News Sharing in the New Digital Age of Social Media
Social news sharing has quickly become one of the most popular sources of receiving everyday media. When we refer to social news sharing we consider the use of Social Media platforms and their roles in the distribution or redistribution of information online. This emergence of social networking has allowed us to harness our excess capacity to recirculate news more quickly and widely, resulting in the phenomenon (Dwyer & Martin, 2017). This new access to mainstream media via social news sharing has significant benefits, however, it much more complicated than it appears, as we must consider commodification, regulation and diversity associated with sharing news online.
Social media may be known for being used for representing self-identity by sharing photos and statuses, entertainment purposes and connecting with what friends and seeing what they are doing. Social media has also recently become an essential part of online news distribution and consumption of information. This is due to Social media platform’s convenient and easy-to-use tools for posting content, which also enables not just news outlets but both—media organisations and individuals the ability to simplify and facilitate news sharing easily. For the average social media user, this can be done, for example, using the share buttons provided on news sites to your own account, or by “reposting” or “retweeting” and “liking” news content, depending on the Social media platform and it’s preferred functions. (Kümpel, Karnowski & Keyling, 2015). An example of this is a series of departing tweets from Barack Obama thanking everyone for his time as the President of the United States, which received 788K likes and over 300K retweets as the tweet reached people instantaneously worldwide.
Evolution of Social News Sharing
Although Social media is considered a relatively new trend in the world of communication, people have always had the want and need to communicate with one another somehow when face-to-face wasn’t possible. If we look at one of the easiest methods of communication, written correspondence, the earliest forms of the postal service date all the way back to 550 BC. This primitive form of news delivery service has since grown drastically to what the popular social news sharing is today.
1792: Telegraph enables people to be able to deliver messages over a large distance, however, the messages had to remain short.
1831: Australia’s longest running newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald was first published, initially as a weekly, it became a daily newspaper in late 1840.
1865: Pneumatic post utilised underground pressurised air tubes to carry capsules filled with information from one place to another.
1890 & 1891: The telephone and radio were developed during this time and allowed people to communicate large messages across great distances instantaneously.
Technology began to change at a rapid pace during the 20th century, with the innovation of computers and the internet, which changed the way in which information was shared worldwide. Sharing information online started to move away from the simplicity of mass communication discourse and ideologies as argued by van Dijk (1985). Social Network Sites (SNS) were born. boyd & Ellison (2007) define a SNS as web-based services that allow individuals to achieve three things; to construct a public or semi-public profile in a bounded system, articulate a list of users of whom they share a connection with, and also to view and transverse their list of connections and this made by others within a particular system.
The first recognisable social media site, Six Degrees, was created in 1997. This SNS allowed individuals to create a user profile account and connect with others. This was followed by the first blogging sites a few years later which gained quickly popularity, creating a social media sensation which is still used today. Blogging caused the world of social media to explode, creating other SNS to be rapidly developed such as MySpace followed closely by Youtube. Then came the big ones that we use for online news sharing to this day, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, which all enable the bridging between online and offline social networks (boyd & Ellison, 2007).
Just as people threw away their bulky impractical vinyls for tapes, then CDs, and now we only need a little application on our phone to be able to listen to our music, is the same reason why newspapers are quickly dying. Why would people go buy a paper when they can just click a button on their phone? They wouldn’t and don’t. Instead, they like, follow and actively share current information online. No longer having to wait for the paper to only come in the morning with the following days news, no they can remain fully up-to-date in the world around them by checking online.
What are the benefits of sharing news online?
There are many different reasons as to why people share news online and through their social media accounts. For instance, a person may “retweet” a tweet from a famous basketballer if they are interested in the sport and think their followers would also be interested in this content, it’s seen as both culturally and socially acceptable within their online sphere. Twitter is also popular in academia, news is often shared for political and economical purposes, this may partly be due to the fact that it has the ability to easily “retweet” and “like” content that is then shared to others, allowing individuals to gain more exposure. Twitter also generally plays a particularly important role in news sharing research, studies investigating news sharing networks seem to be almost exclusively focused on this platform. Again, this may be due to the fact that Twitter is the most accessible platform for scholars (Kümpel, Karnowski, and Keyling, 2015).
Social media has also become an important asset for businesses, it allows them to engage with their consumers, get to know them a little better, and increase online traffic for products. Also by costumers sharing companies news online, it enables businesses to have greater reach and thus gain more exposure and costumers. Kümpel, Karnowski, and Keyling (2015) argue that is this because whilst individuals’ own news sharing behaviour may increase their involvement and interest in news topics … the observation of other people’s news sharing activities leads to more (incidental) news exposure and, ideally, to confrontation with other opinions and ideas. Creating greater economical growth for businesses through the use of individuals sharing information online, not only can it benefit companies but it can also allow for sponsorship for those who have a big following to promote certain products. This concept has grown so much that people who do this or have ads on their YouTube channel make a profit and are labelled as ‘influencers’. Influencers are often seen as ‘micro-celebrities‘ who through self-branding with a marketing perspective achieved via the practices and phenomena, have become famous (Khamis, Ang & Welling 2016).
Issues with sharing information online
With anything that allows for benefits to some, there is going to be something else that is impacted, the paradoxic nature of sharing news online is no different. The commodification, lack of diversity and the debate over the regulations of social media are constantly bought up with the issues on the internet. Dwyer & Martin (2017) highlight these issues in their article about political economics of social media news sharing, investigating how key platforms and their allied analytics services are transforming reporting and distribution with implications for news media diversity.
Commodification in social media news sharing involves the acts of link promotion, liking, favouriting, voting, tagging, bookmarking and, most often, re-posting and commenting on news items, all of which can be used for economical growth. This is even more important for journalists and media outlets as sharing their information, allows them to have a greater reach and generate more traffic than what their publication website alone could do (Dwyer & Martin, 2017). Because this commodity is placed on the sharing of online information, it creates issues when it comes to who owns the rights to what is posted?Do they give actual usage rights to individuals? On which basis do they plan to reward creators? Who controls what is posted? Or regulates when something should be taken down? (Aigrain, 2012). It enables content to be posted, which could is considered hate speech, causing even more issues to those who see it, for example the New Zealander shooter posted him on a Facebook live feed earlier this year, although it was eventually taken down for obvious reasons. This isn’t just a one time occurrence as we know ISIS is known for using the internet and social media to spread messages and propaganda to get more members.
Then there is the use of algorithms which create greater personalisation online for individuals, as they show you what you’ve already seen and searched, limiting the diversity of the information you are shown. Dwyer & Martin (2017) argue that this impact of platform curation algorithms on agency and exposure diversity is severe. In news sharing many factors mitigate exposure diversity, not least the Facebook news feed algorithm ranking, which only shows you content of those whom you often connect with through messenger, likes and comments. Search engines are also included with according to Halavais (2013) more than 50% of people use Google as of July 2007. This diversity is even more limited when you consider that the top 5 search results get 67% of the clicks, while the next 5 results only get 4%.
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