Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 2.31.48 PMHyperlinks are standard fare on news websites. By connecting people to more information, hyperlinks can help news site visitors find more information and learn more about important issues facing their communities. And from a business perspective, hyperlinks can improve site stickiness.

But can hyperlinks be presented on a page in a way that prompts additional news use, as opposed to entertainment stories? And can hyperlinks be presented on a page in ways that encourage visitors to view editorial content from different political perspectives?

Websites currently use many strategies to introduce hyperlinks to news audiences.  Some sites list the most frequently visited pages in a “Most Popular” section.  Other sites include “Recommended Content” on the basis of the story topic or a visitor’s past browsing behavior.

Yet other news sites use strategies such as: “Disagree with our opinions here?  Check out our left-leaning opinions.”


We wanted to know whether prompts could affect behavior.  We looked at the following:

  • “Thanks for keeping up with the news.  Be proud of protecting your democracy.”
  • “Promote a better democracy, read different viewpoints.”
  • “Form accurate opinions by reading different viewpoints.”
  • “Follow the issues that worry you.”
  • Results, however, were mixed.  Some of these phrases led site visitors to evaluate a site more positively, but also decreased the number of clicks on a site (e.g. “Promote a better democracy, read different viewpoints.”).   Others encouraged some visitors to spend less time with counter-attitudinal editorial content (e.g. “Follow the issues that worry you.”).  None of these prompts produced uniformly positive democratic and business outcomes.

Our conclusion?  Sites should be extremely cautious in deploying these sorts of phrases.  They may have unintended effects!


Academic Presentations

Stroud, N. J., Muddiman, A., & Scacco, J. (2013, June). Linking to alternative views. Paper presented at the International Communication Association, Political Communication Division, London.

Researchers

  • Natalie (Talia) Jomini Stroud

    Natalie (Talia) Jomini Stroud
    Director

    Talia Stroud (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) is the Director of the Engaging News Project at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life and Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her book, Niche News (Oxford, 2011), examines likeminded political media use and inspired this project. The book received the 2012 Outstanding Book Award from the International Communication Association. Stroud previously worked at the Annenberg Public Policy Center; the name of this project is a H/T to Kathleen Hall Jamieson’s “E4″ work with local news in the 2002 midterms.

  • Ashley Muddiman

    Ashley Muddiman
    Faculty Research Associate

    Ashley Muddiman (PhD, University of Texas at Austin) is an Assistant Professor in the Communication Studies department at the University of Kansas. Ashley is broadly interested in political media effects and specifically interested in political conflict and incivility. Her current research projects study the role media coverage plays in shaping citizens’ perceptions of political incivility, explore how citizens interact with online news depicting incivility, and investigate tactics, such as fact checking, that have the potential to diminish the effects of incivility.

  • Joshua Scacco

    Joshua Scacco
    Faculty Research Associate

    Joshua M. Scacco (PhD, The University of Texas at Austin) is an Assistant Professor of Media Theory & Politics in the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University. He also serves as a Research Associate for the Engaging News Project (ENP). He is interested broadly in the communicative role elites and organizations, including political leaders, journalists, and news outlets, play in American political life.