Social News Sharing (Question 1)
Since its inception, technology continues to become an integral part of our everyday lives. Internet innovations have taken the world by storm, consequently influencing our mode of interacting, and communicating. Information sharing sites have become among the most massively studied topics, whereby scholars are mostly interested in the influence that this phenomenon has on the society, including to interpersonal relations, political participation, people’s viewpoints on various aspects of life as well as to media organizations and online journalism. Subject to this, this essay gives an account of the genesis of social news sharing, the benefits of its transformative effects in social, political and economic domains. Also it identifies who controls the key business in this field.
Kümpel, Karnowski and Keyling (2015) have clearly explained what social news sharing means in two parts by defining news sharing as the deliberate action of allowing a defined set of people access to various kinds of information through social media sites where posting and recommending elements are used, and social media applications founded on the internet which allow the sharing of user generated content. Further, it is an indisputable fact that social media is increasingly becoming the pillar of digital news production and distribution. Due to the convenience and user friendliness aspects of the tools for sharing content, social media is increasingly preferred to mainstream media channels by individuals as well as organizations. Statistics indicate an ever increasing number of people accessing and sharing news through social media. According to a recent research by the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of Americans, about 67 per cent, report that they access most of their news from social media, with 2 out 10 people doing so very often (Shearer & GottFried 2017). These researchers had concluded earlier on in 2011 while describing the relationship between content sharing and social media platforms that news sharing and searching are the two most important developments of our time enabled mainly by the internet technology. Social media referrals to accessing news have superseded the online news sites through direct access or the search engines.
Social news sharing began about two decades ago after the influx of mobile devices such as the smartphones and tablets, and the mobile internet technologies among vast populations (Rose, Eldridge & Chapin, 2015). This was followed by the origin of social media sites, with the most popular being Facebook and twitter. Accordingly, Facebook began as a platform for campus students to share content. Its evolution occurred the more it spread and expanded to various campuses, other states and cities and eventually became national and international. It seized being a trend among students and developed into a major communication channel. Its founders have increased in age and maturity, a transformation that goes hand in hand with their use of Facebook. The initial discussions involving relationship status and upcoming parties are gradually being replaced by commentaries and links to breaking news or market trends. As Park, Kee and Valenzuela observed in 2009, as the topics of interest change among Facebook users, the implications are mostly felt by communication and media industries. Typically, what was known as a platform for social relations and substitute news sharing platform is now the leader of the news industry. The figure below shows the evolving roles of twitter and Facebook regarding news sharing.
According to Trub (2015), these facts and revelations can be explained through the lenses of various theories, including the theories of diffusion of innovations, social influence, interactivity and political participation, as well as the Uses and Gratifications concept. The spread of news can be explained from the angle of being an innovation, which means that it is transferred across individuals of a particular community over time. Also, social influence supposedly plays an important role in addressing the impact of constructs such as tie strength on the news sharing behavior, since it deals with how people tend to get influenced and follow the behaviors and traits of other people. The interactivity approach suggests that users of social media platforms should take advantage of the social news sharing. Political participation is mainly used to symbolize an outcome of social news sharing. The gratifications concept mainly elaborates on the news sharing intention as well as the motives and inhibitors of news sharing.
As with everything else, every innovation has its two sides, one that positively affects the society and another that brings negative influence. So, some of the negative effects of social news sharing as Gil de Zuniga, Jung and Valenzuela (2012) note include anyone can now build a news website and act like content creators, an aspect that can see the spread of raw and unreliable information. Also, following like-minded friends divides the society and facilitates the spread of fake information such as political propagandas which affects political parties and aspirants. Nonetheless, social news sharing has altered the channels of knowledge and information among the audience, how they receive information, process and respond to it. Various people have become more exposed and interested in news, making it a daily tendency of wanting to be participating online. This way, people access even information that clash with other people’s opinions. Research suggests that quite a large segment of the population already is exposed to information they may not have gotten otherwise, substantially changing news conceptualization in an online environment.
