analysis focuses on citizens’ acceptance (and resistance) of the dominant climate change frame provided by traditional media – whether citizens believe in the existence, causes, and consequences of climate change. The findings reveal strong support for belief maintenance effects over time, but also that belief changes are possible. Even in situations of intense and consonant news reporting, acceptance (and resistance) of the dominant climate change frame depends on citizens’ personal media orientations. Both trust in traditional news media and usage of alternative online news emerge as key factors conditioning classic media effects in a fragmented and polarized media environment.
... A similar dynamic of inequality in the salience and subsequent effects of incidental news exposure is described by Kümpel (2020). She argues that inequality may function on two levels when it comes to incidental news: users have unequal chances to be exposed to news on social network sites at all, and, once they are exposed, they are unequally likely to engage with the encountered news content. ...
Article
In light of concerns about decreasing news use, a decline in interest in political news or even active avoidance or resistance of news in general, the idea of ‘incidental news’ has been seen as a possible remedy. Generally, ‘incidental news’ refers to the ways in which people encounter information about current events through media when they were not actively seeking the news. However, scholars studying incidental news through different theoretical and methodological perspectives have been arriving at differing evaluations of the significance and implications of this phenomenon – to the extent of downright contradictory findings. This introductory piece posits the aim of this special issue on Studying Incidental News: a conceptual clarification of incidental news exposure. In this issue, scholars coming from different approaches, ranging from cognitive processing, ecological models, emergent practices and a focus on platform affordances, show how different theoretical perspectives help account for various dimensions of incidental news consumption, and thus help explain the often conflicting findings that have been suggested so far.
... In the current media landscape, as already described above, an abundance of news intrudes our daily lives. The incidental news user does not often choose to consume news content, but stumbles upon news partially unwillingly, by switching channels while watching television, by listening to radio while at work or driving their car, or by scrolling through their feeds on social network sites (Kümpel 2020). Especially news shared on social network sites by friends or acquaintances is hard to not come across while scrolling through feeds on Facebook, Twitter, or other social network sites (Fletcher and Kleis Nielsen 2018). ...
Article
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Despite several studies showing discrepancies between audience expectations of journalism and journalists’ professional norms, what remains largely unknown is the audience view on the adherence of journalism to these seemingly essential professional norms. Recent research mainly focused on analysing audience expectations within the context of specific cases. Moreover, these studies rarely take into consideration characteristics that might shape people’s views on journalism such as political ideology. This article seeks to complement these studies by exploring the impact that a user’s news consumption might have on their expectations of journalism. Utilizing data from an online survey among a representative sample of the Flemish audience, we analyse views on adherence to the main professional norms by the Flemish media, and subsequently relate these to news consumption. To grasp the cross- and multi-medial news consumer, we use a news repertoire approach. Flemish news repertoires differ significantly in views on several professional journalistic norms. By linking these distinct news repertoires to their views on professional norms of journalism, we first question how essential these professional norms put forward by journalists really are. Secondly, we discuss if expectations of journalism result in divergent news consumption strategies or vice versa, laying the groundwork for further exploring audience views on professional journalistic norms.
... Evidence regarding the relationship between demographic factors and incidental exposure is limited. However, the research that does exist shows that age (Tewksbury et al., 2001) and income and/or education (Fletcher & Nielsen, 2018;Purcell et al., 2010) are positively related, leading some scholar to argue that incidental exposure takes on a "rich-get-richer" dynamic, whereby people who are likely to engage with news in other venues are also the most likely to encounter news incidentally on social media (Kümpel, 2020). ...
Article
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Incidental exposure, also called inadvertent exposure, has grown more important in recent years because it has the potential to engage news “dropouts” and expose partisans to the “other side” in political communication. Televised sports media are becoming an important venue for this type of unintentional exposure to political content, with the rise in the last decade of a new age of athlete activism not seen since the ‘60s and ‘70s, and the accompanying perception from some conservatives that sports media be a “politics-free zone.” Relying on a representative, online panel survey of adult internet users in the United States (N = 1,493), this study assesses the extent to which Americans are incidentally exposed to political content in televised sports media. It analyzed demographic, political, and communicative antecedents of such exposure. Results suggest low-but-substantial levels of incidental exposure in sports media, and highlight the demographic, psychographic, and behavioral profiles who report exposure. Results are discussed in light of important public conversations about the role of sports media in the political sphere.
