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The new flow of news : how social network sites transform news organization and citizens political behavior

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - SNSNEWS (The new flow of news : how social network sites transform news organization and citizens political behavior)

Okres sprawozdawczy: 2020-10-01 do 2023-03-31

In today's rapidly evolving media landscape, the decline in traditional news consumption has become a pressing issue with significant implications for society. A well-informed citizenry is essential for the functioning of a healthy democratic regime. However, the traditional news outlets that have served as primary sources of information are experiencing a decline in readership and viewership.To adapt to this changing landscape, news organizations and the production of news are undergoing profound transformations. This research proposal aims to address a fundamental shift in news distribution, wherein professional news organizations are increasingly partnering with social media. This partnership blurs the distinction between consumers and producers of news, as the audience members themselves become distributors of news content through social media platforms.
As a result of this transformation, news is no longer solely produced and disseminated by traditional media outlets but has become a social product shaped by the strength of social ties. The prevailing logic of news flow has shifted from a vertical model, where news organizations deliver information to audiences, to a horizontal network model. The influence of this social network logic on news flow and the quality and diversity of information raises important questions regarding the effects of SNS proliferation on news production.
Moreover, this shift in news consumption has significant implications for society. Consumers now receive information blends curated by their SNS "friends," who may not possess professional journalistic standards. This raises concerns about the quality and heterogeneity of the information reaching citizens and its subsequent impact on their political behavior and beliefs. Understanding these effects and the characteristics of social media audiences is crucial for comprehending the evolving nature of news consumption and its influence on citizens' political knowledge.
To shed light on these issues, this research project investigate the effects of this proliferation on news production, focusing on the quality and diversity of information presented. Additionally, it aims to explore the characteristics of SNS audiences to gain insights into their preferences and behaviors. Furthermore, by conducting longitudinal research, the project aims to examine the long-term effects of news distribution and consumption via social media on citizens' political knowledge, behavior, and beliefs.
By capturing this phenomenon at its outset and exploring its evolution over time, the research project aims to provide valuable insights into the future trajectories of news production and consumption. It also aims to contribute to a more precise understanding of media influence on citizenship in the digital age. Ultimately, this research has the potential to shape policies, media practices, and public discourse to ensure a well-informed citizenry and the vitality of democratic processes in an increasingly interconnected world.
In our research project, we explored the impact of social media on news production and consumption using various data collection methods. We conducted interviews with editors and journalists, resulting in articles that examined how social media influences their decision-making and the relationships between journalists, editors, and audiences. We also analyzed data from over 40 news publishers worldwide. Our research examined the effects of audience engagement on news topic selection and the use of clickbait tactics. Our research uncovered a significant transformation in news production due to the dominant influence of social media platforms. News organizations have adjusted their content to align with platform algorithms, resulting in emotionally-driven articles designed to capture attention. Surprisingly, we did not find a significant increase in soft news, possibly because political topics naturally evoke strong emotional responses. This shift in news production raises concerns about the financial sustainability and independence of news organizations, as they navigate the influence of social media and content curation algorithms that prioritize performance over democratic values.
To understand social media audiences, we conducted experiments, collected observational data, and conducted interviews. Our findings revealed that users rely on social cues while being cautious about expressing their own opinions publicly. Our project highlights a significant shift in news consumption, where social motivations play a crucial role. News has become a means of social interaction and validation, with algorithms reinforcing existing interests and limiting exposure to diverse perspectives. This perpetuates societal divisions and raises questions about the role of media in promoting informed citizenship. In terms of longitudinal effects, panel surveys showed limited improvements in political knowledge but revealed instances of political polarization among heavy social media users, particularly during events like elections. This emphasizes the need for a better understanding of the influence of social media on news consumption and the importance of fostering an inclusive and diverse media environment.
The key strengths of studying news production and consumption together lies in capturing the entire process or circle from news organization to audience and back. By examining both sides of the equation, we gain a comprehensive understanding of how news is created, disseminated, and received in the digital age.
Understanding news production allows us to uncover the factors shaping the content that reaches audiences. We explore how news organizations adapt their practices and strategies to meet the demands of social media platforms, including the challenges of algorithmic curation and the pursuit of audience engagement. This knowledge helps us grasp the intricacies of how news is shaped and potentially biased in the contemporary media landscape.
Simultaneously, by studying news consumption, we delve into the behaviors, motivations, and preferences of individuals as they engage with news content. This perspective illuminates the role of social media in facilitating news dissemination, the impact of personalized algorithms on information exposure, and the potential consequences for individuals' political knowledge, behaviors, and beliefs.
By examining the entire process of news production and consumption, our project offers a holistic perspective that goes beyond isolated investigations of either aspect. This integrated approach allows us to uncover interdependencies, feedback loops, and systemic effects that may be missed when studying them in isolation. Ultimately, it enables us to provide more nuanced insights into the complexities of news in the digital era and to develop strategies to promote a more informed and engaged citizenry.
By exploring these complex dynamics and their implications for informed citizenship, our project contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of the contemporary media environment. It offers valuable insights for media researchers, practitioners, and policymakers seeking to navigate the challenges and opportunities posed by the increasing influence of social considerations in news consumption.