Patrick Kennedy, Andrea Prat, 25 November 2017

Real news is an antidote to fake news, but how much political information do we access and where does it come from? Based on an analysis of news consumption in 18 countries, this column shows that low-income, low-education voters use fewer information sources. This pattern is reflected at the aggregate level, with countries with high income inequality also demonstrating high information inequality. News sources that cater to information-poor audiences have greater ‘media power’, and there is no evidence that public service broadcasting reduces information inequality.

Scott Ross Baker, Nicholas Bloom, Steven Davis, 15 December 2015

Sagit Bar-Gill, Neil Gandal, 10 April 2017

Online echo chambers – in which people engage only with others that share, and media that reflect, their opinions and biases – have become an area of concern in the wake of last year’s startling political upsets. This column investigates how users navigate and explore an online content space. Highly social users and younger users are most likely to get caught in echo chambers, while opinion leaders are less likely to get caught. Reducing the visibility of content popularity information, such as ‘like’ and ‘view’ counts, may help mitigate echo chamber effects. 

Charles Angelucci, Julia Cagé, 26 August 2016

Advertisers are deserting newspapers. Using the impact of television advertising on print media in 1968, this column argues that a reduction in advertising revenues will reduce the quality of newspapers. Ultimately, this may result in a less well-informed public.

Ruben Durante, Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 15 June 2016

Governments involved in conflict are often concerned with how their actions are perceived by the international community. This column uses evidence on the Israel-Palestine conflict and US news reporting between 2000 and 2011 to show how media considerations can impact military strategy. Israeli attacks are more likely to be carried out one day before the US news is expected to be dominated by important political or sport events. There is no evidence of a similar pattern to Palestinian attacks. The findings suggest that strategic behaviour could undermine the effectiveness of the mass media as a watchdog, and thus reduce citizens’ ability to keep public officials accountable. 

Brian Knight, Ana Tribin, 06 May 2016

The media plays a significant role in politics, but households can choose not to consume political propaganda delivered through the media. This column uses evidence from Venezuela to show that households that support opposition parties are more inclined to switch away from, or tune out of, government propaganda delivered via the television. Higher-income households, which tend to have access to alternative channels via cable, are also less likely to consume propaganda. These findings have significant implications for politically polarised societies.

Scott Ross Baker, Nicholas Bloom, Steven Davis, 15 December 2015

The recent influx of refugees to Europe has stoked security fears and created anxiety about the social and economic consequences. This column provides new quantitative indicators for the intensity of migration-related fears and policy uncertainty, based on newspaper articles. The indices are presented for the US, UK, France, and Germany, and extend back to 1995. They show that recent levels of concern and uncertainty in European countries about migration are unprecedented. 

Yana Jin, Mu Quan, Chiara Ravetti, Zhang Shiqiu, Timothy Swanson, 02 December 2015

Many cities in China have notoriously high levels of air pollution. Given its tight control over the media, the Chinese government has a high degree of control over public information about air quality. This column explores the government’s incentive to downplay the seriousness of pollution spikes. Households that rely exclusively on public media are found to engage in less self-protective behaviours. This could lead to substantial public health costs in the long run that might otherwise have been avoided.

Jeremiah Dittmar, Skipper Seabold, 19 August 2015

Internet-based communications technologies appear to be integral to the diffusion of social movements today. This column looks back at the Protestant Reformation – the first mass movement to use the new technology of the printing press to drive social change. It argues that diffusion of the Reformation was not driven by technology alone. Competition and openness in the media were also crucial, and delivered their biggest effects in cities where political freedom was most limited.

Stefano DellaVigna, Eliana La Ferrara, 28 July 2015

Every day, we are all exposed to all sorts of emotive and exhilarating media entertainment. But what, if any, are the measurable impacts? Are newspapers and periodicals, for instance, more important than soap operas? This column introduces a survey of the wide-ranging literature from the Handbook of Media Economics, presenting a number of surprising findings.

Melissa Kearney, Phillip Levine, 16 July 2015

Early childhood education has important effects on the academic readiness and ultimate life chances of children. This column examines how the introduction of the educational television show Sesame Street in the US affected primary school outcomes for disadvantaged children. Those from counties that had better access to the broadcast had superior educational outcomes through their early school years. These effects were particularly pronounced for black, non-Hispanic children, and those living in economically disadvantaged areas. The extremely low cost per child of such interventions make them ideal for addressing educational inequality in childhood.

Bastian Von Beschwitz, Donald Keim, Massimo Massa, 02 July 2015

High-frequency news analytics can increase market efficiency by allowing traders to react faster to new information. One concern about such services is that they might provide a competitive advantage to their users with potential distortionary price effects. This column looks at how high frequency news analytics affect the stock market, net of the informational content that they provide. News analytics improve price efficiency, but at the cost of reducing liquidity and with potentially distortionary price effects.

Dora Costa, Matthew Kahn, 27 April 2015

Newspapers report good and bad news, but the reporting doesn’t always match reality. This column presents evidence from turn-of-the-century America that news reports of typhoid tracked mortality patterns, but the reporting was biased. Spikes in death rates led to bigger jumps in media coverage when death rates were low. This could be due to the idea that deviations from Kahneman and Tversky’s ‘reference points’ are more newsworthy, or due to the possibility that bad news is more valuable to readers when things seem to be going well.

Julia Cagé, Valeria Rueda, 14 May 2014

African regions where Protestant missionaries were active had indigenous newspapers a century before other regions. This column argues, based on new research, that this difference has had lasting effects. Proximity to a mission that had a printing press in 1903 predicts newspaper readership today. Population density and light density (a proxy for economic development) is also higher today in regions nearer to missions that had printing presses. The results suggest that a well-functioning media – not Protestantism per se – was important for development.

Marc Flandreau, 07 July 2012

The reputation of the British press has been dragged through the gutter over the past year with the Leveson inquiry into its practices. This column asks what can be done to ensure newspapers bolster democracy rather than undermine it. It draws parallels with the French press in the interwar years and argues that better corporate governance rather than just more regulation is the answer.

Diane Coyle, 03 December 2011

Have economists been asleep at the wheel? This column reports from a conference on the psychology and economics of ‘scarce attention’. Among the ideas discussed is whether too much information can blind decision-making and whether this can explain why so many economists missed the warning signs of a crisis.

Riccardo Puglisi, James Snyder, 01 September 2011

Is the US media biased? According to a controversial new book, it is – and, perhaps surprisingly, to the left. This column takes a different analytical approach and argues that the press is actually much closer to the average voter’s sentiments than we might think. Might all these claims that the media is biased in one direction or the other be adding a whole new set of distortions?

Michael Ehrmann, Marcel Fratzscher, Benjamin Born, 29 November 2010

In response to the financial crisis, many central banks are receiving significant new responsibilities for macroprudential supervision. Exploiting the experience of central banks with Financial Stability Reports and other financial stability-related statements, this column argues that such central bank communication can be highly effective, in particular during periods of financial stress.

Esther Duflo, 03 January 2008

High quality empirical evidence from the shows that mass media influences voters but it is not clear that the media imparts a bias. It could be that improving access to any media informs voters and prompts them to turn against an embattled incumbent.

Events