... For instance, even if we found that social media news use strongly facilitates NFM perception, such perception may not indicate the same phenomenon among different types of people. For instance, those who already have a relatively high interest in politics may actively craft their social media environment to curate these spaces in a way that news finds them easily; contrarily, those who have relatively lower interest in politics would not do so, and may just be passively exposed to news -thus making them less actively engaged in the news content (Edgerly, 2017;Kümpel, 2019aKümpel, , 2019bKümpel, , 2020Möller et al., 2019). If this is the case, the NFM perception can be a well-founded perception for some people (especially those who are interested in politics and regularly consume news), while serving as more of a misperception for others. ...
Article
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This study examines the causal effects of social media use on political knowledge as well as the underlying mechanisms through which such an effect occurs. The findings suggest that social media use hinders rather than enhances an individual’s learning about politics, because social media use fosters the perception that one no longer needs to actively seek news in order to stay informed (i.e., news-finds-me perception), and this in turn may have an adverse effect on an individual’s learning about politics. However, those who use traditional forms of media to a substantial degree to complement their news consumption via social media are less negatively affected than those who do not.
... Desde el ámbito de los estudios periodísticos hay algunas previsiones que a día de hoy parecen certezas, como que el futuro del periodismo es en red (Van der Haak, Parks y Castells, 2012), pero hay muchas dudas acerca de a dónde nos conducirá la transición digital que ahora alimenta la inteligencia artificial (Toural-Bran, Vizoso, Pérez-Seijo, Rodríguez-Castro y Negreira-Rey, 2020), con unos sitios de redes sociales como Facebook y Twitter que se han convertido en una parte clave de las dietas de noticias de los usuarios en línea (Kümpel, 2020), y una variada gama de tecnologías, al tiempo que hay consciencia de la existencia de numerosos desafíos en el futuro. Los propios medios digitales están transformando la producción y distribución de noticias, lo que da lugar a nuevas formas de comprenderlas y conceptualizarlas (Bengtsson y Johansson, 2020). ...
Article
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El periodismo digital se dirige hacia su tercera década con los deberes de consolidar el campo hecho y con renovados desafíos, que afronta a partir de la experiencia cosechada, el contexto actual pos-COVID-19, el protagonismo que ha ganado la dimensión tecnológica y la necesidad de metodologías sólidas para analizar la complejidad actual. La nueva etapa se construye de la mano de equipos estables de investigación en la práctica totalidad de las universidades españolas con estudios de periodismo, que han avanzado gracias a los estudios pioneros de pequeños grupos encabezados por Ramón Salaverría y Javier Díaz-Noci, hace algo más de veinticinco años, y que ahora, tras ganar posiciones en el contexto internacional, realizan una intensa actividad que aporta conocimiento de forma constante. En este artículo se analiza esta evolución y se presta especial atención, partiendo de una revisión sistematizada de la literatura científica en el campo, a los renovados desafíos que llegan de la mano de la aplicación al campo periodístico de la inteligencia artificial, la realidad virtual, el 5G, los drones y la tecnología blockchain, entre otras altas tecnologías.
... Though this can help reduce news inequalities, it is important to recognise that it is not the only relevant factor. Some have asked whether social media access will disproportionately benefi t those who are already heavy news users by giving them new ways of accessing more and more information (Kümpel 2020;Thorson 2020). ...
Research
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In this Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) at the University of Oxford report, we examine information inequality and other social differences in how people have navigated the coronavirus communications crisis in the UK based on data from a series of surveys fielded fortnightly since mid-April. Our research was conducted as COVID-19 rippled through the UK with hundreds of thousands infected and tens of thousands of fatalities, creating severe and often very unequal social and economic impacts from both the disease and responses to it, and increasingly intense public discussion around the UK government’s handling of the crisis.
... Similarly, audiences with less specific news routines are more prone to engaging in mobile and digital news use, often facilitated by incidental news exposure. However, even then, we need to consider the unequal chances to both be exposed to news on social network sites and to actually engage with 'accidentally' encountered news content (Kümpel, 2020). ...
