Platformisation of news in ten countries – Insights from D2.2
Corresponding to the task 2.2 of EUMEPLAT Work Package 2, this deliverable aims to analyze the Platformization of news in the 10 countries included in the project and assess how and to what extent Europeanization is part of the debate about Europe on social media. With that aim the team from ISCTE worked with all 10 partner universities to design and implement a methodological framework to collect, categorize and analyze the most relevant social media posts in all 10 countries in September to November 2021. This collaborative research confirms the role of social media platforms in channeling the debate about european issues, documents the struggle of news media to dispute the attention of users with other kinds of actors on those platforms and indicates that Europeanization is not a central part of the debate about Europe.
Task 2.2 of Eumpelat’s Work Package 2 was intended to explore the concept of Europeanization against the backdrop of the Platformization of News in the 10 countries contributing to the project. To address that challenge a methodological framework was developed with the aim of selecting a sample of content from social media platforms and analyzing it to explore issues related to both Platformization and Europeanization. Specifically, the research wanted to answer two related questions: which are the most relevant issues about Europe being discussed on social media; and which debate is taking place at the intersection of top-down and bottom-up use of social media platforms by both news media and non-news media users.
We operationalized the research by collecting a relevant sample of social media publications from three social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – about four dimensions, all related to Europe: Europe overall, Health, Economy and Climate. On the one hand, audiences increasingly receive their news from social media platforms and, on the other hand, those selected dimensions correspond to the major concerns of European citizens, as expressed in the Eurobarometer 93, from the summer of 2020.
To analyze and categorize the sample of social media publications in each country, we developed a codebook similar for all countries, allowing the comparison between all countries in all dimensions, alongside specific country reports produced by each country. The deliverable 2.2 of Work Package 2 is the result of that collective effort, comprising an overall analysis of the data (Part I) and a specific analysis of the results for each country (Part II).
From the collection and analysis of the data, it stands out that news-like content is but a small part of all the publications made on social media platforms in one given period of time. Although we collected some very large datasets – depending on the country, the platform and the dimension – those are just a small fraction of all the content that circulated on social media during that period. Which means that news is not the only mode of communication and information that is being “platformized”.
However, our research also confirms that news media content, professionally produced, continues to play a pivotal role in the debate and discussion generated on social media about the pressing issues of the day. In particular, news media content tends to be a source of information for the further discussion of those issues by general users of social media.
On the other hand, our research also concludes that political agents are a relevant actor in the information landscape on social media, regarding the dimensions in our analysis. On Twitter both political agents and media agents are dominant on the “conversation” about these issues, to some extent confirming this social media platform as a sort of political and media microcosmos where much of the political struggle – and the information that feeds it – play out. Facebook, on the other hand, is presented by the data as a more popular platform in most countries, both in regards to the number of users and the type of content it carries. This is a significant distinction between these two major social media platforms that our research asserts.
Congruent to that, Facebook is also the platform of election for populist politicians in most countries, suggesting the popularity of this platform and the engaging configuration of its algorithms sets the stage for a larger reach of the populist political message.
Along that vein, although news media usually have large numbers of followers in either of the social media platforms analyzed, their engagement numbers are significantly lower than those of general users. This has important consequences for the news media, who have to fight for attention with other non-media users in these social media platforms. News media could be facing the day-to-day challenge of competing with compelling popular content for the attention of the users whilst maintaining its editorial standards.
In what relates to Europeanization, the first assertion our research allows is that there is not a lot of discussion about Europeanization on social media platforms in most countries. Although all the posts in our sample are Europe-related, few correspond to what we considered “Europeanization”.
When content in our research can be considered as pertaining in some way to the dimensions of Europeanization, those references are mostly of a normative nature, addressing the European institutions or the European law and governance. Even when the political and economic dimensions of Europe are addressed, more often than not that comes in conjunction with references to the assistance from Europe to each country, particularly in the most southern countries. References to European social movements, European values and European culture(s) are rare and suggest a somewhat “utilitarian” view of Europe. Plus, whatever the dimension, many of the references to Europe and Europeanization in our research are used as a leverage for country-specific political struggles.
In sum, our research seems to confirm the role of social media platforms in channeling the debate about European issues, documents the struggle of news media to dispute the attention of users with other kinds of actors on those platforms and indicates that Europeanization is not a central part of the debate about Europe.
Download the Deliverable 2.2 “Platformisation of News in 10 Countries”