The Impact of Social vs. Non-Social Referring Channels on Online News Consumption
Bar Gill S., Inbar Y., and Reichman, S. Forthcoming. “The Impact of Social vs. Non-Social Referral Sources on Online News Consumption”, Management Science.
66 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2018 Last revised: 30 Apr 2020
Date Written: February 7, 2018
The digitization of news markets has created a key role for online referring channels. This research combines field and lab experiments, and analysis of large-scale clickstream data, to study the effects of social versus non-social referral sources on news consumption in a referred news website visit. We propose that referring channels generate a new type of priming effect, denoted the referrer effect, as unique features of the referrer affect user behavior in a subsequent news visit. We find that social media referrals promote focused reading – visits with fewer articles, shorter durations, yet higher reading completion rates - compared to non-social referrals. Furthermore, social referrals decrease news sharing propensity, due to lower perceived novelty to peers of content discovered via social media. The results provide insights applicable to news outlets’ social media strategies, and speak to ongoing debates regarding biases arising from social media’s growing importance as an avenue for news consumption.
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