Thesis
The initiating point of this dissertation is the omnipresence of news characterising the current complex news media landscape. Digitalisation has influenced not only journalism as a profession, its production process, distribution strategies and content, but has inevitably also changed how audiences consume, or use, news. This is the focus of the current dissertation: understanding how audiences consume news when news is everywhere. To do so, we take a radical audience-centred approach, where audiences themselves shape our understanding of, and approaches to, news use. As such, the main research question of this thesis was: How can we study news audiences in the omnipresent news landscape from a radical audience-centred approach? Chapter 1 sets the tone of this dissertation by positioning the research within the broader field of journalism studies. It introduces the starting point of the dissertation: the omnipresence of news, and presents the central aim of the dissertation and its research question. In addition, the industrial, societal, and scholarly relevance of this context is addressed. Next, the chapter provides an overview of the research approach and the primary concepts of the thesis: critical realism, the audience, and news (use). Finally, an outline of the structure of the dissertation will be presented. Chapter 2 gives a conceptual overview of this dissertation and introduces an analytical model for studying news use in an omnipresent news environment. We propose studying news use by distinguishing between three types of news use: focused news use, which is intentional and engaged with the content; routine news use, which relies on news repertoires; and incidental news use, which audiences do not initiate. Chapter 3 outlines the methodological approach to news audience research, where we advocate a mixed-methods approach based on research philosophy and an intention for methodological advancement. Our main argument for doing so is complementarity, and the enhancement of the results because each method provides unique insights. Also, it introduces a new type of mixed-methods design we developed during the course of this dissertation, the ‘rich single-source mixed-methods’ design, where detailed quantitative data from identified people are combined with qualitative insights of the same people. Next, the chapter provides an overview of the mixed-methods research designs of the empirical studies in the following chapter and how they fit into the analytical model. Chapter 4 collects five empirical studies. These studies are not presented in chronological order but rather grouped by type of news use, as described in Chapter 2. One study investigates news engagement during focused news use. Two studies focus on news repertoires in order to understand routine news use, and two studies investigate how news audiences assess incidental news in an omnipresent news environment. Chapter 5 summarises the main findings of the thesis and outlines the methodological, conceptual and practical contributions of the research. The theoretical contributions lies in refinement of the situational circumstances of news use, and how these shape how audience consume and make sense of news. Based on our work, this news use situation is defined by both the intention of news use (i.e. the internal situation), and the physical context in which the news use occurs (i.e. the external situation). The conceptual contributions lie primarily in adding nuance to existing concepts. First, we proposed to make a distinction based on news use type in order to study news use in the omnipresent news environment. As scholars are paying more attention to the audience, there is a need to systematise news audience research. By making a distinction and focussing on three dimensions, we avoid making conclusions on news use based on levels that may be somewhat related but in fact analytically quite distinct. Second, this dissertation helped to understand incidental news use better. While the concept is gaining scholarly intention due to the algorithmic culture, little was known about what incidental news exactly refers to, especially to audiences. Our study revealed that audiences conceptualise incidental news use as a wider pallet of practices than accounted for by scholars. In our view, the main contribution of this dissertation lies in its methodological contributions. As argued, all news use is situational, and as a consequence, grasping the situation in which news use occurs is crucial in understanding news use. Our work provides three ways to grasp the news use contest. First, the analytical model from Chapter 2 offers researchers a way to distinguish between the different ways audiences meet with news as it allows for researchers to adopt a more systematically approach to news audience inquiry. By making a distinction, we avoid making conclusions on news use based on levels that may be somewhat related but in fact analytically quite. Second, we provide an operationalisation for grasping various news use contexts, which is divided into three strongly coinciding levels: time, location and social context. Third, our work contributes to the field by offering a way to approach audiences in different ways in one design by employing mixed-methods research. Our main argument for combining quantitative and qualitative research methods into one design is complementarity and the enhancement of the results. Based on these two studies, we also developed a new type of mixed-methods audience research: rich single-source mixed-methods, which combine rich, quantitative measurements of identified people’s news use behaviour from digital traces, with the qualitative articulations of the same people. To summarise, this dissertation contributed to the field of by taking radical audience-centred approach. Researchers (and news producers) often oversimplify, and even underestimate audiences, by classifying them in groups, often based on sociodemographic characteristics. We argued that all news use is situational and, as a consequence, grasping the situation in which news use occurs is crucial in understanding news use. As the same people engage with news in different ways, scholars should not only acknowledge these types exist but also understand the fluidity of the audiences towards them. Each type of news use may lead to other types of news use, both in the short and long term. As such, even though distinguishing between different news uses, they are all closely entangled, as they evolve into one another. Our analytical model provides one step towards building a more comprehensive theory of news audiences in the omnipresent news landscape.
