News sharing on apps is more about social ties than spreading the news

New research by Antonis Kalegoropoulos of the University of Liverpool compared news sharing habits of mobile messaging application users in four countries: US, UK, Germany, and Brazil.

Employing comparative and mixed methods, the study had three questions to answer: to understand the profile of the users who shared news, the types of news they shared, and why messaging apps were increasingly used. In accordance with previous research, closed apps were increasingly favored due to the control vis a vis privacy and the need to share they offer.  

Why share, and what is shared?

There were no differences between the countries on the types of news or why messaging apps were chosen for news sharing. Across all countries, users preferred the privacy offered by closed apps such as Whatsapp over open news sharing on platforms like Facebook. 

The types of news were often dictated by the social context: even niche topics were chosen if they fitted the interests of the group. The main motivation was to increase social ties rather than amplifying the impact of a commonly interesting news story, the author found. 

Study suggests that non-Western use more frequent and political

When it comes to the types of users, there was a significant difference between the three Western, first-world countries (US, UK, and Germany) and Brazil. In the former three, the use was around 6-9% of the online population, and users were non-partisan, not interested in politics, and young. 

In contrast, in Brazil as much as 38% of online population share news, and the users were older, more likely to be interested in politics including political partisanship.

The article “Who shares news on mobile messaging applications, why and in what ways” was publisheed in Mobile Media & Communication (open access).Picture: Texting at Night by Becca Tapert, license Unsplash

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