Audience Clicks and News Placement: A Study of Time-Lagged Influence in Online Journalism

Angela M. Lee, Seth C. Lewis, Matthew Powers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Scopus citations


The rise of sophisticated tools for tracking audiences online has begun to change the way media producers think about media audiences. This study examines this phenomenon in journalism, building on a revised theoretical model that accounts for greater audience engagement in the gatekeeping process. Research suggests that news editors, after long resisting or ignoring audience preferences, are becoming increasingly aware of and adaptive to consumer tastes as manifest via metrics. However, research also finds a gap in the news preferences of editors and audiences. This study asks: Who influences whom more in this disparity? Through longitudinal secondary data analysis of three U.S. online newspapers, and using structural equation modeling, this study finds that (a) audience clicks affect subsequent news placement, based on time-lagged analysis; (b) such influence intensifies during the course of the day; (c) there is no overall lagged effect of news placement on audience clicks; and (d) the lagged effect of audience clicks on news placement is stronger than the inverse. Implications of these findings and suggestions for future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)505-530
Number of pages26
JournalCommunication Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • audiences
  • gatekeeping
  • journalism
  • metrics
  • new media
  • online news


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