DP17358 Social Media Influence Mainstream Media: Evidence from Two Billion Tweets
This paper investigates whether news editors’ editorial decisions are influenced by the popularity of news stories on social media. To do so, we build a novel dataset containing around 70% of all the tweets produced in French between August 2018 and July 2019 and the content published online by the universe of general information media. We develop novel algorithms to identify and link events on social and mainstream media. To isolate the causal impact of popularity, we propose a new instrument based on the interaction between measures of user centrality and social-media specific shocks to content popularity. We show that, for a given story’s newsworthiness, its social media popularity increases its coverage by mainstream media, particularly for media relying strongly on advertising revenues. This reflects the distortive effect of social media, with respect to both the public service mission of mainstream media and consumers’ preferences. Our findings – which we relate to the overall transformation of the media industry – shed new light on news production decisions in the digital age and the welfare effects of social media.