Some of the remarkable benefits include increasing political participation, creative engagement and cross promotion. According to Trub (2015), it is observed that social media users actively log in and out to ensure they are informed about the developments and emerging issues across the world. They access breaking news on these sites, comment and share what they feel other users who follow them should know, and Twitter leads in this while Facebook follows. Further, despite them not being as active as on Twitter regarding breaking news, most of the users of Facebook agree that they comment and post on a trending news piece, especially posts about the government and politics. Further, news producers leverage this opportunity to make business news reach more people and more often. Their only trick is about knowing what the users really want to find when they refresh their timelines. Based on this knowledge, they repurpose news on social media channels to supply the audiences with what they demand. Most of these social media users claim that they regularly log in to check business news on their timeline. Constantly reminding audience content is a big step in converting potential customers into real buyers.
Thus the beneficiaries of social news sharing are the consumers, businesses and the social media sites. According to Holmes (2018), social media has become a dominant business tool now more than ever. Facebook reported an increase in earnings (50 per cent) growth from 2017 to 2018. Its ads are very popular given its ability to reach even the adolescents, who are considered to be the customers of tomorrow and their tendency to spend up to 9 hours a day on the site. Its platform is allegedly running out of space for the ads even when they are charged more highly than ever. Notably, the platform has already reached more than two billion users, which almost equals a third of the whole world. Therefore, businesses manage to drive traffic through Facebook, and the platform also benefits.
Twitter is the most renowned platform for social news sharing; hence it controls the business for this industry. According to Kümpel, Karnowski and Keyling (2015), twitter is also among the massively studied social media sites. Facebook, YouTube, Digg, Flickr and Google Plus are less used by mainstream media houses for first-hand reporting. Twitter allows first-hand reporting of news hence access of real-time coverage of emerging occurrences, Links and photos are easy to share, the discussion of on-going events is facilitated by its structure, and through its interface which monitors user activities through hash tags and key words, twitter gives access to more data than others.
In conclusion, the relationship between news and the social media creates a cultural, economic and political phenomenon that had not been predicted. It has created a social element that allows the young people, who do not check for news from the mainstream media, to stay on top of current events, created visions, developed the platform where people avoid embracing differing points of view by sticking to their social circle of friends with similar standpoints about many aspects of life. It is both a news creator and a great source of news, and the dimension is has directed news is now very vital. More voices can be heard, more stories can be told, and more people are informed. Typically, it has made the society to be enriched with information. The most popular social media sites used for information sharing are Twitter and Facebook, with the former maintaining a top position in the industry despite Facebook having the most users. The beneficiaries of social news sharing include the social media platforms, consumers, digital news productions and businesses. Some of the negative influences include the spread of fake news and political propagandas, which affect political aspirants.
Gil de Zuniga, H., Jung, N., & Valenzuela, S. (2012). Social media use for news and individuals’ social capital, civic engagement and political participation. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 17(3), 319-336.
Holmes, R. January, 2018. 2018’s Biggest Social Media Trends For Business. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/ryanholmes/2018/01/02/2018s-biggest-social-media-trends-for-business/#4aae526a5623
Kümpel, A. S., Karnowski, V., & Keyling, T. (2015). News sharing in social media: A review of current research on news sharing users, content, and networks. Social media+ society, 1(2), 2056305115610141.
Park, N., Kee, K. F., & Valenzuela, S. (2009). Being immersed in social networking environment: Facebook groups, uses and gratifications, and social outcomes. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12(6), 729-733.
Rose, K., Eldridge, S., & Chapin, L. (2015). The internet of things: An overview. The Internet Society (ISOC), 1-50.
Shearer, E. & GottFried, J., 2017. New use across social media platforms 2017. Pew Research Center-Journalism and media. Retrieved from http://www.journalism.org/2017/09/07/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2017/
Trub, V. July, 2015. The evolution of News on social media. Agility-PR solutions. Retrieved from https://www.agilitypr.com/pr-news/social-media/the-evolution-of-news-on-social-media/