What You Seek Is Who You Are: An Applied Spatial Model of Newspapers’ Ideological Slant

Curini, Luigi
The International Journal of Press/Politics

In recent years, the news media landscape has been characterized by two distinct patterns: a decline in newspaper circulation, and a persistent degree of ideological slant in newspapers’ position. We explore a possible nexus between these two phenomena by means of a model that extends some recent developments in the empirical spatial theory of voting to the reader’s choice with respect to newspapers. We assume that ideological proximity to a newspaper affects the choice made by a consumer to read it. Newspapers will then compete among themselves to maximize their respective readerships by finding an optimal placement in the ideological space. However, newspapers can also decide to target readers of a specific type. As we will show, this is a crucial step to take into consideration. We empirically apply our model to the Italian case. We show that Italian newspapers appear largely to behave as theoretically expected. However, the “ideological force” behind this conclusion must be sought in newspapers’ competition with respect to that subset of readers which can be identified as regular ones. This result highlights a possible mechanism driving a persistent newspaper ideological slant in time of lower newspaper circulation.