The Small, Disloyal Fake News Audience: The Role of Audience Availability in Fake News Consumption

New Media & Society, Forthcoming

29 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2018

See all articles by Jacob Nelson

Jacob Nelson

Northwestern University, School of Communication, Media, Technology and Society Program

Harsh Taneja

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Date Written: January 23, 2018

Abstract

In light of the recent U.S. election, many fear that “fake news” has become a force of enormous reach and influence within the news media environment. We draw on well-established theories of audience behavior to argue that the online fake news audience, like most niche content, would be a small subset of the total news audience, especially those with high availability. By examining online visitation data across mobile and desktop platforms in the months leading up to and following the 2016 presidential election, we indeed find the fake news audience comprises a small, disloyal group of heavy internet users. We also find that social network sites play an outsized role in generating traffic to fake news. With this revised understanding, we revisit the democratic implications of the fake news crisis.

Keywords: fake news, news audience, political communication, 2016 election, social media

Suggested Citation

Nelson, Jacob and Taneja, Harsh, The Small, Disloyal Fake News Audience: The Role of Audience Availability in Fake News Consumption (January 23, 2018). New Media & Society, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3107731

Jacob Nelson (Contact Author)

Northwestern University, School of Communication, Media, Technology and Society Program ( email )

70 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Harsh Taneja

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ( email )

601 E John St
Champaign, IL 61820
United States

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