Avenues to News and Diverse News Exposure Online: Comparing Direct Navigation, Social Media, News Aggregators, Search Queries, and Article Hyperlinks

Magdalena Wojcieszak*, Ericka Menchen-Trevino, Joao Fernando Ferreira Goncalves, Brian Weeks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The online environment dramatically expands the number of ways people can encounter news but there remain questions of whether these abundant opportunities facilitate news exposure diversity. This project examines key questions regarding how internet users arrive at news and what kinds of news they encounter. We account for a multiplicity of avenues to news online, some of which have never been analyzed: (1) direct access to news websites, (2) social networks, (3) news aggregators, (4) search engines, (5) webmail, and (6) hyperlinks in news. We examine the extent to which each avenue promotes news exposure and also exposes users to news sources that are left leaning, right leaning, and centrist. When combined with information on individual political leanings, we show the extent of dissimilar, centrist, or congenial exposure resulting from each avenue. We rely on web browsing history records from 636 social media users in the US paired with survey self-reports, a unique data set that allows us to examine both aggregate and individual-level exposure. Visits to news websites account for about 2 percent of the total number of visits to URLs and are unevenly distributed among users. The most widespread ways of accessing news are search engines and social media platforms (and hyperlinks within news sites once people arrive at news). The two former avenues also increase dissimilar news exposure, compared to accessing news directly, yet direct news access drives the highest proportion of centrist exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Journal of Press/Politics
Volume27
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.

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