... In fact, several studies show that it is indeed the case that many-not least, young people and those less interested in news-are incidentally exposed to news (Fletcher & Nielsen, 2018;Gil de Zúñiga & Diehl, 2019;Gil de Zúñiga, Weeks, & Ardèvol-Abreu, 2017). Importantly, however, the algorithmic nature of social media is still likely to benefit especially those with an interest in news and politics (Kümpel, 2020). ...
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During the last decades, an important shift in media use is that people increasingly follow the news by using digital and portable media, while news consumption via traditional, offline media is decreasing. A key question is how this change influences the extent to which people seek out and learn about politics from the news media. Using a large two- wave panel survey (N = 2,828) with detailed measures of political learning and consumption of the same news outlets on different media platforms, the study shows that while political interest has a positive impact on news consumption across all platforms, people mainly learn about current political affairs from using traditional, offline platforms. In contrast, there are no general learning effects from using news media on computers and mobile devices. The study thereby demonstrates how the increasing importance of newer, digital media platforms for news consumption challenges the ideal of a broadly informed citizenry.
... While this stratification is not as pronounced as that of other forms of political participation, it does appear consequential, given that social media served as vital sources of political news during the 2016 election (Mitchell et al., 2016). Our data do suggest that among young people, social media ultimately make the information rich even richer (Kümpel, 2020). ...
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Despite evidence that social media are transforming American political life, fundamental questions remain about their influence on political inequality among the next generation of citizens. This study examines whether youth political behavior on social media is stratified by socioeconomic status (SES) and if political interest is the primary mechanism. Analyzing two nationally representative surveys of young Americans (18–34), we find youth political behavior on social media is less stratified by SES than voting or offline campaign participation. In one case, social media political expression is counter-stratified. While the relationship between SES and youth political behavior on social media can be partially explained by political interest, general political knowledge and positive perceptions of Facebook for politics also emerged as potential mechanisms. Findings suggest that SES-based youth political inequality persists on social media, but it is less severe than for offline forms of participation, and is likely explained by a range of factors beyond political interest.
... hate speech, conspiracy theories, propaganda). In doing so, future research should also consider the role of intentional compared to incidental exposure to information-oriented and extremist information on social media (Kümpel, 2020). With regard to practical implications, our findings showed that both political efficacy as well as self-perceived online media literacy were independently of each other associated with lower political cynicism. ...
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This study investigates the predictors of adolescents’ political cynicism in the social media environment. Given that social media are one of the main sources of information for many young people today, it is crucial to investigate how and in which ways social media use is associated with political cynicism. To that aim, we use data from computer-assisted personal interviews of N = 1,061 adolescents between 14 and 19 years in Germany. Our findings reveal that relative information-oriented social media use is related to lower political cynicism, while exposure to extremist political content on social media predicts higher levels of political cynicism. Furthermore, although self-perceived online media literacy is negatively associated with political cynicism, it does not moderate the relationship between political cynicism and relative information-oriented social media use or exposure to extremist content. We discuss theoretical and practical implications of these findings.
... Furthermore, other empirical studies have also demonstrated that exposure to political content on Facebook may in fact constitute an interpretive tool for the elucidation of offline political participation [10]. Likewise, Kümpel [11] has argued that accidental exposure to news content by friends may be positively correlated with information gain and can strengthen offline political participation. ...
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Facebook users are exposed to diverse news and political content; this means that Facebook is a significant tool for the enhancement of civic participation and engagement in politics. However, it has been argued that Facebook, through its algorithmic curation reinforces the pre-existing attitudes of individuals, rather than challenging or potentially altering them. The objective of this study is to elucidate the emotional and behavioural impact of the personalization of Facebook users’ News Feeds results, and thereby to uncover a possible link between their online and offline civic attitudes. Firstly, we investigate the extent to which users’ Facebook News Feeds results are personalized and customized to fit users’ pre-existing civic attitudes and political interests. Secondly, we explore whether users embody new roles as a result of their emotional and behavioural interaction with political content on Facebook. Our methodology is based on a quantitative survey involving 108 participants. Our findings indicate that, while Facebook can potentially expose users to varying political views and beliefs, it tends to reinforce existing civic attitudes and validate what users already hold to be true. Furthermore, we find that users themselves often assume a proactive stance towards Facebook News Feed results, acquiring roles in which they filter and even censor the content to which they are exposed and thus trying to obfuscate algorithmic curation.
