A UOC study analyses the impact of the multiplication of online media on public opinion

Slvia Maj i Ana Sofa Cardenal amb el tribunal de la tesi
Consumers prioritize the digital versions of the major newspapers

Despite the easy availability of different media to keep us informed being one of the advantages of the Internet, various studies in political communication point to this scenario also having negative consequences. “According to some studies,” says Slvia Maj, holder of a doctoral degree from the UOC and researcher at the University of Oxford, “the increase in information sources may contribute to the fragmentation of media audiences and the erosion of consensus on the priorities of the public agenda. This is an open debate.”

The study led by Maj points out that people who consume news on the Internet Identify the same problems that the general population considers relevant for the improvement of democracy. In addition, the research shows that when news is consumed on the Internet, users take into account more diverse subjects for public debate. “A positive effect of the consumption of online news,” highlights Maj.

Under the title Digital News in Spain: Characteristics and Effects of Online News Production and Consumption , Slvia Maj defended her doctoral thesis on 28 April at the UOC – supervised by Ana Sofa Cardenal, professor with the Faculty of Law and Political Science – and was awarded the highest mark, cum laude.

The thesis is based on research conducted between 2013 and 2016, as part of the project entitled The Influence of New Media in (public) Opinion Formation (Opinionet), coordinated by Cardenal and funded by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. Maj – with Cardenal – has gathered data to study the behaviour of the Spanish online audience, individually monitoring nearly 400 people on the Internet over 3 months. Alongside this, she has studied data from a panel of 30,000 users thanks to pioneering cooperation in the field of research in Spain, with the official online audience gauge in Spain, comScore. Maj also conducted a survey of more than 700 people, with the cooperation of Nequest. The author is now conducting the same type of study with data from other countries, such as the USA and the United Kingdom, to produce a comparative analysis of the effect of the consumption of news on the Internet on democratic debate.