How Do Intermediaries Shape News-Related Media Repertoires and Practices? Findings From a Qualitative Study
Online intermediaries such as search engines, social network sites, or video platforms provide access to diverse content; however, there is a school of thought that argues that they may also contribute to the structural deformation of the public sphere. To assess the impact of these Web-based services, research needs to address them not as isolated platforms but as part of broader media environments. Based on 6 group discussions and 18 interviews with German participants varying in age and political engagement, we mapped individual information repertoires with a particular focus on online intermediaries, reconstructed key episodes in which these services were used for gathering information on current news events, and investigated participants’ awareness of the architecture and mechanisms of these intermediaries. Findings show that for most participants, online intermediaries are an indispensable part of their media repertoires, but are seldom dominant, let alone the only source of information on political topics. Most respondents possessed some knowledge on the basic workings of the intermediaries they used, but were not familiar with details such as algorithmic personalization.