Does Digitalization Enhance (Negativity) Bias of the News Media? Investigating Journalistic Decision Making Under Different Incentive Schemes

Last registered on December 06, 2021

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Does Digitalization Enhance (Negativity) Bias of the News Media? Investigating Journalistic Decision Making Under Different Incentive Schemes
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0008658
Initial registration date
December 03, 2021
Last updated
December 06, 2021, 10:01 AM EST

Locations

Region

Primary Investigator

Affiliation
University of Cologne

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

Status
In development
Start date
2021-12-07
End date
2021-12-31
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Abstract
Media content is often distorted (e.g. towards negativity or ideology) and a growing body of evidence suggests that an important reason for this is the demand side. Digitalization enables journalists to learn about the reading preferences of their audiences in detail and rewards respecting reader preferences in content production much stronger than traditional news settings. Could the shift in incentives thus amplify certain biases in the media? And if so, what would be the consequences for consumers?
In a first study, I aim to shed some light on this with a focus on biases in tonality. I will experimentally vary incentive schemes in content decisions of real journalists in a controlled survey experiment to gain a better understanding of journalistic content choices and their effects on the beliefs, emotions, and behavior of readers.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Müller, Lara Marie. 2021. "Does Digitalization Enhance (Negativity) Bias of the News Media? Investigating Journalistic Decision Making Under Different Incentive Schemes." AEA RCT Registry. December 06. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.8658-1.0
Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
Intervention Start Date
2021-12-07
Intervention End Date
2021-12-31

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
headline choice of journalists, headline suggestion of journalists
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
descriptives of the journalists sample, readers beliefs, readers mood, readers behavioral intentions
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
descriptives include the journalists' seniority, motives for the headline choice, political orientation, economic preferences (in survey modules as suggested by (Falk et al., 2018)) and demographics. readers beliefs are about the future development of the German economy, their self-reported mood will be elicited using the i-PANAS short-form scale and behavior will be a decision in an incentivized investment task (where the payoff depends on the future development of the DAX)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The experiment will occur in two stages: In the first stage, journalists have to select a headline out of three choices for a given article. Additionally, they can suggest a headline themselves in an open text answer.

The second stage exposes student participants to the headlines. The students have the option to click on the headline to read the entire article. Clicking on the article however costs about 5% of their remuneration.
Experimental Design Details
Topic of the article: future development of the German economy.
Possible headline choices: positive, negative or neutral sentiment (see material for screenshots of the treatment material)
Randomization Method
computer
Randomization Unit
individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
1
Sample size: planned number of observations
200 at stage 1, 300 at stage 2
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
1
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Supporting Documents and Materials

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IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Research Ethics Review; Faculty of Management, Economics, and Social Sciences; University of Cologne
IRB Approval Date
2021-12-03
IRB Approval Number
210036LM

Post-Trial

Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Intervention

Is the intervention completed?
No
Data Collection Complete
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?
No

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials