Participation and Online News

We have now been tracking the extent to which consumers participate or engage with the news – typically in the form of commenting and sharing – for several years. This section explores how online news participation has changed over time, the factors that drive participation, and some of the motivations for sharing news content.

We already know that consumers from some countries participate in news coverage more than those from others. News participation is particularly popular in Southern European countries – such as Greece (86%), Spain (80%), Portugal (79%), and Italy (79%) – compared to Western and Northern Europe, and a minority activity in Japan (40%).

PROPORTION THAT SAY THEY ENGAGE IN SOME FORM OF NEWS PARTICIPATION DURING THE AVERAGE WEEK

Online news participation
TUR 90%
BRA 90%
GRE 86%
SPA 80%
POR 79%
POL 76%
ITA 76%
HUN 74%
CZE 73%
SWE 72%
IRE 72%
USA 71%
NOR 69%
DEN 69%
SUI 67%
FIN 66%
FRA 66%
CAN 65%
AUS 64%
AUT 64%
UK 60%
BEL 59%
KOR 58%
GER 55%
NLD 52%
JPN 40%
Q13. During an average week in which, if any, of the following ways do you share or participate in news coverage?
Base: Total sample in each country.
Note: News participation options are ‘share a news story via social media’, ‘share a news story via email’, ‘rate, like or favourite a news story’, ‘comment on a news story on social media’, ‘comment on a news story on a news website’, ‘write a blog on a news or political issue’, ‘post a news related picture/video to social media’, ‘post a news related picture/video to a news
website’, ‘vote in an online poll on a news website or social media’, ‘take part in a campaign around a news subject’, ‘talk online with friends/colleagues about a news story’,‘talk with friends face-to-face about a news story’.

Perhaps more surprising is the fact that, in most countries, sharing and commenting (whether onsite and offsite) has remained at broadly the same level since 2014. In France and the UK we see small increases, but in Finland, Denmark, and Germany there are even indications of a slight decline.

Even if we narrow the focus and look only at sharing and commenting on social media, we see a similar pattern. The growth in the number that use social media as a source of news (the lightly shaded columns on the charts overleaf) is outstripping what little growth there has been in sharing and commenting on the news. As a proportion of social media news users, participation is falling in most cases. Most of those that have recently started using social media as a source of news are doing so as passive consumers.

PROPORTION THAT SHARED AND COMMENTED ON A NEWS STORY ON SOCIAL MEDIA COMPARED TO THE PROPORTION THAT USE SOCIAL MEDIA AS A SOURCE OF NEWS – SHARING NEWS ON SOCIAL MEDIA

2014 use social media for news 2014 shared a news story on social media 2015 use social media for news 2015 shared a news story on social media 2016 use social media for news 2016 shared a news story on social media
Spain 30% 46% 34% 50% 34% 60%
Italy 35% 48% 30% 46% 31% 54%
US 22% 30% 21% 40% 25% 46%
France 11% 19% 18% 34% 20% 40%
UK 12% 23% 14% 36% 18% 35%
Finland 20% 37% 18% 40% 17% 45%
Denmark 17% 35% 19% 47% 17% 56%
Germany 13% 23% 13% 25% 12% 31%
Japan 8% 16% 9% 21% 9% 28%
Q3. Which, if any, of the following have you used in the last week as a source of news?
Q13. During an average week in which, if any, of the following ways do you share or participate in news coverage?

Base: Total 2014-2016 sample in each country

COMMENTING ON NEWS ON SOCIAL MEDIA

2014 use social media for news 2014 commented on a news story on social media 2015 use social media for news 2015 commented on a news story on social media 2016 use social media for news 2016 commented on a news story on social media
Spain 25% 46% 32% 50% 28% 60%
Italy 23% 48% 25% 46% 27% 54%
US 21% 30% 21% 40% 22% 46%
France 11% 19% 15% 34% 18% 40%
UK 13% 23% 13% 36% 14% 35%
Finland 16% 37% 16% 40% 14% 45%
Denmark 14% 35% 16% 47% 14% 56%
Germany 11% 23% 11% 25% 10% 31%
Japan 6% 16% 6% 21% 6% 28%
Q3. Which, if any, of the following have you used in the last week as a source of news?
Q13. During an average week in which, if any, of the following ways do you share or participate in news coverage?

Base: Total 2014-2016 sample in each country

Sharing and commenting on the news is still largely the province of a small group of dedicated and highly motivated users. In almost every country, those with the highest levels of interest in the news, and those who access news the most frequently (referred to by us as news lovers) are considerably more likely to comment or share on social media than either daily briefers or casual users (see p. 89 for more on how the terms are defined), especially after controlling for age and other factors.

