Nudging towards exposure diversity : examining the effects of news recommender design on audiences’ news exposure behaviours and perceptions

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In press
Joris, G., Vercoutere, S., De Clercq, O., Van Damme, K., Mechant, P., & De Marez, L.
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Scholars are increasingly studying how news recommenders can provide audiences with diverse news offers. However, despite their increased interest, little research has been conducted on how news audiences engage with news recommenders. This article assesses how a news recommender's design affects people's news exposure behaviours and perceptions. To do so, we conducted an online experiment (n = 337) in a virtual news environment with four different news recommenders, including three news recommenders that aimed to stimulate diverse news exposure. The results show that all diversity-based news recommenders steered users towards more diverse exposure behaviour, with a personalised diversity-based news recommender being the most effective. We also found that people using a diversity-based news recommender did not think they read more diversely, pointing towards a so-called "diversity paradox." We discuss what this paradox means and how it relates to the secretive nature of news algorithms. We also make a call to policymakers, news organisations and scholars to give transparency and diversity-based news recommenders a more pronounced place in the news environment and in future news recommendation research.