Agenda-Cutting Versus Agenda-Building: Does Sponsored Content Influence Corporate News Coverage in U.S. Media?
Sponsored content articles (N = 2,711) from 27 major U.S. corporations were analyzed across five years in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. The degree to which sponsored content predicted significant changes in corporate news coverage was investigated for elite media and U.S. online media. Corporate-sponsored content appeared to mildly suppress coverage of that corporation in online news. This effect, known as agenda cutting, happened both inside elite media and across the media landscape. Conversely, agenda building, or instances where sponsored content resulted in more media coverage, was very rare. We suggest that “content studios,” the departments of news media organizations that create sponsored content, may be exhibiting an agenda-setting effect more akin to traditional advertising departments, which have been known to suppress critical coverage of corporations that pay for ads.