Sharing and commenting are not the only ways of participating in online news coverage. Engagement with the news can range from very ‘active’ forms of participation, such as writing a blog on a news issue, taking part in a campaign group, or submitting a video to a news organisation, to relatively passive forms, including rating/liking a news story, or simply talking to friends and colleagues about the news online.

On this basis, we have developed an ordered segmentation based on levels of participation. As described in the following image, we define proactive participators as those that have made an original or public contribution to news coverage. Reactive participators are those that have contributed by disseminating existing news coverage or leaving feedback. Finally, passive consumers – who make up just under half (48%) of our whole sample – are those that do not actively participate in news coverage at all.

SEGMENTATION C: PARTICIPATION

participation
Q13. During an average week in which, if any, of the following ways do you share or participate in news coverage?
Base: Total sample in each country.

Consumers in Southern European countries – where social media are particularly popular – have a larger proportion who engage in the more active forms of online news participation. Elsewhere, including Asia, Scandinavia, and Western Europe, most online news users are passive, with a majority (as high as 75% in Japan) not engaging in ‘reactive’ participation such as sharing or rating news stories.

PROPORTION OF POSITIVE PARTICIPATORS, REACTIVE PARTICIPATORS, AND PASSIVE CONSUMERS IN EACH COUNTRY

Proactive Participators Reactive Participators Passive Consumers
TUR 61% 20% 19%
BRA 60% 20% 21%
GRE 48% 25% 27%
SPA 43% 24% 33%
ITA 42% 20% 39%
POR 38% 26% 36%
USA 35% 21% 44%
POL 34% 27% 39%
HUN 33% 26% 40%
IRE 32% 22% 46%
FRA 31% 22% 47%
CAN 30% 19% 51%
NOR 29% 18% 53%
AUS 29% 19% 53%
SWE 28% 16% 55%
SUI 26% 23% 50%
BEL 25% 21% 55%
CZE 25% 31% 44%
KOR 24% 19% 57%
UK 23% 16% 61%
DEN 22% 20% 58%
FIN 22% 19% 59%
AUT 22% 23% 55%
NLD 21% 13% 65%
GER 18% 17% 64%
JPN 13% 12% 75%
Segmentation C: Participation.
Base: Total sample in each country.

Not surprisingly, differences in degrees of participation are also heavily influenced by frequency of access and interest in the news. News lovers are more likely to also be proactive participators than casual users or daily briefers. Trust in the news is also a significant factor in most countries, with those with low levels of trust in the news slightly more likely to engage in the more active forms of participation. For example, in the US around a third (32%) of those with a high degree of trust in the news are positive participators, compared to 42% of those with low trust.

Participation may also be motivated by a desire to correct what those with low trust see as falsehood or distortion. This theory is lent weight by a recent study of news commenting in the US by the Engaging News Project at the University of Texas at Austin. 1 Their data show that, of the many reasons why people comment on the news, some of the most frequently mentioned revolve around attempts to correct or verify information, and might typically be underpinned by low trust. For example, over a third of commenters (35%) said that they do this to ‘correct inaccuracies or misinformation’.

WHY PEOPLE COMMENT ON THE NEWS IN THE UNITED STATES

why comment
Source: https://engagingnewsproject.org/research/survey-of-commenters-and-comment-readers

As with commenting, users have many different reasons and motivations for sharing the news. On balance, our data suggest that people usually share news stories because they in some way ‘approve’ of the coverage. But, in the five countries where we asked respondents about their reasons for sharing the news, most people said that half the time they share because they approve, and half the time because they disapprove.

PROPORTION THAT SAID THEY MOSTLY SHARE NEWS STORIES BECAUSE THEY APPROVE OF THE COVERAGE

Almost always disapprove Mostly disapprove Half and half Mostly approve Almost always approve
Finland 2% 8% 37% 33% 13%
USA 3% 6% 52% 25% 10%
Australia 3% 6% 50% 28% 8%
Korea 1% 7% 55% 29% 3%
UK 4% 9% 51% 23% 6%
Q13i. You said that you share news content during an average week. Do you tend to do this because you approve or disapprove of the coverage?
Base: All who shared a news story in the last week: Finland = 453, US = 807, Australia = 573, Korea = 380, UK = 487.
Note: Those who answered “Don’t know” are not shown.

  1. http://engagingnewsproject.org