Hybrid social and news media protest events: from #MarchinMarch to #BusttheBudget in Australia

Citation: Bailo, F., & Vromen, A. (2017). Hybrid social and news media protest events: from #MarchinMarch to #BusttheBudget in Australia. Information, Communication & Society, 20(11), 1660-1679.

Keywords: Social movements; social media; news; social networking

DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2016.1252410

Public protest events are now both social media and news media events. They are deeply entangled, with news media actors – such as journalists or news organisations – directly participating in the protest by tweeting about the event using the protest hashtag; and social media actors sharing news items published online by professional news agencies. Protesters have always deployed tactics to engage the media and use news media agencies’ resources to amplify their reach, with the dual aim of mobilising new supporters and adding their voice to public, mediatised debate. When protest moves between a physical space and a virtual space, the interactions between protesters and media stop being asynchronous or post hoc and turn instantaneous. In this new media-protest ecosystem, traditional media are still relevant sources of information and legitimacy, yet this dynamic is increasingly underpinned by a hybrid interdependency between traditional news and social media sources. In this paper we focus on an anti-austerity government movement that arose in Australia in early 2014 and was mobilised as a series of social media driven, connective action protest events. We show that there is a complex symbiotic interdependency between the movement and the traditional media for recognition and amplification of initial protest events, but that over time as media interest wanes, the movements’ network becomes disconnected and momentum is lost. This suggests that the active role traditional media play in protest events is being underestimated in the current research agenda on connective action.

Mutual relations among friends and communities of a news media account.

Mutual relations among friends and communities of a regular users.

Mean values of network centrality for news media accounts compared to the mean value for all accounts.