The sites of major media organizations—CNN, USA Today, the Guardian, and others—provide the public with much of the online news they consume. But although a large proportion of the top stories these sites disseminate cover politics, international relations, and economics, users of these sites show a preference (as evidenced by the most viewed stories) for news about sports, crime, entertainment, and weather. In this book, Pablo Boczkowski and Eugenia Mitchelstein examine this gap and consider the implications for the media industry and democratic life in the digital age.
Drawing on analyses of more than 50,000 stories posted on twenty news sites in seven countries in North and South America and Western Europe, Boczkowski and Mitchelstein find that the gap in news preferences exists regardless of ideological orientation or national media culture. They show that it narrows in times of heightened political activity (including presidential elections or government crises) as readers feel compelled to inform themselves about public affairs but remains wide during times of normal political activity. Boczkowski and Mitchelstein also find that the gap is not affected by innovations in Web-native forms of storytelling such as blogs and user-generated content on mainstream news sites. Keeping the account of the news gap up to date, in the book’s coda they extend the analysis through the 2012 U.S. presidential election. Drawing upon these findings, the authors explore the news gap’s troubling consequences for the matrix that connects communication, technology, and politics in the digital age.
About the Authors
Pablo J. Boczkowski is Professor and Director of the Program in Media, Technology, and Society at Northwestern University. He is the author of Digitizing the News: Innovation in Online Newspapers (MIT Press) and News at Work: Imitation in an Age of Information Abundance.
Eugenia Mitchelstein is a PhD candidate in the Program in Media, Technology, and Society at Northwestern University.
“By analyzing news as a dynamic system, Boczkowski and Mitchelstein can analyze the gap between the preferences of producers and consumers of news, show why that matters for a democratic nation, and discuss how we might address the risks associated with that gap.”
—Clay Shirky, Associate Professor, New York University
“Boczkowski and Mitchelstein use a fascinating methodology to explore a digital-content divide they argue mirrors profoundly different preferences between news creators and news users. The News Gap looks at enduring questions in important new ways. It will surely spark terrific arguments about what stories journalists should tell—and how they should tell them—in an age where audience analytics reign.”
—Joseph Turow, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania
“Boczkowski and Mitchelstein fill an important gap in our knowledge of how news markets really work. Through analyses spanning twenty news sites in seven countries, they elegantly and effectively describe the discrepancies between the stories news sites feature prominently and the stories consumers actually choose to read, comment on, and share.”
—James T. Hamilton, Professor of Communication, Stanford University