Research question 1: How are comments on news articles on Facebook different from comments on a news website?
This research has found that comments in the comment section vg.no are more argumentative, informative and derogatory. Comments on VG's Facebook page are more reactive, and many of them are tagging comments meant to bring someone's attention to the article. There are also far more comments on Facebook, but more replies and longer conversations on vg.no. Finally, the research shows that comments on vg.no are longer and contain fewer emoticons.
Four types of differences were found between comments on vg.no and its Facebook page:
- Public engagement: There were more commments on Facebook.
- Meta data: Comments on Facebook were shorter and had more emoticons.
- Level of discussion: There were more replies on vg.no, and longer conversations.
- Categorical differences: There were more questions, suggestions, informative, argumentative and derogatory comments on vg.no. On Facebook, there were more reactive and tagging comments.
The research participants in this study were people who have commentated on selected news articles, either on VG’s Facebook page or on vg.no. A total number of 452 comments on 6 articles were gathered to be analyzed, 161 from vg.no and 291 from VG’s Facebook page. The comments were written by 403 commenters, 132 on vg.no and 271 on VG’s Facebook page. In addition to this, 152 comments from 2 articles by the Washington Post were analyzed as an international comparison.
Articles were chosen from VG because it’s a national newspaper with over 2 million daily readers (medienorge 2017). It was assumed that the varied demography of VG’s readers would be reflected in the comments, ensuring a wide sample of participants. Another reason for choosing VG is that VG has both an active comment section and Facebook page, allowing for the desired comparison of data. The comment section on vg.no is an integrated Facebook commenting system, where the users have to be logged in to their Facebook accounts to be able to comment. This means that both platforms require a Facebook account, and they both offer the commenters the same level of anonymity. For an international comparison, the Washington Post was chosen because it’s an English-speaking, free to read, national newspaper with both an active comment section and Facebook page.
The research methodology used for this project was content analysis. This method involves the establishing of categories and the counting of the number of instances of each category (Silverman 2001, 123). A script was created, The Comment Anonymizer, to collect and anonymize the comments.
During the tagging of comments, 12 broad categories were identified: argumentative, humorous, informative, reactive, derogatory, suggestions, questions, opinions, speculative, supportive, tagging and linking comments. Read a full description of the categories here. The comments from vg.no and VG's Facebook page were categorized and compared with each other.
|Number of comments||291||161|
|Replies in percentage||31%||38%|
|Average number of words||11,8||35,2|
|Average number of emoticons||0,6||0,2|
As can be seen in the table, comments on vg.no have a higher average number of words (W=35,2, F=11,8) and comments on VG’s Facebook page have a higher average number of emoticons (W=0,2, F=0,6). The comment sections on vg.no have a higher number of replies (W= 38%, F=31%).
There are some major differences between the Facebook and Website set, as can be seen in the table and figure. The Facebook set contains far more reactive comments (W=6,8%, F=26,8%) and supportive comments (W=1,9%, F=5,5%). The Facebook set is also the only one with tagging comments (n=11,7). This is assumed to be because people use the tagging of people’s name as a way to direct attention to the article. The website set contains more informative (W=13,7%, F=6,5%), argumentative (W=19,9%, F=9,3%), derogatory comments (W=8,7%, F=3,4%), questions (W=11,8%, F=6,2%) and suggestions (W=6,8%, F=1,4%). Some of the categories are relatively similar in size. These include opinions (W=21,7, F=18,9), humorous (W=4,3%, F=5,2%), arbitrary (W=3,1%, F=4,8) and speculative comments (W=2,5%, F=2,4%).