#研究分享#【新闻受众是否愈发支离破碎:不同国家与平台的新闻受众比较比较分析】

【新闻受众是否愈发支离破碎:不同国家与平台的新闻受众比较比较分析】越来越高选择性的媒介环境也带来了对受众细分的担忧。研究者比较分析了德国、法国、丹麦、西班牙、英国和美国六个国家不同平台的新闻受众,发现新闻受众在不同平台的重复度很高,但不同国家所呈现出不同特质。在丹麦与英国新闻受众的细分程度要高于西班牙与美国。同时,研究者驳斥了对受众细分与“过滤泡泡”的担忧与恐惧,发现受众的“支离破碎”很大程度上取决于媒体平台的质量与内容的多样性,而非网络平台的“巴尔干化”与“回声室效应”。不同的语境决定了受众的不同表现。

Are News Audiences Increasingly Fragmented? A Cross-National Comparative Analysis of Cross-Platform News Audience Fragmentation and Duplication

Authors

Abstract

The move to high-choice media environments has sparked fears over audience fragmentation. We analyze news audiences across media platforms (print, television, and online) in 6 countries, going beyond platform-specific, single-country studies. We find surprisingly high levels of news audience duplication, but also that cross-platform audiences vary from country to country, with fragmentation higher in Denmark and the United Kingdom than in Spain and the United States. We find no support for the idea that online audiences are more fragmented than offline audiences, countering fears associated with audience segmentation and filter bubbles. Because all communication exists in the context of its audience, our analysis has implications across the field, underlining the importance of research into how trends play out in different contexts.

One of the most important questions of our time is whether the forces that drive us apart are more powerful than those that hold us together. With the erosion of 20th-century mass audiences, media and communication researchers have approached this question in terms of audience fragmentation versus audience duplication—audience fragmentation describing a situation where people increasingly use media they only share with small groups of like-minded individuals, and audience duplication a situation where the audience for individual outlets may seem small and circumscribed, but most people in practice use many different media, and many media are used by people of many different persuasions. The underlying concern is whether a fast-changing media environment characterized by more and more abundant information, and more and more sources to choose from, will provide the kind of shared space of information, debate, and engagement that various political theorists argue a well-functioning democracy needs (Dahlgren, 2009; Delli Carpini & Keeter, 1997; Habermas, 1989; Neuman, Just, & Crigler, 1992).

Media and communication researchers have different views on the issue. On the one hand, a number of prominent authors have warned against the social and political implications of what they see as a more and more fragmented media environment, characterized by self-selecting news and opinion “echo chambers” (Berry & Sobieraj, 2014; Jamieson & Cappella, 2008) and more personalized, segmented, or “balkanized” audiences (Katz, 1996; Stroud, 2011; Sunstein, 2009; Turow, 1997), driven at least in part by the development of digital media. On the other hand, a growing number of audience researchers have pushed back and argued that, beneath what James Webster (2005) has called the “veneer of fragmentation,” there is a high degree of audience duplication, suggesting a “massively overlapping culture,” even in a time of unprecedented media choice (Webster, 2014, p. 98; see also Gentzkow & Shapiro, 2011; Trilling & Schoenbach, 2013; Webster & Ksiazek, 2012; Weeks, Ksiazek, & Holbert, 2016).

