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The dynamics of online news discussions: effects of news articles and reader comments on users’ involvement, willingness to participate, and the civility of their contributions

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This study investigates when and why news website visitors write civil or uncivil comments in response to news articles or related user comments. In an experiment, we manipulated the news value of news articles and the presence of ‘deliberative’ or ‘detrimental’ elements of comments to compare their impact on participants’ involvement, willingness to comment, and the comments they posted. News factors and comment characteristics increased participants’ willingness to comment via cognitive and affective involvement. Cognitive involvement made it less likely and affective involvement more likely that participants wrote uncivil comments. Additionally, involvement with previous comments increased participants’ willingness to comment on articles and vice versa. Results imply that news articles and comments dynamically shape the discussion value of online news.
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Keywords: Interactivity; experiment; involvement; news websites; online discussions; user comments

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Communication, Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Mainz, Germany

Publication date: October 3, 2018

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