... These elements also call into question the notion of «incidental news exposure», which, according to a rich literature, is one of the defining characteristics of news consumption practices on SNS and can have a positive impact on the diversity of viewpoints that individuals usually encounter (Fletcher & Nielsen 2018). However, social media are fundamentally based on the idea of customization, then it is necessary to consider the possibility that the process of distribution of content among users leaves truly little room for "accidents" and is inherently unequal (Kümpel 2020). If we add that Mark Zuckerberg announced in 2018 that Facebook would start showing its users «less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media» unless it could «encourage meaningful interactions between people» 9 , the competition for visibility on SNS for traditional publishers has become increasingly fierce. ...
Chapter
This paper examines the relationships between young people's political mobilization and political parties by analyzing women?s mobilization effects on political parties' youth wings over the last five years in Argentina (2015-2020). The discussion raised in this article is part of a broader research focused on the Argentinean case that studies the production of "youth" as a central issue in national political parties during the last decade. This paper first gives a brief overview of the recent history of the relationship between young people's political mobilization and political parties' youth wings since the return of democracy in 1983 up to the present. Then, it examines the emerging gender-oriented agenda between younger generations since the 2015 women's mobilizations. The third part discusses the main transformations observed on the political parties' youth wings in relation to this process, including organizational structures, internal agenda, generational experience of young women, actions taken to work against gender violence, ideological orientations and relationships between youth militancy and adult leadership during the 2018 abortion legalization debate at the National Congress, gender parity law, and young women running for elected office. The last section comments on the main findings revealed by the relations between social movements and political parties, and boundaries between political system and social life. The paper finally argues that, in Argentina, younger generations of women are reshaping political parties and advance on their ongoing struggle for social, economic and gender equity.
... However, in our analysis of the data regarding the most used social media platform in the Netherlands, we find that (a) more than half of all Facebook users in our sample did not see news on Facebook on their desktop devices, (b) for those exposed to news, the amount of news items was less than 5% compared with other content, and (c) the amount of news exposure was dependent on preexisting political interest. Our results align with the recent work, arguing for a reconsideration of the common conceptualization of social media exposure as incidental or accidental (Thorson, 2020) but rather propose the existence of a "Matthew Effect" (Kümpel, 2020(Kümpel, , p. 1083 in social media news use, suggesting (relative) enrichment among users already interested in news and (relative) impoverishment among those with little or no interest in current affairs. In our analysis of consumption after news exposure, the effect of political interest was more prevalent for news consumption via social media compared with news consumption via a news website. ...
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The rise of news content on social media has been accompanied by a hope that people with lower socioeconomic status and less interest in political affairs would be “accidentally” exposed to news. By combining tracking and survey data from a Dutch online panel (N = 413), we analyze how political interest, income, and education influence social media news exposure and consumption. Higher levels of political interest are associated with higher amounts of news exposure on Facebook and more news items consumed via social media. Users engage less often in news-related follow-up behavior after consuming news items via social media than after consuming news items referred via news websites. If social media news use seems to occur particularly for those who are already interested in current affairs and makes follow-up consumption less likely, the specificities of the social media ecosystems might accelerate rather than level inequalities in news use.
... En ello profundiza el capítulo "Evolución en el uso de las redes sociales por parte de los medios de comunicación: de Facebook a TikTok". Las redes sociales se han convertido en canal de información para numerosos ciudadanos (Kümpel, 2020), lo que enlaza con la capacidad que poseen para incrementar la participación política. De hecho, varios autores sugieren que estas redes contribuyen a la génesis de una opinión pública más plural (Vaccari, 2017), puesto que la comunicación deja de ser unidireccional. ...
