News in China’s New Information Environment: Dissemination Patterns, Opinion Leaders and News Commentary on Weibo
19 Pages Posted: 1 May 2013 Last revised: 9 Jun 2013
Date Written: April 29, 2013
The contemporary Internet is a rapidly changing, terse and media-rich environment based on a multitude of individual social connections, characterized by social networking sites, such a Facebook, and microblogging sites, such as Twitter. While there has been a significant amount of research on Twitter, very little has been conducted on Weibo, which dominates the Chinese market.
In this paper, networks of news dissemination and commentary are analyzed for randomly selected news stories from Weibo’s top news providers. The extent and type of dissemination network, the length of retweet chains, the identity of influential opinion leaders, the relationship between retweeting and commenting, and the nature of audience comments are examined for the 50 stories. These results are compared to similar research on Twitter.
It was found that retweeting and commentary on news stories is more prevalent on Weibo, with news stories traveling further from their source than has been previously seen in Twitter research. An analysis of influential users highlighted the importance of Weibo as both an information provider and a distribution platform, and of robot accounts in news forwarding. It was found that individual opinion leaders tend to be most influential when they forward information that matches their area of expertise. Finally, levels and type of news commentary were analyzed, exhibiting large scale discussions at the site of the original post that act as a forum for discussion in a way that Twitter does not.
Keywords: Weibo, China, Internet, microblogging, social media, networks, news, journalism, online
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