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Social media networks have transformed the way individuals generate, distribute, and read news, reshaping and paving the way individuals within this social reality communicate with each other. Social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have all become an integral part of online news distribution (Kümpel, Karnowski & Keyling, 2015), allowing their audience on these platforms to digest unique and distinct perspectives regarding current issues. The analysis of these social news sharing tactics, has given communication media outlets the influence to adapt to the fast pace digital world through their implementation of profile pages on various platforms, to be used as” communication management” (Ruehl & Ingenhoff, 2015). These platforms that are easily accessible and convenient for users to access, (Kümpel, Karnowski & Keyling, 2015), will represent the impact news circulation has politically, economically and socially. Politically, social media news sharing exposes individuals to “diverse information and to participate in meaningful political discussion with diverse fellow citizens” (Choi & Lee, 2015). Economically, SNS have changed the production, distribution and consumptions of news, impacting the revenue on print operations, a traditional media outlet. Socially, society has benefited from the increased sharing of news amongst SNS, as these companies have created“technological affordances” (Martin, 2019, p. 23), that enables us to become engaged within an online community whilst encouraging society to consume and disperse news. However, social news sharing can also be altered and become ‘fake news’, a destructive effect as a result of this digital innovation.
The Genesis of Social News Sharing
The genesis of social news sharing is identified through digital technology, being easily portable and accessible allows the distribution of news to be easily placed in our hands. With more than 2.4 billion internet users, 64.5% receive news from Facebook, Twitter, Youtube , Snapchat and Instagram instead of traditional media (Martin 2018). These platforms enable individuals to be part of an online community, where the actions of posting, commenting and sharing of information is encouraged.
The percentage of US adults who get news
from social media sites in 2018.
Image from: Pew Research Centre, Journalism & Media
These tools of posting, commenting, sharing and liking posts on SNS, a central part of the genesis of social news sharing, are identified as “communicative affordances”(Martin 2019, p. 11) constructed by different social media websites, these features provide individuals to continue participating in online expression and sharing of news. Further explored by Oeldorf-Hirsch and Sundar (2014) who state that these leading affordances include,
“the level of broadcasting (direct messaging, posting on friends wall) used for disseminating content to one’s network, the comments added to the content and tagging friends in posts” (p. 241)
Communication management is reflected here by evolving to the fast pace of social news sharing amongst these social networking sites. Facebook’s communication management, aiding the growing popularity of users demanding digital news is represented through their development of Instant Articles in 2015. This platform was generated for publishers to assist them to create “fast and interactive articles on Facebook”, with a significant traffic lift for publishers at 44% than on a website link (Facebook for Media 2020). Communication management is further noticed as this platform allows publishers to “monetize and grow” their publishing business, by also extending “direct sold ads, fill available and ad inventory with Facebook’s Audience Network, and create native branded content” (Facebook for Media 2020). Overall, these transformative effects reflect the growing reliance on social media for news amongst its users and how the social networking site Facebook, are supporting these evolving needs.
image: An example of Facebook’s ‘instant Article’ feature,
image from: Facebook for Media
Politically, social news sharing provides individuals with increased democratic engagement by being easily accessible and convenient. Individuals have been turning towards social media sites for political news, Garrett (2019) states that in 2012, “two in five American used social media for political purposes” (p.1) and in 2016, this was identified as American’s claimed to use Facebook to gain insights regarding political information prior to the Presidential election. The transformative effects of social news sharing has politically is further suggested by Kushin and Yamamoto (2011), reflecting upon the increased use of online expression to be significantly related with political involvement. For instance, social media sites such as Twitter and online blogs, were used to encourage individuals to voice their concerns over political issues and share political information. It is also attributed that in 2008 prior to the US presidential election, Youtube and CNN “teamed up to sponsor a debate in which candidates took questions from user-created videos” (Kushin and Yamamoto, 2011, p. 59), encouraging users to receive political news from live videos on social media sites, rather than gaining their information from traditional news sources. Therefore, the benefits can be recognised to reach individuals who are wanting to gain a better understanding of political information online and those candidates who want to reach a wider population.
Economically, social news sharing has caused some losses to traditional media in practice within Australia. With digital news sharing, this has ended specific costs that would have existed with the printing of newspaper copies and delivering them, temporal constraints and distribution distance barriers and by mass audiences that were created to attract advertiser revenue (Picard, 2017, p. 147). This asserts the ending of the monopolistic news structure that once existed (Picard, 2017, p. 148). Social news sharing has allowed SNS to overcome these barriers, resulting in a decline in advertising revenue for print operations. This is indicated by Wilding, Fray, Molitorisz & McKewon (2018), that between 2011 and 2015, Australian newspaper and magazine publishers lost $1.5 billion and $349 million respectively in print advertising revenue. Economically, social news sharing has significantly caused revenue losses for print operations, shifting advertising opportunities towards digital media, a more cost-effective mode for advertisers.
The benefits of social news sharing amongst society can be represented through the exchanging of news between individuals can foster social relationships. The identification of social cohesion amongst online news readers, is acknowledged by Goh, Ling, Huang and Liew (2017), where social news sharing enables individuals to “sustain regular interaction and social insight into one another” (p. 11). It was also recognised to facilitate as “a type of social lubricant to engage others in social interaction”(Goh et al, 2017, p. 11), individuals would start a conversation based on the news found on SNS, participating in reciprocal sharing of news.
Another benefit that can be recognised with social news sharing is the need to be updated with news on social situations. This can be identified through the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic, where social news sharing was at its heightened period, constantly being noticed online every few hours so readers can stay updated with the ever-changing state of our society. With traditional forms of media, these updates would have not come as rapidly and would not facilitate individual’s desperate need for clarity and closure during these difficult times.
Fake News on Public Health:
While there are many benefits of social news sharing there are also losses. This is renowned through the spread of fake news on social media sites which has feared governments, as this growing phenomena curates “deception, manipulation, fabrication and news satire” (Rampersad and Althiyabi, 2020, p. 1), deliberately misleading their readers. In terms of public health, fake news places major concerns on inaccurate information from unreliable sources, instilling fear and panic amongst the population. For example, Carrie Madej’s, an Osteopath who claimed “COVID-19 vaccines are designed to make us genetically modified organisms” (Goodman and Carmichael, 2020) gaining more than 300,000 views, which has now been removed by Youtube from its original posting, exposes the large influence individuals have on SNS which can lead to the curation of more #fakenews and inaccurate information.
In conclusion, social news sharing has created an online space where unique voices and stories can be created, distributed and shared, not being controlled by traditional news outlets, thus a liberal process of news sharing is established. It has benefited those increased online communication of politics for users who are wanting more insight to political situations and candidates to reach a wider audience. Socially, social news sharing effects ordinary internet users through the social cohesion it creates, with the open and encouraged discussion based around news. However, it threatens those traditional media (print operations) financial landscapes with a steep loss in advertising revenue and with the threat of #fakenews being capable to spread quickly with false claims within the online space.
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