DP12066 The Production of Information in an Online World: Is Copy Right?

Author(s): Julia Cagé, Nicolas Hervé, Marie-Luce Viaud
Publication Date: May 2017
Date Revised: April 2019
Keyword(s): Copyright, Facebook, Information spreading, internet, Investigative journalism, reputation
JEL(s): L11, L15, L82, L86
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Industrial Organization
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=12066

This paper documents the extent of copying and estimates the returns to originality in online news production. We build a unique dataset combining all the online content produced by French news media during the year 2013 with new micro audience data. We develop a topic detection algorithm that identifies each news event, trace the timeline of each story, and study news propagation. We unravel new evidence on online news production. First, we document high reactivity of online media: one quarter of the news stories are reproduced online in under 4 minutes. Second, we show that this comes with extensive copying: only 33% of the online content is original. Third, we investigate the cost of copying for original news producers. Using article-level variations and media-level daily audience combined with article-level social media statistics, we find that readers partly switch to the original producers, thereby mitigating the newsgathering incentive problem raised by copying.