NEWS26 April 2017

Majority unaware that search algorithms limit their content access

Media News Trends UK

UK – Sixty-three per cent of consumers want useful but unexpected content when browsing online, according to new research into people’s behaviour and understanding of the online content they are served.

Online browse search content_crop

The study, conducted by the7stars in partnership with Newsworks, set out to understand how brands should navigate a digital information environment where search and social algorithms create artificial information filter bubbles around individuals.

It found that 82% of UK consumers have never heard of the term ‘filter bubble’ and 64% do not know that their Google search results are personalised, while 65% ‘disagree’ that the news they see on Facebook is matched to their personal profiles.

The research also found consumers want more serendipitous content online from brands with more choosing positive words such as ‘curious’ ( 33%), ‘surprised’ ( 27%) and ‘intrigued’ ( 25%) than negative words such as ‘annoyed’ ( 17%) or ‘irritated’ ( 18%) when asked how they feel when they see ads that are relevant but unexpected.

In terms of news consumption, consumers are drawing on a mix of sources. While 44% said they consumed news presented by Facebook, 63% use TV news programme; 77% consume print or digital newspaper brands. When asked which their preferred source of news was, 32% of UK consumers chose print or digital newspaper brands, 25% TV news programmes and 9% Facebook.

Helen Rose, head of insight, the7stars, said: “This study reveals there is a huge opportunity for brands and media owners if they pop people’s filter bubbles in a way that is sophisticated. It shows just how complex the digital world shaped by preferences, ad-blocking and algorithms has become – consumers do not mind a curated information experience so long as that is done with some thought; they simply want a better balance between targeted advertising and serendipity.”

Denise Turner, insight director, Newsworks, said: “As we go into a general election we’ve found that almost half of news consumers would prefer not to have a news service filtered by an algorithm and most would prefer to discover new information and ideas. It also shows that while social media is an important part in people’s news diets, proven news brands are more likely to be people’s first choice for news information.”

The research involved a quantitative online survey with 1,000 nationally representative adults aged 18-77. The7stars and Newsworks also partnered with Flamingo Research to conduct qualitative test and control experiments in London, Birmingham and Manchester – monitoring online browsing behaviour in a standard web environment and a cookie free web environment.