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Comparisons of Popularity- and Expert-Based News Recommendations: Similarities and Importance

인기도 기반의 온라인 추천 뉴스 기사와 전문 편집인 기반의 지면 뉴스 기사의 유사성과 중요도 비교

  • Received : 2014.03.27
  • Accepted : 2014.05.20
  • Published : 2014.06.30

Abstract

As mobile devices that can be connected to the Internet have spread and networking has become possible whenever/wherever, the Internet has become central in the dissemination and consumption of news. Accordingly, the ways news is gathered, disseminated, and consumed have changed greatly. In the traditional news media such as magazines and newspapers, expert editors determined what events were worthy of deploying their staffs or freelancers to cover and what stories from newswires or other sources would be printed. Furthermore, they determined how these stories would be displayed in their publications in terms of page placement, space allocation, type sizes, photographs, and other graphic elements. In turn, readers-news consumers-judged the importance of news not only by its subject and content, but also through subsidiary information such as its location and how it was displayed. Their judgments reflected their acceptance of an assumption that these expert editors had the knowledge and ability not only to serve as gatekeepers in determining what news was valuable and important but also how to rank its value and importance. As such, news assembled, dispensed, and consumed in this manner can be said to be expert-based recommended news. However, in the era of Internet news, the role of expert editors as gatekeepers has been greatly diminished. Many Internet news sites offer a huge volume of news on diverse topics from many media companies, thereby eliminating in many cases the gatekeeper role of expert editors. One result has been to turn news users from passive receptacles into activists who search for news that reflects their interests or tastes. To solve the problem of an overload of information and enhance the efficiency of news users' searches, Internet news sites have introduced numerous recommendation techniques. Recommendations based on popularity constitute one of the most frequently used of these techniques. This popularity-based approach shows a list of those news items that have been read and shared by many people, based on users' behavior such as clicks, evaluations, and sharing. "most-viewed list," "most-replied list," and "real-time issue" found on news sites belong to this system. Given that collective intelligence serves as the premise of these popularity-based recommendations, popularity-based news recommendations would be considered highly important because stories that have been read and shared by many people are presumably more likely to be better than those preferred by only a few people. However, these recommendations may reflect a popularity bias because stories judged likely to be more popular have been placed where they will be most noticeable. As a result, such stories are more likely to be continuously exposed and included in popularity-based recommended news lists. Popular news stories cannot be said to be necessarily those that are most important to readers. Given that many people use popularity-based recommended news and that the popularity-based recommendation approach greatly affects patterns of news use, a review of whether popularity-based news recommendations actually reflect important news can be said to be an indispensable procedure. Therefore, in this study, popularity-based news recommendations of an Internet news portal was compared with top placements of news in printed newspapers, and news users' judgments of which stories were personally and socially important were analyzed. The study was conducted in two stages. In the first stage, content analyses were used to compare the content of the popularity-based news recommendations of an Internet news site with those of the expert-based news recommendations of printed newspapers. Five days of news stories were collected. "most-viewed list" of the Naver portal site were used as the popularity-based recommendations; the expert-based recommendations were represented by the top pieces of news from five major daily newspapers-the Chosun Ilbo, the JoongAng Ilbo, the Dong-A Daily News, the Hankyoreh Shinmun, and the Kyunghyang Shinmun. In the second stage, along with the news stories collected in the first stage, some Internet news stories and some news stories from printed newspapers that the Internet and the newspapers did not have in common were randomly extracted and used in online questionnaire surveys that asked the importance of these selected news stories. According to our analysis, only 10.81% of the popularity-based news recommendations were similar in content with the expert-based news judgments. Therefore, the content of popularity-based news recommendations appears to be quite different from the content of expert-based recommendations. The differences in importance between these two groups of news stories were analyzed, and the results indicated that whereas the two groups did not differ significantly in their recommendations of stories of personal importance, the expert-based recommendations ranked higher in social importance. This study has importance for theory in its examination of popularity-based news recommendations from the two theoretical viewpoints of collective intelligence and popularity bias and by its use of both qualitative (content analysis) and quantitative methods (questionnaires). It also sheds light on the differences in the role of media channels that fulfill an agenda-setting function and Internet news sites that treat news from the viewpoint of markets.

Acknowledgement

Supported by : National Research Foundation of Korea