People increasingly rely on distributed forms of discovery like search engines and social media for finding and accessing news. Do they know where the news they consume in these ways come from? In a new article, Antonis Kalogeropoulos, Richard Fletcher, and I look more closely at this question, based on data from a tracking study we’ve written about previously with Nic Newman (in this report). We find that users are far more likely to correctly attribute a story to a news brand if they accessed it directly rather than via search or social, but with significant variation depending on whether it is their main brand (one they are already loyal to), how much of an article they read, as well as interest in news.
The “main brand” finding is particularly important for news organizations as it underlines how important it is to build a strong brand and a loyal audience to really make the most of the opportunities for increased reach via for example search and social, just as the finding that longer reading time helps with correct brand attribution is important, if people find your journalism interesting enough to actually engage with it, they are significantly more likely to remember who produced it.
Full article here, abstract below.
The digital media environment is increasingly characterized by distributed discovery, where media users find content produced by news media via platforms like search engines and social media. Here, we measure whether online news users correctly attribute stories they have accessed to the brands that have produced them. We call this “news brand attribution.” Based on a unique combination of passive tracking followed by surveys served to a panel of users after they had accessed news by identifiable means (direct, search, social) and controlling for demographic and media consumption variables, we find that users are far more likely to correctly attribute a story to a news brand if they accessed it directly rather than via search or social. We discuss the implications of our findings for the business of journalism, for our understanding of source cues in an increasingly distributed media environment and the potential of the novel research design developed.