How social data can pop filter bubbles and reach new audiences

August 17, 2017

Written by NewsWhip
social media monitoring filter bubble

This is the year of listening for journalists. Here’s how to use social data and headline analysis to pop the dreaded filter bubble, and reach diverse audiences.

How many headlines of the past month have focused on Donald Trump and his administration? U.S. politics dominates the news cycle, and our data reveals that this trend is only going to continue.

In the last week of July alone, English-language articles around Trump drove more than 56 million engagements across four major social networks — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Looking into NewsWhip Analytics, we saw that web content around the Donald drove more than 221 million social media engagements in July alone. Compare this with his predecessor, Former U.S. President Barack Obama a year prior. 

In this era of social publishing, we need a “trump card”, a strategy for navigating the Trump news cycle and making sure you’re meeting your audience’s needs and interests, even if they’re different than the people in your newsrooms.  

There has been a great deal of reflection as to how reporters should be thinking more about the audiences that they’re writing for, without pandering or patronizing. HuffPost, for example, has decided to send reporters on a tour through middle America

At our WhipSmart conference in June, experts from CNN, the Associated Press, and other newsrooms told us about their efforts as well. Mark Davies, ‎the global news manager at Associated Press told us that they “encourage people to challenge assumptions” to keep diverse views in the newsroom.

“You’re telling so many different stories and you can’t do that if everyone thinks the same,” added Ashley Codianni, the director of social publishing at CNN. 

So how can publishers and content creators bust through filter bubbles? We look at a few ways social data can help.

1. Go beyond your own bubble

Recently, BuzzFeed looked at the Facebook news feeds of a conservative mother and her liberal daughter. The extreme differences of their news feeds surprised them both, surfacing vastly different content for each of them. 

When we spoke with Jestin Coler, a famed fake news creator, he told us, “I had separate Facebook profiles just for this reason, one for the left, and one for the right. And there was just stuff on both that would anger anybody.”

To start breaking out of the filter bubble, look at news sources with different political leanings and where people are engaging. If we look into NewsWhip Spike, we can already see how different news sources portray the same story.

We can also see these opinionated sites drove substantial social media engagements for this story. If we look at partisan publishers against some mainstream media sources, we can see that hyper-political publishers are enormous contenders for winning an audience’s attention.

So how can you stay ahead of what’s engaging with these people? Look at what stories are being shared from a multitude of news sources. In NewsWhip Spike, we can take a birds-eye look at the topics are driving the most interest for these audiences recently.

For right-leaning publishers in July, their audiences were most engaged around politics converging with celebrities, Islam, and transgender rights. Let’s contrast this with July’s top stories of left-leaning publishers.

For left-leaning publishers, the top engaging stories were around topics like racism, happenings in congress, and criticisms of Trump and his supporters.

2. Compare headlines around specific topics

In our emotion and audience building panel at WhipSmart, Renan Borelli of MTV News cited using  Spike to compare how competitors covered a specific story. 

We can do this to figure out how big topics in today’s news cycle are being represented to different audiences. Compare the top stories around immigration, as written by right-leaning and left-leaning publishers.

For right-leaning publishers, their most engaging stories were focused on illegal immigration and the state of sanctuary cities.

For left-leaning publishers, the top stories were about the impact of deportation. We can also see that this is a topic that is driving significantly more social media engagements on stories from right-leaning publishers, showing that the right-leaning audience is more passionate perhaps than the left.

3. Present facts

More than ever, readers crave journalism that they can trust.  In our recent blog on the most trusted publishers, we saw that these publishers don’t present articles with emotional commentary. 

For publishers like Teen Vogue and VICE, they’re seeing a surge of engagements on their political coverage, by laying out the facts directly without editorial commentary.

Again, let’s stack up some headlines of hyper-political publishers around a recent story vs. objective publishers and see how they stack up. Below is how mainstream media is seeing engagements around the Charlottesville riots.

And here’s how left-leaning vs. right-leaning publishers have seen engagements on their coverage.

The politicized publishers rely more on incendiary headlines, while the mainstream media’s headlines simply state facts.

As to not alienate your readers from diverse backgrounds, it’s worth remaining objective. Facebook has already announced moves to rank sensationalist, clickbait stories and stories from untrustworthy stories lower in the news feed. Good journalism is winning the day.

4. Embrace transparency

At WhipSmart, we asked if the media itself now had a role in the news. Across our panel, the answer was yes. Liz Heron, of HuffPost, the New York Times, and Facebook, said, “We need to explain to people why we do the things we do them.”

“It’s all about transparency,” Mark Davies of the AP said. “We have a very strict code of news values and ethics and that stresses transparency.”

One of the AP’s top performing pieces has been a transcript of their interview with Trump after his first 100 days in office. Davies believed this is the content that builds trust, “anything that has that feel of authenticity that people can make their mind up without being told an opinion.”

In the age of social publishing, journalists can’t afford to be oblique. More than ever, we’ve seen publishers like Odyssey Online, INSIDER, and News and Guts building out communities around their content and encouraging discussion. No matter what your content focuses on, it’s crucial to know what your audience believes and resonates with, even if it differs from your newsroom.

For a comparison of different partisan or regional publishers and their trending stories right now, check out NewsWhip Spike.  

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