News on Instagram: how media build their agenda trying to reach their audience?


In social networks, news acquires a particular format and splits from the media context, and they start to compete with other information and content often foreign to the traditional journalistic criteria (Bazaco, Redondo, & Sánchez- Garcia, 2019). Meanwhile, web analytics tools influence the agenda by providing information about the preferences of the audience to journalistic companies. This leads to a constant search for alternative content, alien to public interest and journalistic criteria, affecting the selection and construction of information (Salaverría, 2015; Justel, Micó, & Sánchez, 2016; Tandoc, 2014).

This conduces to a new informative paradigm, called by Salaverría (2015) “viral journalism” (Justel, Micó, & Sánchez, 2016; Tandoc, 2014). This is identified in the intensive use of social networks for journalistic purposes and the adoption of new methods focused on increasing the success of the news in this highly competitive environment. Some media prioritize anecdotal or sensationalistic content over journalistic content committed to democratic values-, a scenario that requires special attention if we consider that, as McCombs (2006) argued, over time, the media agenda becomes the public agenda.

This context motivated the research, that analyses the quality of the media agenda on the Instagram profile of the four most read media in Spain: El País, El Mundo, La Vaguardia and ABC (Association for Research of Media, 2019; ComScore, 2019). To observe and analyse contents, samples were taken using screenshots and screen recordings (Karlsson & Sjøvaag, 2015; Widholm, 2016). Samples were taken for seven days of three consecutive months: from December 10th to 16th 2018, from January 21st to 27th 2019, and from February 18th to 24th 2019. An initial simple has also been considered, taken between August 11th and 19th 2018. Then, news where identified and classified according to their correspondence with the public interest: hard news and soft news.

Some conclusions emerged from the analysis. First of all, more soft news where identified in the Spanish media Instagram profiles. Relevant contents for the audience are neglected and the sensationalist or anecdotal contents are prioritized. It has also been detected that the media lack previously established publication strategies.