#algorithms #socialmedia #newsmedia
The emerging use of Conversational Agents (CAs), such as Google Assistant, highlights the role of algorithmic gatekeeping power in news consumption. However, our knowledge of the effects of CAs on shaping the public’s perception of the most important topics (issue salience) is limited. To investigate this, we conducted a seven-day longitudinal survey in the Netherlands, comparing the most important issues reported by users (N = 352) across various channels, including CAs, social media, and news websites. Our aim was to analyze how CAs influence the transfer of issue salience from the channel to the user. While our hypotheses were not supported, different patterns emerged. Users consuming news through CAs exhibited a have a lower probability of agreeing on the most important issues in the Netherlands compared to participants consuming information on social media and news websites. This suggests that news consumption through CAs may offer less shared context compared to other channels. Furthermore, trust in the channel and attention to the news were found to be significant predictors of agreement on issue salience. These findings raise important questions for further research, particularly regarding the impact and democratic role of CAs within the broader news ecosystem.