Editors Versus Audiences Facing News

What does the reader want? Hard news, soft news, or general news? A major study of Spanish-language news appearing on a news aggregation service between 2006-2015 suggests that hard news is the audience’s overwhelming preference on the one hand, but when it comes to reading it then one’s preference can change!

The study, featured in this article, looked at a sample of 8,000 news stories (out of a potential 156,800 items) and the engagement of site visitors who ‘voted up’ a story, commented and visited its referenced link. In all just over half (50.2%) of users preferred hard news, followed by soft news (30.9%) and latterly hard news (18.9%) when it came to voting for a story, yet when it came to actually following links soft news was preferred to hard news. Such a difference in opinion and activity can pose issues to journalists and editors when it comes to prioritising content and this finding supports long-established practical concerns.

Methodology for the study appears sound and well-motivated. It was particularly interesting to note how a very small group of users (41 people) were responsible for contributing 15.6% of all news stories, suggesting that a very hardcore element of users could be influencing news coverage. It may also suggest they had a particular hobby!

The article was well-written, clearly referenced and engaging. It could act as a great springboard for additional comparative research, should data be available, to ascertain if the findings are a cultural or geographical anomaly, or indicative of wider trends.

Urrutia, S., Zalbidea, B., Camacho, I. and Pastor, J.M., 2019. Editors versus audiences facing news: Is this discrepancy also repeated on social news networks?. Journalism, OnlineFirst doi: 10.1177/1464884919853740

A post-publication review of this article that appears on Publons