The debate around fragmentation and duplication raises profoundly important questions about the role of media in democracy as we continue the move to a relatively high-choice media environment with an increased potential for fragmentation (Neuman, 2016; Prior, 2007). While in large part motivated by normative concerns, the question at hand is also fundamentally empirical. To what degree are audiences fragmented, and to what degree do they duplicate? In this paper, we present a cross-national comparative analysis across six countries (Germany, Denmark, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States) of cross-platform news audiences (including print, television, and online) to advance our understanding of this question. We start from the audience-centric approach pioneered by James Webster and his collaborators, which aims to use techniques from social network analysis to map the degree of fragmentation or duplication within a media environment by measuring the extent to which the audiences for different outlets overlap with one another (Taneja, 2016; Taneja & Webster, 2016; Webster, 2014; Webster & Ksiazek, 2012; Yuan & Ksiazek, 2015). As such, we pursue the idea that audience fragmentation and duplication can only be understood if one considers both supply (the media structure) and demand (media use). In the broader discussion we engage with, definitions, operationalizations, and diagnoses vary, as different authors have built their analysis around different terms. But the core underlying concern is the same—the potential erosion of a shared space of information, debate, and engagement. We focus specifically on the issue of fragmentation versus duplication, which (a) is substantially important and (b) can be consistently measured both across countries and across offline and online platforms, thus bringing empirical clarity to a contentious and consequential issue.

We build beyond Webster et al.'s work in three important respects. First, in line with the idea that we need to consider both media structure and media use, we move past the national focus that characterizes most of the work cited above, and present a cross-national, comparative analysis of the relative balance between audience fragmentation and audience duplication across a strategic sample of six structurally different high-income democracies with different media systems (Brüggemann, Engesser, Büchel, Humprecht, & Castro, 2014; Hallin & Mancini, 2004). Second, in line with the idea that any examination of fragmentation and duplication should put the audience—and not any one individual media platform—at the center of the analysis, we present a cross-platform analysis of media use across the most important platforms, including print, television, and online. Third, because the reason we are interested in the relative balance between fragmentation and duplication is primarily concerned with the social and political role of media as a shared space for information, debate, and engagement—and not with, for example, entertainment—we focus specifically on audience fragmentation and duplication when it comes to news.

Based on data from the 2016 Reuters Institute Digital News Report (Newman, Fletcher, Levy, & Nielsen, 2016), we find (a) that cross-platform audience duplication varies from country to country, with audiences in the United States—the focus of almost all previous studies—and Spain overlapping to a greater extent than those in Denmark and the United Kingdom, where a few very widely used sources tend to dominate the information environment. We also find (b) that the higher-choice online news media environment is no more fragmented than the comparatively low-choice offline news media environment—in some cases, in fact, significantly less fragmented, meaning that there is little evidence to support the widely held assumption that higher choice by itself inevitably produces fragmentation.

Our findings caution against the use of single country studies to speak about news audiences throughout the rest of the world, even as more and more people access news online and the potential for convergence in media use increases, as well as underlining, the need for further comparative research to develop our understanding of the interplay between structural differences in media systems and audience difference in media use in different countries. In the concluding discussion, we lay out the wider implications our findings have across different parts of the field of communication research.

Literature review

Different normative standpoints offer different starting points for thinking about fragmentation and duplication, and different ways of interpreting empirical results. Consider just two possible starting points. For people committed to minimalist views of democracy centered on, for example, effective elite competition (e.g., Schumpeter, 1992), a core component of a well-functioning democracy is a media environment that provides a shared basis of information that helps people understand how society works, how it is governed and by whom, and what political alternatives exist (see e.g., Delli Carpini & Keeter, 1997; Neuman et al., 1992). For people committed to more maximalist views of democracy centered on, for example, deliberation (Habermas, 1989) or participation (Pateman, 1970), the media have an even more demanding role, not only as providers of information, but also as enablers of broad-based political participation and inclusive, rational-critical debate (Couldry, Livingstone, & Markham, 2010; Dahlgren, 2009). None of these views see audience fragmentation as an absolute evil, or audience duplication as an absolute good. Some degree of fragmentation is bound to accompany any diversity, and diversity can enable a more informative, deliberative, and participatory media environment. But all of these views have reservations about the ability of media to enable a well-functioning democracy in a completely fragmented scenario, with little in terms of shared information, debate, and engagement.

