Paper accepted to IAMCR 2018

19th March 2018

A paper that look to discuss the influence of Facebook on the consumption of news in Portugal was accepted to be presented in the 2018 edition of the IAMCR that will be held in Oregon, USA. Here is the abstract.
Faced with the challenge of attracting audiences to their content, news companies have come to substantially rely on third party distribution via social media hence adapting production to new ‘rules of engagement’ (new formats or new takes on old ones). Facebook’s announcements concerning the platform’s new policy for news related content at the beginning of 2018 could be perceived as a strategic damage control initiative (to dissipate the ‘fake news’ debate) but it also represents a change in the relation with news organizations. Recent studies show that the consumption of content and technologies affordances are intertwined, and the routinization of habits is an essential part of what drives news consumption. Taking this as a departure point the underlying purpose of this research is to assess how these changes impact news consumption and how Portuguese news outlets are dealing with the new environment. To answer these questions, we started to collect weekly data on the Facebook news sharing pattern of 27 Portuguese news outlets since the first week of 2018 (using the news outlets’ RRS feeds links for all the news production were collected and adapted to the requirements of Facebook’s Graph API in order to obtain the respective values for sharing, reactions and comments; the corpus averaged 16K news stories and 300K shares). This continuous analysis started before the implementation of changes and a comparative outlook is possible. The collected data allows us to identify alterations in the attention that a particular media is drawing every week and it also gives us insights into strategies being pursued to promote specific content. We also elaborated an index that identifies how relevant a media outlet has been every week. This index is based on the number of shares each newspaper gathers and on how they are distributed along a scale designed specifically for that purpose. Data collected in the first month of 2018 indicates that the sharing of content from news outlets has dropped a sharp 25% which might lead us to question the frailty of assumptions like the one that identifies network sharing patterns as a reflection of social relevance perceptions.