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This article argues for new approaches to the study of incidental exposure that better account for the role of algorithms, platforms, and processes of datafication in shaping the likelihood of news exposure online. It offers a critique of three themes prominent in the incidental exposure literature: (1) incidental exposure connotes accidental exposure to news on social media, (2) news content is ubiquitous on social media, and (3) incidental exposure can be conceptually distinguished from intentional exposure to news on social media. This article proposes a new metaphor to reframe research on incidental exposure: ‘attraction’ to news.
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The consumption of news increasingly takes place in the context of social media, where users can personalize their repertoire of news through personal news curation practices such as following a journalistic outlet on Twitter or blocking news content from a Facebook friend. This article examines the prevalence and predictors of curation practices that have the potential to boost or limit social media news exposure. Results from a representative online survey distributed across thirty-six countries demonstrate that more than half of all news users on social media engage in such practices. Significant predictors of news-boosting curation are news interest and the willingness to engage in other news-related activities on social media. News-limiting practices on social media are linked to general news avoidance and, in the case of the US, political extremism, which might decrease the chances of incidental news exposure. News-boosting and news-limiting curation practices relate to a wider and more diverse repertoire of news sources online. Personal news curation practices can be conceptualized as forms of news engagement that have the potential to complement or counteract algorithmic news selection or partisan selective exposure, yet, these practices can also solidify existing divides in news use related to interest and avoidance.
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Today, the internet and particularly social media offer lots of opportunities to encounter political information incidentally. Motivated by conflicting findings regarding the effects of incidental exposure (IE) on political outcomes, researchers recently developed new theoretical models. Building on the Political Incidental News Exposure (PINE) model, we distinguish two levels of IE to political information, first-level (i.e., mere scanning of IE content) and second-level (i.e., effortful processing of IE content). In one cross-sectional (N1 = 1660) and three panel surveys (N2 = 450, N3 = 524, N4 = 901), we measure the two levels of IE and investigate their effect on multiple political outcomes. We find null effects on political knowledge for both levels. However, across all three panel studies, second-level IE affects online political participation positively. In Study 4, we find that second-level IE also affects social media use for political information and political expression positively. Implications are discussed.
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In the last two decades, communication research dedicated substantial attention to the effects of incidental exposure (IE) to political information. In this meta-analysis, we analyzed the relationship of IE and five outcomes relevant for democracies. Including 106 distinct samples with more than 100,000 respondents, we observed positive cross-sectional relationships between IE and news use, political knowledge, political participation, expressive engagement, and political discussion. These effects shrink substantially but remain significant for panel studies. While we found a stronger relationship with knowledge for experiments compared to surveys, the relationship between IE and discussion and participation was not significant for experiments. Overall, findings suggest that IE matters, but its effects are smaller and more nuanced than previously thought. Also, the effects of IE are strongest when there is congruence between the exposure setting and the outcome setting. We discuss theoretical and methodological implications for IE research and the field at large.
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Online intermediaries such as search engines, social network sites, or video platforms provide access to diverse content; however, there is a school of thought that argues that they may also contribute to the structural deformation of the public sphere. To assess the impact of these Web-based services, research needs to address them not as isolated platforms but as part of broader media environments. Based on 6 group discussions and 18 interviews with German participants varying in age and political engagement, we mapped individual information repertoires with a particular focus on online intermediaries, reconstructed key episodes in which these services were used for gathering information on current news events, and investigated participants' awareness of the architecture and mechanisms of these intermediaries. Findings show that for most participants, online intermediaries are an indispensable part of their media repertoires, but are seldom dominant, let alone the only source of information on political topics. Most respondents possessed some knowledge on the basic workings of the intermediaries they used, but were not familiar with details such as algorithmic personalization.
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This paper examines the link between reliance on Facebook for news, political knowledge, and political engagement in the Philippines. We tested five hypotheses using data gathered from an online survey of 978 Filipinos conducted from February 1 to March 31, 2016. Findings support the hypothesis that those who rely less on social media as a news source exhibit higher levels of perceived knowledge about politics than those who rely more on it for news. Controlling for traditional news use, following political officials or institutions on social media is associated with higher levels of political interest and engagement, those with more politically active friends on Facebook have higher levels of exposure to political content online, and there is a positive correlation between Facebook being a source of information about politics and discussing politics more often with others. However, the hypothesis that those with more friends on their network who are politically active, will have greater political knowledge and more political engagement than those who have few politically active friends on their Facebook network is not supported.