That is why the move from a low-choice media environment characterized by mass audiences and low levels of audience fragmentation to a high-choice media environment with a potential for much higher degrees of audience fragmentation is so important. In the United States, one team of researchers have estimated that the number of minutes of media content available in the average household for each minute of audience attention has grown from 82 in 1960 to 884 in 2005 (Neuman, 2016, p. 132)—and the supply has only grown further since. If the entrepreneur and technology commentator Chris Anderson is right in his assertion that “infinite choice equals ultimate fragmentation” (Anderson, 2006, p. 181), this structural change is bound to lead to a far more fragmented environment, one where media may no longer provide even the potential for shared information, debate, or engagement.

Indeed, a range of prominent researchers have suggested our media environment is increasingly characterized by “echo chambers” (Berry & Sobieraj, 2014; Jamieson & Cappella, 2008), more personalized, segmented, or “balkanized” audiences (Katz, 1996; Stroud, 2011; Sunstein, 2009; Turow, 1997), and “filter bubbles” (Pariser, 2011). The underlying assumption in each case is that preference-driven loyalties will lead audiences into distinct niches, and that people's ability to self-select into these niches is empowered by the expansion in choice. In the case of filter bubbles, the researchers argue that self-selection will be reinforced by algorithms that are designed to show people more of what they like, and less of what they do not. Some have developed more nuanced positions, for example, arguing that preferences for opinion-reinforcement do not necessarily cause people to avoid opinion challenges (Garrett, 2009). Others have argued, similarly, that most people are in fact omnivores, who may have some niche interests, but also share many preferences with many others, and will in fact—even in a high-choice media environment—self-select media in ways that produce high degrees of audience duplication (Webster, 2014). Fundamentally, this is an empirical question.

One way of approaching the question of audience fragmentation versus audience duplication across media platforms and across different media systems is through the audience-centric approach developed by James Webster and his collaborators (Taneja, 2016; Taneja & Webster, 2016; Webster, 2014; Webster & Ksiazek, 2012; Weeks et al., 2016; Yuan & Ksiazek, 2015). According to this stream of work, audiences within media environments can be characterized by placing them on a spectrum that ranges from “fragmented” to “duplicated.” One determines this characterization by measuring the degree of audience “overlap” between each pair of outlets within the environment, which is simply the proportion of the population who use both. A fragmented media environment is one in which the audiences for each media outlet tend to overlap very little (or not at all) with one another. Audiences for particular outlets may be very small or very large, but if most people who use them do not tend to use other outlets as well, the degree of fragmentation will be high because audiences remain separated. In contrast, a duplicated media environment is one where the audiences for most (if not all) media outlets overlap. Again, the size of the audience for a particular outlet may vary, but if people tend to spread their consumption across multiple outlets then audiences may be duplicated.

In contrast to media-centric approaches looking at audiences only from the point of view of media outlets (print circulation, television ratings, monthly unique visitors for a website or app, etc.) or individualistic approaches examining individual media repertoires, this audience-centric approach offers a macrolevel way of characterizing audiences on the basis of the combinations of media they use. It incorporates a structural component taking into account supply, by describing the audience for particular media outlets. It simultaneously integrates media use by capturing the varied repertoires of audience members at the aggregate level (Webster & Ksiazek, 2012). In this way, it aims to capture the distribution of audience attention across a media environment, and gives us a way of measuring the relative degree of fragmentation or duplication in different media environments, and compare across them in a consistent way. The idea is to integrate both the push from the supply side (defined by media structure in a given country or market) and the pull from the demand side (defined by what audiences pay attention to) (Webster, 2014). What ultimately results from this approach is a networked map of audience behavior, with each node in the network representing the audience for a particular named outlet, and the links between any two outlets indicating that their audiences overlap (see Figure 1 for an example).

全文请阅读:http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcom.12315/full

来源:Journal of Communication  25 July 2017

作者:Richard Fletcher  , Rasmus Kleis Nielsen


Comments are closed.



无觅相关文章插件