Cross-examining the network: The year in digital and social media research

Editor’s note: There’s a lot of interesting academic research going on in digital media — but who has time to sift through all those journals and papers? Our friends at Journalist’s Resource, that’s who. JR is a project of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, and they spend their time examining the new academic literature in media, social science, and other fields, summarizing the high points and giving you a point of entry. Denise-Marie Ordway, JR’s managing editor, has picked out some of the top studies in digital media and journalism in 2017. She took over this task from John Wihbey, JR’s former managing editor, who summed up the top papers for us for several years. (You can check out his roundups from 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.)

There’s never a shortage of fascinating scholarship in Continue reading "Cross-examining the network: The year in digital and social media research"

Is the digital content bubble about to burst? For some of the publishers chasing the broadest scale, maybe

Recent bad news for a number of digital-born news outlets (including BuzzFeed, HuffPost, Mashable, and Vice) is a symptom not only of the intense competition for attention and advertising online, but also of a digital content bubble where most news providers continue to operate at a loss — losses that cannot be sustained indefinitely. So far, the largest digital-born publishers have been sustained by investors, some of whom may be losing their patience. Legacy media outlets have used their offline revenues to bankroll investments in online operations that are still often not profitable on their own. Smaller digital-born operations have started out with money from their founders or philanthropic backers, but many are struggling to break even. More than 20 years into the rise of digital media, it seems clear that the content bubble will eventually burst unless more robust business models are found. Investors’ high Continue reading "Is the digital content bubble about to burst? For some of the publishers chasing the broadest scale, maybe"

Maybe it’s also time to start calling fact-checking something else. (Anybody got any ideas?)

“Social media is still a relatively small of most people’s news diet.” Stanford economist Matthew Gentzkow came to Northeastern University yesterday to go over a bunch of his research to try to answer three questions: 1. Are Americans more polarized than ever? 2. Is it the Internet’s fault? 3. Did fake news change the 2016 election outcome? This stuff isn’t super-super new, but it can be good to get a refresher. The answers (according to the work he’s done), and you can watch the session here too:
  1. Americans are increasingly polarized, though the country’s also seen deep divisions in the past (with equally high levels of partisanship shown in the late 19th and early 20th centuries…after the Civil War). He doesn’t see evidence of increasing divisions among people’s views on individual issues or in terms of their self-described political ideologies. Here’s where his data does indicate increased Continue reading "Maybe it’s also time to start calling fact-checking something else. (Anybody got any ideas?)"

Why don’t people trust the news and social media? A new report lets them explain in their own words

A new report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism offers a bit more insight into what’s driving distrust in news organizations across the world. Working with YouGov, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism polled around 18,000 people across nine countries (U.S., Germany, UK, Ireland, Spain, Denmark, Australia, France, and Greece) to gather qualitative data about people’s trust in news and social media. After respondents were asked whether they agreed with statements like “the news media does a good job in helping me distinguish fact from fiction,” they were invited to share their reasons in an open-ended text box. Reuters’ Nic Newman and Richard Fletcher coded these 7,915 responses to categorize the issues and concerns that are fueling peoples’ distrust. Here’s some of what they found: — Why don’t people trust the news? Concern about bias, spin, and hidden agendas. Two-thirds of people (67
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Digital News Report: U.S. Audiences More Willing to Pay for News; Voice-Activated Services the Next Frontier

The publication of the annual Digital News Report, from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University, is eagerly awaited by news execs around the world. So much so, that the 2017 study is being accompanied by major presentations on June 22 at the GEN Summit in Vienna, and at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University in New York. Clocking in at 133 pages, this sixth annual study, has been expanded to cover 36 different markets around the world (the first, in 2012 examined just five countries), shedding light on many countries – including nations featured for the first time such as Mexico, Malaysia, Croatia and Romania – which are seldom reported in English-language media. Against this backdrop it’s fascinating to determine some of the similarities – and differences – between digital news habits in the U.S. and the rest of the world. With
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News apps are making a comeback. More young Americans are paying for news. 2017 is weird.

The United States recently elected an unusual president. And to go with the times, Americans are exhibiting some behaviors in media consumption that are, if not unusual, then at least different from those of people in other countries. That’s one of the recurring findings in a report out Thursday from Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. The Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report 2017 surveyed more than 70,000 people in 36 countries about their digital news consumption. (Countries included in the report for the first time this year: Slovakia, Croatia, Romania, Taiwan, Hong King, Malaysia, Singapore, Argentina, Chile, and Mexico.) The research consisted of an online YouGov survey in early 2017, then follow-up focus groups, and covers topics like adblocking, news on messaging and voice apps, and news sharing habits. Reuters also expanded its focus on trust in news and media polarization this year. For more on those
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Using social media appears to diversify your news diet, not narrow it

Despite widespread fears that social media and other forms of algorithmically-filtered services (like search) lead to filter bubbles, we know surprisingly little about what effect social media have on people’s news diets. Data from the 2017 Reuters Institute Digital News Report can help address this. Contrary to conventional wisdom, our analysis shows that social media use is clearly associated with incidental exposure to additional sources of news that people otherwise wouldn’t use — and with more politically diverse news diets. This matters because distributed discovery — where people find and access news via third parties, like social media, search engines, and increasingly messaging apps — is becoming a more and more important part of how people use media.

The fear of filter bubbles and the end of incidental exposure

The role social media plays varies by context and by user. For some highly engaged news lovers, it may be seen
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