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Understanding how citizens keep themselves informed about current affairs is crucial for a functioning democracy. Extant research suggests that in an increasingly fragmented digital news environment, search engines and social media platforms promote more incidental, but potentially more shallow modes of engagement with news compared to the act of routinely accessing a news organization’s website. In this study, we examine classic predictors of news consumption to explain the preference for three modes of news engagement in online tracking data: routine news use, news use triggered by social media, and news use as part of a general search for information. In pursuit of this aim, we make use of a unique data set that combines tracking data with survey data. Our findings show differences in predictors between preference for regular (direct) engagement, general search-driven, and social media–driven modes of news engagement. In describing behavioral differences in news consumption patterns, we demonstrate a clear need for further analysis of behavioral tracking data in relation to self-reported measures in order to further qualify differences in modes of news engagement.
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Given that approximately half of Internet users use Facebook to access news, it is no surprise that social media are increasingly seen as a viable source of political information. Despite the fact that the average social media user only clicks on a small fraction of political content available in their News Feed, social media use correlates with political knowledge. From where, then, does this knowledge come? We argue that Facebook’s News Feed itself, with its short article previews, provides enough political information for learning to occur. However, this learning comes with an additional consequence: audiences who only read article previews think they know more than they actually do, especially individuals who are motivated to seek emotions. While we are agnostic to the normative implications of such overconfidence, it is worth noting that similar behaviors are associated with political efficacy, knowledge, and participation.
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Incidental exposure to shared news on Facebook is a vital but understudied aspect of how citizens get involved with politics. This experiment investigates the influence of recommender characteristics (tie strength, political knowledge, political similarity) and different media sources (tabloids, legacy, and digital-born outlets) including multiple mediators (e.g., social pressure, outlet credibility) on incidental exposure to political news on Facebook. A 3 × 3 multi-stimulus, between-subject experiment with two additional quasi-factors and 135 different stimuli was conducted using a representative sample (N = 507). Results showed that strong ties and recommenders with high knowledge increase news exposure, but the impact of knowledge is limited to recommenders with similar political opinions. Similar effects occur for different media types, which also have an independent impact on news exposure. Structural equation modeling reveals that media source effects are mediated through media perceptions, whereas recommender effects work via the desire for social monitoring and perceived issue importance.
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Internet access provides a number of ways to read, share, and discuss politics. However, the political benefits from technology are most likely afforded to those with greater Internet skill, political interest, and education. This study used nationally representative cross-sectional survey data collected during the 2016 U.S. general election to investigate two online news behaviors. Guided by research on digital inequalities, the opportunities–motivation–ability framework, and communication gaps, we found that Internet skill and political interest, but not education, are related to greater online news reading and sharing. We also found conditional relationships between Internet skill and online news behaviors that were moderated by political interest and education. Skill-based digital inequalities in online news behaviors are exacerbated for those with greater political interest, but the gap is reduced for those with less education. We discuss the threat and opportunity that a digital skill communication gap poses for online citizen engagement.
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This study focuses on the ironic situation in which news is more available than ever but people are becoming overwhelmed and thus avoid it. A theoretical model is suggested to investigate the relationships between perceived news overload and its cognitive and attitudinal consequences among South Korean Internet users. A structural model reveals that perceived news overload induced news avoidance by increasing news fatigue and news analysis paralysis. Furthermore, this study finds evidence that news consumers are willing to use news curation services to alleviate news avoidance and thus stay informed.
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Keeping up with what’s going on in the world of politics and current affairs through various news media is commonly seen as important for civic engagement and informed citizenship. Today, however, citizens face more opportunities than ever to select media content according to their personal preferences and interests—leading to what previous research has identified as a polarization between news-seekers and news-avoiders. Given heightened concerns regarding growing shares of news-avoiders in particular, this study analyses the development, stability and family influences on Swedish adolescents’ news habits over time. The findings, based on panel survey data among adolescents and their parents, show that (1) news habits are fairly stable at the individual level, that (2) parents’ own news consumption is the most consistent predictor of adolescents’ development of news habits, and that (3) these family effects are distinct from adolescents’ personal motivations for seeking out news.
