American Economic Review: Vol. 95 No. 4 (September 2005)
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The Market for News
Mullainathan, Sendhil, and Andrei Shleifer. 2005. "The Market for News." American Economic Review, 95(4): 1031-1053.
We investigate the market for news under two assumptions: that readers hold beliefs which they like to see confirmed, and that newspapers can slant stories toward these beliefs. We show that, on the topics where readers share common beliefs, one should not expect accuracy even from competitive media: competition results in lower prices, but common slanting toward reader biases. On topics where reader beliefs diverge (such as politically divisive issues), however, newspapers segment the market and slant toward extreme positions. Yet in the aggregate, a reader with access to all news sources could get an unbiased perspective. Generally speaking, reader heterogeneity is more important for accuracy in media than competition per se.
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