Soft Presentation of Hard News? A Content Analysis of Political Facebook Posts

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Soft Presentation of Hard News? A Content Analysis of Political Facebook Posts


  • Miriam Steiner Department of Communication, Johannes Gutenberg University, Germany


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Abstract:  The current media environment is primarily characterised by a large amount of information and, in contrast, rather fragmented audience attention. This is especially true for social media, particularly Facebook, which have become important news sources for many people. Journalists cannot help but publish content on Facebook if they want to reach the part of their audience that mainly—or even only—consumes news there. On Facebook, journalists are at the mercy of the algorithm that determines the visibility of their content. Because user engagement is a crucial factor in the algorithm, concerns have been raised that journalists are abandoning their normative quality standards to make the news as attractive as possible to the audience—at the expense of media performance. A softened presentation of the news, particularly in Facebook posts, may help achieve this aim, but research on this subject is lacking. The present study analyses this practice of softening the news in four German media outlets’ (BILD, FAZ, Der Spiegel, Tagesschau) political Facebook posts. The results show that the overall level of news softening is low to medium. Furthermore, comparing them to website teasers reveals that news softening is only slightly higher on Facebook (mainly BILD and Der Spiegel), and that there are no converging trends between quality or public service media and tabloid media. Exaggerated fears about news softening are therefore unnecessary. Continued analysis of news softening, as well as ongoing adaption of the concept according to dynamic developments, is nevertheless important.

Keywords:  Facebook; Germany; journalism; political news; quantitative content analysis; social media logic; soft news

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v8i3.3152


© Miriam Steiner. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.