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Prior research has demonstrated a preference among partisans for like-minded news outlets, a key mechanism through which the media may be polarizing Americans. But in order for source reputations to cause widespread selective exposure, individuals must prioritize them above other competing attributes of news content. Evaluating the relative in-fluence of various contributors to media choice is therefore critical. This study pits two such factors, source reputation and topic relevance, against one another in conjoint survey experiments offering randomly paired news items to partisans. Making a news source's reputation politically unfriendly lowers the probability that an individual chooses an item, but this negative effect is often eclipsed by the positive effect of making a news topic relevant to the individual. In many popular modern news consumption environments, where consumers encounter a diverse mixture of sources and topics, the ability of source reputations to contribute to polarization via partisan selective exposure is limited. © 2016 by the Southern Political Science Association. All rights reserved.
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The media environment is changing. Today in the United States, the average viewer can choose from hundreds of channels, including several twenty-four hour news channels. News is on cell phones, on iPods, and online; it has become a ubiquitous and unavoidable reality in modern society. The purpose of this book is to examine systematically, how these differences in access and form of media affect political behaviour. Using experiments and new survey data, it shows how changes in the media environment reverberate through the political system, affecting news exposure, political learning, turnout, and voting behavior.
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We assess whether and how accidental exposure to political information on social media contributes to citizens’ online political participation in comparative perspective. Based on three online surveys of samples representative of German, Italian, and British Internet users in the aftermath of the 2014 European Parliament elections, we find that accidental exposure to political information on social media is positively and significantly correlated with online participation in all three countries, particularly so in Germany where overall levels of participation were lower. We also find that interest in politics moderates this relationship so that the correlation is stronger among the less interested than among the highly interested. These findings suggest that inadvertent encounters with political content on social media are likely to reduce the gap in online engagement between citizens with high and low interest in politics, potentially broadening the range of voices that make themselves heard.
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Focusing on similarity of personal values and of personality traits, we investigated who is friends with whom in Facebook friendships. A Facebook application administered questionnaires and retrieved data on whom in our sample of 3348 participants were friends. On average, participants had 8.7 friends within our sample. People similar to each other, either regarding personal values or personality traits, tended to be friends. Moreover, the effect of similarity was not evenly distributed across the value or trait continuums. Those scoring high on Openness to Change or Self-Transcendence values were more likely to be friends with people sharing these values. Regarding personality, those high in Emotional Stability or Openness to Experience, or low in Extraversion, tended to have similar friends.
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In the US, a dominant narrative about news and democracy claims that democracy depends on a knowledgeable citizenry and that knowledge stems from news consumption. News and politics are said to positively correlate; the political democracy's vibrancy depends upon the strength of both. This qualitative examination of news resisters,' people who purposefully limit their news consumption, turns the news-democracy narrative on its head by arguing that decreased news consumption positions resisters to participate in public life. Informed by practice theory, evidence about news resistance sheds light on the specific ways news resisters relate to news and on the social norms around news consumption against which they conceptualize and forge their own practices. News resisters articulate the benefits of limited news consumption - greater calm and purpose, a constructive attitude toward the present and future, a willingness to work with others - qualities that enable news resisters to engage in meaningful political participation.
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In the history of news production, the gap between editors' news judgment and audience interest has been widely noticeable. In scholarly research, while news consumption remains a central focus, the value of news content as a product has rarely been examined from the audience's perspective. News is almost always presumed by scholars and practitioners to be of value, which, however, is not necessarily the case in today's media environment. The recent decline in news consumption from the traditional media is often attributed to demographic factors, particularly age. However, such age-oriented narratives shift the responsibility away from news providers to users. From the media economics standpoint, when news organizations fail to address users' needs and wants, the product delivers limited utility and demand would dwindle as a result. This study conceptualizes and empirically examines the “noteworthiness” of news content as perceived by the general public. Results based on a national survey of US internet users show that only about one-third of the content produced by the mainstream news media is perceived as noteworthy. While previous studies identified demographics as significant predictors of news consumption, findings from this study suggest that perceived noteworthiness is a stronger factor influencing news consumption in terms of news enjoyment, newspaper and TV news use, and paying intent for print newspapers. Instead of using technology to pursue a particular demographic group, news organizations should rethink their content strategy and prioritize audience-oriented value creation to serve news consumers at large.