SNS News: The new flow of news : how social network sites transform news organization and citizens political behavior
Political information has been proven essential to sustaining the democratic process. Yet, today, its major source – the news industry – is undergoing a major transition: Traditional news consumption is on the decline, while citizens increasingly turn their attention to social network sites (SNSs). To accommodate this trend, the news industry has been incorporating SNSs into its platforms, thus effectively changing news into a ‘social’ product.
To this end, I develop a new model anchored in network logic and involving three key actors in news creation and distribution: news organizations, which are adapting news production to the logic of sharing, thus changing their product; news feeders – users who select and disseminate news stories, thereby serving as a bridge between their online followers and news organizations; and news feedees – individuals whose news consumption is limited to stories fetched for them by feeders in their SNSs. The model points to some long-term effects on individuals' political beliefs and behavior as a consequence of acting as feeders or feedees.
The model will be tested using multiple innovative methods, some of which will be implemented in the field of media and political studies for the first time. The methods are mutually complementary, combining ‘big data’ analysis with small-N in-depth designs.
To study news organizations, I will interview news editors and analyze traffic data juxtaposing it against content analysis. To study users’ behavior and, inter alia, identify feeders and feedees, I will conduct a laboratory observation in which surfing behavior and physiological indicators of attention will be measured unobtrusively. Long-term political effects of the feeder / feedee role will be tested using a combination of survey panel data and web-based behavioral data spanning a period of two years.
The proposal is theoretically and empirically innovative and can impact future research by providing novel conceptualization of news distribution, consumption and influence, as well as by introducing a new methodological ‘golden standard’ to audience research.