What We Read, What We Search: Media Attention and Public Attention Among 193 Countries


We investigate the alignment of international attention of news media organizations within 193 countries with the expressed international interests of the public within those same countries from March 7, 2016 to April 14, 2017. We collect fourteen months of longitudinal data of online news from Unfiltered News and web search volume data from Google Trends and build a multiplex network of media attention and public attention in order to study its structural and dynamic properties. Structurally, the media attention and the public attention are both similar and different depending on the resolution of the analysis. For example, we find that 63.2% of the country-specific media and the public pay attention to different countries, but local attention flow patterns, which are measured by network motifs, are very similar. We also show that there are strong regional similarities with both media and public attention that is only disrupted by significantly major worldwide incidents (e.g., Brexit). Using Granger causality, we show that there are a substantial number of countries where media attention and public attention are dissimilar by topical interest. Our findings show that the media and public attention toward specific countries are often at odds, indicating that the public within these countries may be ignoring their country-specific news outlets and seeking other online sources to address their media needs and desires.

Proceedings of the 2018 World Wide Web Conference (TheWeb)