Political leadership and social media, conference at Banff, Canada

“Really Maurice” (this is me talking to myself), “the first time in Canada?” I just returned to Calgary after a couple of days in beautiful Banff in Canada. Be sure not to miss it when you’re in Canada. I was in Banff on invitation by Professor Richard Davis and Professor David Taras for the meeting on Political Leadership and Social Media. There was a nice group of colleagues from Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Germany and Switzerland. It’s really nice to meet such a fine group of people in such a nice surroundings.

The Canadians themselves are extremely nice people. Always making jokes and in for a laugh. Imagine entering Canada at the airport, the passport control official specifically requesting me to get Donald Trump to the conference and stop his Twitter rants. Then half way the conversation, he started talking Dutch, being the son of Dutch immigrants (probably after WOII in search for a better life). A real unique experience. A similar experience happened on the way to Calgary: a woman next to me in the shuttle bus turned out to be Dutch as well, having immigrated to Canada over a decade ago. The Dutch seem to be everywhere: Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Canada, the Caribbean, and I’m sore I’ve left out other countries.

Anyhow, a big thank you to Richard and David. Looking forward to continue the collaboration.

And now back to work … OK OK just a brief look at some pictures then 🙂

Banff Banff
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News engagement under threat on Facebook?

Earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the Facebook news feed would put more emphasis on social relations and less on news. This is the result of several controversies involving Facebook, especially the publication of fake news during the 2016 US elections. One of the concerns of news organizations is that changes to the algorithm may threaten their reach and the audience’s news engagement.

Having collected all posts by news organizations (n=356,188 from 59 Dutch news titles), I am able to analyze how much engagement these posts had and how this may have changed over time. I will look at the number of likes for each post over a 16 week period. We do not know exactly when the new algorithm will be in effect, but sometime after January 12, when Mark Zuckerberg posted the news on Facebook.
Instead of the mean number of likes for posts, I compare the median number of tweets for each week over the 16-week period. I prefer the median over the mean number of likes, because the distribution of likes is extremely skewed: a few posts receive extremely many likes and most of posts only receive a few likes (see for instance De Echo van Nederland). The median is a better measure for central tendency measure because it is incentive for these extremely popular posts. For now, I aggregated the data on a weekly basis to eliminate intra-weekly fluctuations (such as weekends versus weekdays).

Reviewing the first figure, we see that the weekly number of posts on Facebook is quite constant over the 16 week period.

in the second graph (below), the median number of likes fluctuates strongly. We particularly see a drop in week 9 in 2018. Could this be the result of the new news feed algorithm?

For a more detailed view, I prepared the same graph for different types of organization (below). Although all types of platforms have an online presence, they differ in terms of their origins. I distinguish newspapers, television, RTV (mostly radio stations and regional and local broadcasters) and online-only platforms. We see that newspapers publish the most posts, simply because there are many newspaper platforms. Radio, TV and online-only platforms roughly publish the same amount of posts.

Looking at the median number of likes for each type of platform, we see that TV posts on Facebook receive the most likes, while the other platforms receive considerably less likes for their posts. As for the variation across these 16 weeks, we see the strongest decrease in likes for TV news and current affairs programs. The online-only and RTV platforms also shows a slight decrease, while newspapers remain constant over time. Again, in week nine the number of likes declines. At the end of week 16 though, there seems to be some recovery as indicated by a slight increase likes. Whether this increase is persistent, time will tell.

In conclusion, if I were to make a guess when Facebook’s news feed algorithm changed, it would be week nine. Furthermore, it mostly affects news posts that are extremely popular, in this case posts by TV organizations and current affairs programs. Then again, there are many factors that affect the number of likes. So, this might be a continuing story….

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Lecture series at University of Pisa on social media, political communication and journalism

A big thank you is in order. Last week I visited the department of political science, University of Pisa. Professor Roberta Bracialli invited me to give a number of lectures for her students about social media in politics and journalism, as well as to have some discussions with PhD-students. I really enjoyed doing the lectures, having the discussions on- and off-campus. Roberta Bracialli and her team do interesting stuff. Looking forward to seeing more of their output, and I hope we’ll be able to further our collaboration.

This visit was made possible by the Erasmus Plus program. So, if @CW_RU students might want to study at the University of Pisa, we have an exchange agreement. The city and student life in Pisa, from what I’ve seen, is very vibrant. Good food, nice bars, hanging out in the streets until late and nice concerts. Close by to excellent Florence. All in all, I really enjoyed my time in Pisa.

Thanks to Roberta Bracialli (@braccialer), Antonio Martella (@Vot4ntonio), Cesar Crisosto (@cesarcrisosto), Chiara Visentin (@ChiaraVis13) and Luca Corchia (@Luca_Corchia).

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