Changing Channels: The Impact of Fake News on Audiences

Help Americans learn to detect "fake" or overly biased news and understand how it impacts political beliefs

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About

The extent that “fake news” (defined as false stories created to purposely mislead readers) influenced how people voted in 2016 will never be fully known. But it’s critical to understand how fake news is being consumed today and how to educate the public about how to differentiate what’s real, what’s fake, and how a biased media plays a role in shaping our own political opinions.

According to Buzzfeed, fake news stories received more online engagement in the waning months of the election than did real news. Some of the most widely shared stories of the past year were completely false, and were picked up by partisan beltway media outlets.

Objectives

  • Investigate how “fake news” impacts people’s perceptions of real news
  • Determine if exposure to news from an opposing political bias may change one’s own political opinions, particularly when confronted with fake news
  • Understand the role social media plays in spreading fake news stories
  • Build a mobile app that can be used not only as a measuring platform for this study, but also as a means to help consumers better discern fake news and reporting bias by forcing them to change the channel

Why?

It’s time that the media, news, and research industries invest in a nonpartisan, methodologically sound and robust study that will not only measure the impact of fake news, but also determine how one’s political leanings correlate to accepting or rejecting fake news stories.

Co-sponsor this study and join bipartisan efforts to help news consumers sort out what's real and what's not.

Methodology: Qualitative/Quantitative

Design Rationale:

This study comprises three phases of research that will provide cross-validation. Each phase of the study will be managed by the trade association that specializes in that practice area, as listed below:

1. QUANT -- DIARY-KEEPING ON MOBILE APP: (MMRA)

- 400 total panelists
- Age range: 18-64
- Recruited and screened for political leaning based on preferred news sources; 50% left leaning politically, 50% right leaning politically.
- Demographically and geographically representative of national population

Participants will be instructed to watch news sources other than those they normally watch (e.g., MSNBC viewers watch Fox News) for a two-week period. Additionally, they will be asked to visit and review websites of news sources they do not normally visit.

Participants will answer questions using the mobile app, which can also be used to monitor their viewing for validation. This passive digital listening can be turned on or off by the respondent when viewing media. Media viewed on a TV set in the same room as the participant will be identified by station, time, and date. Media viewed on mobile devices will be metered and monitored for validation.

When viewing news, participants will also be asked a series of questions related to credibility of news stories and sources. Topical questions related to weekly news stories may be asked using an intercept mobile web link to an online survey, which will provide contextual responses around the events of the week.

The Changing Channels mobile app will be used to verify the stated viewing activity of the audience participant. Through opt-in participation, the audience participant will initialize the App on their mobile device only when they are viewing programming important to the Changing Channels study. Audio recording of the programming being watched will be translated into a digital signature so that no personal conversations are recorded. Other activity such as internet searches and shopping will be recorded in order to measure participant distraction. After the designated programming is over, participant is instructed to close the App so that no further monitoring of the participant activity is conducted. This will ensure privacy of the audience participant as well as ensure minimal impact to the battery of the mobile device.

The digital signature recorded on the app will be sent to servers for "look up" to verify channel being watched. Reports of the programs watched will be used to verify participant viewing activity.

2. ONLINE QUALITATIVE & IN-DEPTH INTERVIEWS (BY QRCA)
Participants will be selected from among diary-keeping panelists. The online portion will consist of a series of bulletin-board discussions that will be used to explore perceptions and beliefs following the diary-keeping exercise. To help guide analysis, half of the respondents will be recruited to be right-leaning politically and half left-leaning.

The research will probe for how respondents have reacted to specific news stories and whether certain stories led to channel changing and why. This bulletin-board methodology will also allow for the collection of rich verbatim and video responses, which will bring a personal dimension to the deliverables.

3. SOCIAL-MEDIA LISTENING (BY SMRA)
The Social Media Research Association (SMRA) will monitor social media for terms including “FakeNews,” “AltFacts,” and others related to fake news. This information will be used for bringing additional insights to the study from key social-media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Text analytics will be performed, coming from a range of relevant hashtags, to uncover how fake news is being digested, whether consumers are discerning what's real vs. fake, and how they in turn are sharing and/or commenting on these stories.

Social media research will be incorporated to the study as both a supplemental data source and basis for background on the study topic. Using social listening software, themes related to the objective of the study will be monitored for a specific period of time. Themes may include, but are not limited to, "fake news", discussion of news viewing habits, perception of television news channels, and discussion from users who have switched viewing habits within the last two years.

Content will be collected and analyzed to provide background supplementation of generalized sentiment and in conjunction with the findings from the other methodologies outlined in the study.

Qualitative Design

Number of research sessions (or interviews) by specific approach:

The Phase 2 qualitative portion of this study will consist of two days of of moderated bulletin-board activities and group discussions of up to 30-miniutes each. Each day will consist of 10-15 respondents.

Qualitative Research Target

Gender: 50% Male, 50% Female

Ethnicity: Approximates national population distribution

Ages: 18 to 64

Behavioral/Lifestyle Screening:

Recruited and screened for political leaning based on preferred news sources: 50% left-leaning, 50% right-leaning

Additional Demographic Screening:

Demographically and geographically dispersed sample

Geography: US Only; Approximates national population distribution

Quantitative Design

Number of Interviews: 400

Interview Length: 30 minutes

How Sample will be Segmented:

left-leaning vs. right-leaning

Sample Source:

The samples -- for both the qualitative and quantitative phases of the research -- will be drawn from trusted partners, who can provide strong gen-pop samples, which is especially important for this research.

Quantitative Research Target

Gender: 50% Male, 50% Female

Ethnicity: Approximates national population distribution

Ages: 18 to 64

Behavioral/Lifestyle Screening:

Participants will be instructed to watch news sources other than those they normally watch (e.g., MSNBC viewers watch Fox News) for a two-week period. Additionally, they will be asked to visit and review websites of news sources they do not normally visit.

Geography: US Only; Approximates national population distribution

Deliverables

Reporting: Formal Report

Additional Deliverables:

- Access to a website with real-time reporting
- Detailed reporting

Funding Timeline (once project is approved): 60 days

Timing: 12 weeks from funding to delivery of final report

Supplier

Company: Association Advisors

Previous Projects: 1

Rating: Supplier has not been rated

Supplier's Team:

THIS STUDY IS SUPPORTED AND LED BY THREE INDUSTRY ORGANIZATIONS:

• Mobile Marketing Research Association (MMRA)

• Social Media Research Association (SMRA)

• Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA)

Incentives

As a co-funder of this research, we will ask specifically about your audience or target.

As an early co-funder, you'll receive input into the design of the quantitative questionnaire and the qualitative guide.

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