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The influence of UK news outlets in the 2017 UK General Election

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The news media’s role in the flow of news content on Twitter during the 2017 UK General Election has been analysed by a team from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) and the Department of Computer Science.

The researchers – including Jun Zhao and Jason R C Nurse from the department and Sílvia Majó-Vázquez and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen from the Reuters Institute – examined the role of long-established brands (legacy media) and the more recently created digital-born outlets on Twitter, by looking at their tweeting activities and influences. To do so, they analysed 4.26 million tweets between May and June 2017, starting by assessing the distribution of news content throughout the electoral campaign cycle. They then ranked the providers of news-related tweets according to their tweeting activities and retweet counts. These measures of news production were combined with audience engagement (the number of mentions and replies to each tweet) to offer a more nuanced understanding of the outlets’ influence over audience during the electoral event.

The analysis showed that UK broadcasters and national newspapers were dominant in both the overall production of news content on Twitter and in attracting the highest levels of engagement from audiences. The case was not totally clear cut, however, with some small pure digital outlets exhibiting a very high level of influence on Twitter conversations around the election, some of which are at the extreme of the ideological spectrum. These new media outlets gained much higher levels of audience engagement than would have been anticipated given their overall audience reach, as did brands such as The Economist. Many regional and local media organisations generated little engagement on Twitter, despite having a closer relationship with the public.

The research has been published in a RISJ fact sheet, and can be read online at: http://www.digitalnewsreport.org/publications/2017/digital-born-and-legacy-news-media-on-twitter-during-the-uk-general-election/. This is the third fact sheet that this group of researchers from the department and the RISJ have produced ahead of major political events in Europe. Previously, they studied the role of French news media during the elections in the country in April and Germany where the elections took place in September this year.

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