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Wednesday, July 13 • 13:46 - 15:15
Audience Brokers and Content Discoverers in the Networked Public Sphere

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Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - 314, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
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  • Silvia Majo-Vazquez, Internet Interdisciplinary Institute - Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain
  • Ana S. Cardenal, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya -Internet Interdisciplinary Institute, Spain
  • Oleguer Sagarra Pascual, Complex Systems Group, Física Fonamental - University of Barcelona, Spain
  • Pol Colomer de Simón, Complex Systems Group, Física Fonamental - University of Barcelona, Spain


Social platforms such as Facebook or Twitter as well as news aggregators and blogs are changing the way people consume news online. Citizens are less willing to search political content directly from branded websites (N. Newman, Levy, & Nielsen, 2015) yet they increasingly relay on their news feeds to bump into political information. Much has been discussed about the potential and the consequences of the mediatization role of these new players (Gitlin, 2002; Napoli, 2008; Pariser, 2011; Prior, 2008; Sunstein, 2009; Turow, 1998) but little empirical evidence has been brought so far. The purpose of this study is to offer some redress to the situation by analyzing the role of new media building on the network of news audience and the news providers. 


Our study seeks to empirically assess the potential of new media as audience distributors and content discoverers. We want to know whether they promote audience flow and hence, they help to avoid the balkanization of the web (Sunstein, 2009). Our hypothesis falls in line with theoretical accounts contending that audiences do not form enclaves in the online domain but they share a public realm (Garrett & Resnick, 2011; Gentzkow & Shapiro, 2011; Webster & Ksiazek, 2012).


We make explicit the concept of the online public domain by building two networks: the network of audience and the network of online news providers. The former comes from a sample of 113 news media, new and traditional outlets in Spain and represents the audience that each pair of news providers sent to each other (Webster & Ksiazek, 2012). The network of online news providers is built using a hyperlink crawling (Ackland, 2013) starting from a list of 44 seed sites corresponding to the most visited news media outlets. We test the role of new media as audience brokers (Gould & Fernandez, 1989). We use the random-walk betweenness centrality (Newman, 2005) -which counts not only the shortest paths but all paths between two nodes- to test the influence of a node over the spread of audience. Finally, we assess the potential of new media to discover authoritative news sources following the empirical framework proposed by Kleinberg, (1999). 


Using second order methods in network science (Borge-Holthoefer & Gonzalez-Bailon, 2015), we aim to bring evidence on firstly, that new media provides shortcuts that decrease significantly the number of hops that audience must take to explore a broader range of news content; secondly, that they have the potential to diversify news media diets by discovering new sources of information. In our study we also shed light on the role of legacy media as authorities in the online domain.  

Future Work: 

Despite the access to news is still dominated by television, people increasingly access media content just login into their social media platforms and visiting feeds readers. This is an increasingly common habit in US, Ireland and Australia (N. Newman et al., 2015). Hence, in future research we aim to enhance the present analysis focused on Spain by bringing a comparative perspective based on theses countries. 


Ackland, R. (2013). Web Social Science Concepts, Data and Tools for Social Scientists in the Digital Age (1st ed.). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Borge-Holthoefer, J., & Gonzalez-Bailon, S. (2015). Scale, Time, and Activity Patterns: Advanced Methods for the Analysis of Online Networks. In N. Fielding, R. Lee, & G. Blank (Eds.), Handbook of Online Research Methods (Second). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Retrieved from http://ssrn.com/abstract=2686703

Garrett, R. K., & Resnick, P. (2011). Resisting political fragmentation on the Internet. Daedalus, 140(4), 108–120.

Gentzkow, M., & Shapiro, J. M. (2011). Ideological Segregation Online and Offline. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 126(4), 1799–1839. http://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qjr044

Gitlin, T. (2002). Public sphere or public sphericules? In J. Curran & T. Liebes (Eds.), Media, ritual and identity (p. 168). Routledge.

Gould, R. V, & Fernandez, R. M. (1989). Formal Approach to Brokerage in Transaction Networks. Sociological Methodology, 19, 89–126.

Kleinberg, J. M. (1999). Authoritative sources in a hyperlinked environment. Journal of the ACM (JACM), 46(5), 604–632.

Napoli, P. M. (2008). Toward a model of audience evolution: New Tecnologies and the Transformation of Media Audiences (No. 15). Retrieved from http://fordham.bepress.com/mcgannon_working_papers/15

Newman, M. E. J. (2005). A measure of betweenness centrality based on random walks. Social Networks, 27(1), 39–54.

Newman, N., Levy, D. A., & Nielsen, R. K. (2015). Reuters Institute Digital News. Report 2015. Tracking the future of news. Retrieved from https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2015_Full Report.pdf

Pariser, E. (2011). The filter bubble: How the new personalized web is changing what we read and how we think. Penguin.

Prior, M. (2008). Are hyperlinks “weak ties”? In J. Turow & L. Tsui (Eds.), The hyperlinked society: questioning connections in the Digital Age (pp. 227–249). University of Michigan Press Ann Arbor, MI.

Sunstein, C. R. (2009). Republic. com 2.0 (second). Princeton University Press.
Turow, J. (1998). Breaking up America: Advertisers and the new media world. University of Chicago Press.

Webster, J. G., & Ksiazek, T. B. (2012). The Dynamics of Audience Fragmentation: Public Attention in an Age of Digital Media. Journal of Communication, 62(1), 39–56. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.2011.01616.x 

Wednesday July 13, 2016 13:46 - 15:15 UTC
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - 314 Goldsmiths University, Building 2