Exposure to News Grows Less Fragmented with an Increase in Mobile Access
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming
33 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2020 Last revised: 17 Oct 2020
Date Written: March 30, 2020
The abundance of media options is a central feature of today’s information environment. Many accounts, often based on analysis of desktop-only news use, suggest that this increased choice leads to audience fragmentation, ideological segregation, and echo-chambers with no crosscutting exposure. Contrary to many of those claims, this paper uses observational multi-platform data capturing both desktop and mobile use to demonstrate that co-exposure to diverse news is on the rise, and that ideological self-selection does not explain most of that co-exposure. We show that mainstream media outlets offer the common ground where ideologically diverse audiences converge online, though our analysis also reveals that more than half of the US online population consumes no online news, underlining the risk of increased information inequality driven by self-selection along lines of interest. For this study, we use an unprecedented combination of observed data from the US comprising a five-year time window and involving tens of thousands of panelists. Our dataset traces news consumption across different devices and unveils important differences in news diets when multi-platform or desktop-only access is used. We discuss the implications of our findings for how we think about the current communication environment, exposure to news, and ongoing attempts to limit the effects of misinformation.
Keywords: News consumption; selective exposure; audience fragmentation; media use; web tracking
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