DP17358 Social Media and Newsroom Production Decisions

Author(s): Julia Cagé, Nicolas Hervé, Béatrice Mazoyer
Publication Date: June 2022
Keyword(s): Information spreading, internet, network analysis, News editors, social media, Text Analysis, Twitter
JEL(s): C31, D85, L14, L15, L82, L86
Programme Areas: Organizational Economics, Political Economy
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=17358

Social media affects not only the way we consume news, but also the way news is produced, including by traditional media outlets. In this paper, we study the propagation of information from social media to mainstream media, and investigate whether news editors' editorial decisions are influenced by the popularity of news stories on social media To do so, we build a novel dataset including a representative sample of all the tweets produced in French between August 1st 2018 and July 31st 2019 (1.8 billion tweets, around 70% of all tweets in French) and the content published online by 200 mainstream media outlets. We then develop novel algorithms to identify and link events on social and mainstream media. To isolate the causal impact of popularity, we rely on the structure of the Twitter network and propose a new instrument based on the interaction between measures of user centrality and "social media news pressure" at the time of the event. We show that story popularity has a positive effect on media coverage, and that this effect varies depending on the media outlets' characteristics, in particular on whether they use a paywall. Finally, we investigate consumers' reaction to a surge in social media popularity. Our findings shed new light on our understanding of how editors decide on the coverage for stories, and question the welfare effects of social media.